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Cities With the Most Successful Blue-Collar Workers

blue-collar workers

Cities With the Most Successful Blue-Collar Workers

After losing jobs in December and beginning the new year with only a meager increase in employment, the U.S. added 916,000 jobs in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS data shows that some blue-collar industries have more than rebounded from last spring—employment in residential construction, the courier and messenger industry, and warehousing and storage have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels. As demand for some blue-collar jobs increases, employers are offering higher wages to attract workers. The latest Census Bureau data shows that the median annual wage for blue-collar workers is $40,000, but blue-collar wages vary significantly across the country and by occupation.

Blue-collar jobs are those that involve manual labor and are often paid on an hourly basis, although some are salaried. Blue-collar jobs can be skilled or unskilled. Some blue-collar occupations that require a high degree of skill command high annual wages, even topping six figures. Among all blue-collar occupations, power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers have the highest median annual wage, at $100,000. Locomotive engineers and operators earn nearly as much with a median annual wage of $99,000. At the opposite end of the spectrum, jobs requiring lower levels of training and skill, such as taxi drivers and chauffeurs, receive the lowest wages.

The proportion of workers in blue-collar jobs ranges across the U.S. due to differences in local industry composition. At the state level, Indiana and Mississippi—where manufacturing and mining are some of the top industries—have the largest share of blue-collar workers at 45% and 44% of total employment, respectively. Maryland, on the other hand, which is known for having high concentrations of healthcare, government, and professional service jobs, has the smallest share of blue-collar workers in the U.S at 25%.

Regarding pay, locations with high concentrations of skilled blue-collar occupations tend to report higher nominal blue-collar wages, but wages in locations with lower living costs may also be higher in real terms. Blue-collar workers in Wyoming and Louisiana have the highest median wages, after adjusting for cost of living, at $62,500 and $51,195, respectively. California’s high cost of living means that blue-collar workers’ wages do not go as far; the median cost-of-living-adjusted annual wage of blue-collar workers in California is just $34,364, the lowest in the nation.

To find the metropolitan areas with the most successful blue-collar workers, researchers at the Inspection Support Network analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and The researchers ranked metro areas according to the cost-of-living-adjusted median annual wages for full-time blue-collar workers. Researchers also calculated the unadjusted median wage for blue-collar workers, the unadjusted median wage for all workers, the share of all workers in blue-collar jobs, and the union membership rate.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

-Small metros: 100,000–349,999

-Midsize metros: 350,000–999,999

-Large metros: 1,000,000 or more

Here are the large metros with the most successful blue-collar workers.

Metro Rank Median wage for blue-collar workers (adjusted) Median wage for blue-collar workers (unadjusted) Median wage for all workers (unadjusted) Share of all workers in blue-collar jobs Union membership rate


Pittsburgh, PA     1    $48,701 $45,000 $50,000 31.5% 13.4%
Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY     2    $47,619 $45,000 $49,000 32.8% 20.3%
Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT     3    $46,829 $48,000 $60,000 26.6% 17.6%
St. Louis, MO-IL     4    $46,615 $42,000 $50,000 32.0% 12.5%
Providence-Warwick, RI-MA     5    $44,865 $45,000 $50,000 32.3% 18.4%
Oklahoma City, OK     6    $44,543 $40,000 $44,600 31.9% 6.9%
Cleveland-Elyria, OH    7    $44,494 $40,000 $48,000 33.4% 12.6%
Birmingham-Hoover, AL    8    $44,168 $39,000 $45,000 34.2% 10.0%
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN    9    $44,150 $40,000 $50,000 33.6% 11.0%
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI    10    $44,071 $42,000 $50,000 36.2% 16.2%
Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN    11    $43,908 $40,000 $47,000 33.3% 6.2%
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI    12    $43,732 $45,000 $56,000 29.1% 15.4%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA    13    $43,668 $50,000 $64,000 27.2% 16.3%
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO    14    $43,186 $45,000 $56,000 24.6% 6.9%
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC    15    $43,154 $41,600 $48,000 30.3% 5.6%
United States    –    N/A $40,000 $48,000 33.8% 10.8%


For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Inspection Support Network’s website: