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Michigan has plenty of jobs. Too bad workers find so many boring, study finds

Young boring cashier in eyeglasses and striped apron dreamily looking aside working in modern supermarket with customers on background
The most available jobs are least appealing to most U.S. workers, according to new research from Michigan State University. (Shutterstock)
  • The most available jobs are least appealing to most U.S. workers, according to new research from Michigan State
  • Understanding gap between interest in a job and what is available could help workers explore career marketability
  • Employers and educators also could use the data, researchers said, to better ‘sell’ boring jobs

Michigan’s “hot jobs” list includes plenty of good-paying careers: logistics, industrial mechanics, medical specialists, software developers. 

Alas, “hot jobs” may well be among those workers find the most boring,  researchers from Michigan State University found in a new study that exposes large gaps between U.S. job openings and workers’ interests.

For Michigan, the research may offer some insight into how to combat deep and persistent worker shortages.

The research takes a worker-centered glimpse into the “labor market where employers are continually complaining that there aren't enough people with the right skills to fill the available jobs,” Kevin Hoff, lead researcher on the study and associate professor of industrial psychology at MSU, told Bridge Michigan.

Kevin Hoff headashot
A new study led by Kevin Hoff, Michigan state professor of psychology, shows that people’s interests don’t match most available jobs. He hopes the study helps to close the gap. (Courtesy image)

Take art. Nearly two-thirds of workers are attracted to jobs they consider artistic, social or enterprising.

Trouble is, they comprise only 2% of openings, Hoff found. 


Nearly half of job openings are in fields many workers consider dull or “conventional,”  like information technology and working with data and math, and the “realistic” jobs, where workers are dealing with their hands, tools and machines, such as the skilled trades. 

The study, published this week in the Journal of Business and Psychology, is the first to look at labor gaps using career interests instead of skills or knowledge, MSU said. 

Researchers surveyed 1.21 million U.S. residents and used national employment data from the U.S. Department of Labor to produce what MSU said is among the largest and most diverse look at vocational interests.

The results were released as the focus on job training is increasing in Michigan and across the U.S., with spending by states and federal grants topping $100 billion in 2022.

Finding talent is continually a top goal for employers. 

Michigan had 261,000 job openings in January, according to the most recent federal labor data available. That compared to just under 200,000 people who were actively looking for work.

The state also just rolled out its new Michigan Statewide Workforce Plan, the first time it outlined a formal vision to increase its often-lackluster rankings against other states in job growth and wages. In 2022, Michigan ranked 39th in the U.S. for labor force participation. 


The state also is promising increased spending to boost worker training and post-high school educational attainment. 

Today, 51.1% of the state’s working-age adults have obtained a certificate or degree, up from 50.5% in 2021,

The emphasis on workplace skills comes as technology — including artificial intelligence — eliminates jobs. As many as 30% of hours worked in the U.S. could be eliminated by 2030, according to one recent report. 

The MSU study could be used to better help workers understand how their career goals align with the job marketplace, Hoff said. 

And on the training and hiring side, it should be helpful to understand how many people have unfulfilled interests at work, Hoff added. Changes in how employers approach that gap could result in more productivity and less turnover, he said. 

“Interests drive knowledge and skill development, which support the success of the labor force,” added Hoff. “People need to be given more information about labor demands during career assessments so they can explore careers that not only provide a good fit, but also have available jobs.”

The study also offers insight for recruiting workers, particularly among the “conventional” jobs that involve attention to detail or working with data that will appeal to the fewest number of people. 

“Companies recruiting for conventional jobs may benefit by emphasizing secondary work tasks in job ads that are congruent with other interests,” the journal article said, “or by supporting employee-led job crafting initiatives that would involve other interests.”


One example, they said, could be collaborating on projects that require design or creative thinking. 

“People can be OK with doing a job that itself is not very interesting,” Hoff said. 

Employers can help that along, he said. Pay is one aspect. So is recognizing the importance of social connections on the job. 

Ultimately, Hoff said, “there's a need for a lot of people … to be working in jobs that they're not interested in, just because there are way more jobs.”

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