Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Blue-Collar Inertia

The economy is booming in Wyoming, with apologies to the Silicon Valley. But Rust Belt workers are slow to chase the industrial opportunities. Michigan is the exception, proving to be a labor gold mine. Workers from the Mitten State are out-pacing other regional competitors in the quality filling of the excess Wyoming positions. The unemployed from Michigan are bucking the blue-collar trend, the unwillingness of the college uneducated to relocate for the sake of income:
Economic trends have mostly gone the other way since World War II, they say, anchoring blue-collar life. Families that require two incomes to make ends meet are less able to leave, even when one income is lost. A college education increases knowledge of options that may exist elsewhere, but many blue-collar workers do not have a degree.

“People with high education and skills are the first to leave a declining area,” said Mark E. Reisinger, an assistant professor of geography at the State University of New York at Binghamton who studies labor mobility. “People who never left home to go to school are more tied to place.”

Unless economic cycles magically disappear, the highly educated and skilled will continue to leave any region suffering a downturn. However, this is not another tale of knowledge worker mobility. Soldiers from a nastier climate are filling Wyoming's re-emergent oil fields, over the displaced Hurricane Katrina petroworkers. This lesson suggests that Pittsburgh target the climate-ready when in the business of attracting labor capital of any kind.

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