Internet use rises among blue-collar workers

Despite the slowdown that has hit the U.S. economy, more labourers and factory workers than any other segment of the population went online for the first time in the last year, according to a new report released Thursday by Nielsen/NetRatings Inc.

The report found that 9.6 million blue-collar workers were online as of March 2001, up from 6.2 million in March of 2000. That rate of growth – 52 per cent – is more than twice the rate of overall Internet usage growth, according to Nielsen/NetRatings’ measurements. These users spent an average of 11 hours online and viewed 698 Web pages in March of this year, spread across an average of 18 sessions on the Internet.

The second fastest growing group of Net users was homemakers, who saw a 49 per cent jump to a total online population of 2.5 million. Service workers were online to the tune of 2.9 million people, 37 per cent higher than the year before. Salespeople also saw their ranks swell by 37 per cent to 5.6 million users. Professionals form the largest single category of Internet users, according NetRatings’ measurements, at 18.5 million, up 23 per cent. There were 14.4 million executives/managers using the Internet, for a 21 per cent rise and 8.5 million retirees, up 28 per cent.

A broader group of U.S. residents spread across different incomes, races and occupations are getting online now thanks to free Internet service providers such as LLC and NetZero Inc., and low-cost PCs, said T.S. Kelly, director of Internet Media Strategies at Nielsen/NetRatings.

Most low-, middle- and fixed- income Internet users are still connecting via modems, with only the higher-income and higher-educated users accessing the Net over broadband, Kelly said. E-mail, long the Internet’s dominant application, “is becoming increasingly attractive to a broader audience” and thus bringing more people online, he said. Eventually, more users will likely have broadband connections, but not until prices come down and online content becomes more compelling, Kelly said.

Nielsen/NetRatings’ numbers are derived from its sample of more than 70,000 U.S. residents. The company tracks users’ actions online, with permission, to determine usage volume and type. The behavior of the 70,000 users is extrapolated to cover the whole country’s population. Nielsen has more than 220,000 registered users worldwide.

Nielsen/NetRatings, in Milpitas, Calif., can be reached at