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Steel mill and blue collar employment on the upswing

Shown is ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor. Employment at steel mills nationwide has been growing slightly.

Employment at the nation's steel mills, which has been declining since the 1970s as a result of automation and foreign competition, has been ticking up this year.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that employment in iron mills, steel mills, and ferroalloy production has risen 0.6 percent over the past three months. The Washington D.C.-based think tank said it is, however, still too soon to know the impact of the Section 232 tariffs of 25 percent on most imported steel, which U.S. Steel has cited as a reason for hiring back 800 steelworkers at Granite City Works and investing at least $750 million into its Gary Works mill over the next five years.

Overall, the country's blue collar jobs grew by 0.3 percent in July, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The United States added 52,000 jobs in construction, manufacturing, and mining and logging, industries that account for 13.9 percent of the nation's total nonfarm workforce, up from 13.7 percent at the same time last year.

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The nation has been adding 53,000 blue collar jobs a month over the last three months, about 37,000 of which were in manufacturing, particularly the durable goods sector.

About 27,200 of the blue collar jobs added in July were in the Midwest, a 0.5 percent increase, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The Rust Belt, which spans the Upper Midwest and Northeast, gained 16,400 blue collar jobs that month, up 0.3 percent. 

Over the past year, manufacturing jobs have grown by 3.4 percent nationwide, 2.6 percent in the Rust Belt, and 3 percent in the greater Midwest, the study found.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.