Plenty of jobs for those with few choices

Many of the fastest-growing jobs in Michigan in the coming decade will be jobs most people won’t want – with pay so low that many workers will qualify for food stamps.

A Bridge Magazine analysis of job projections found that four of the six occupational categories adding the most jobs through 2023 pay workers, on average, between $10 and $13 an hour. This raises the prospect that the state that built the blue-collar middle class will become better known as the home for the working poor.

While Bridge’s projections indicate that high-skill, good-paying jobs will grow over the next 10 years, particularly in the health care field, in sheer numbers those good jobs are overwhelmed by growth in low-skill jobs. And a greater number of Michigan residents are likely to be living near the poverty line even while working full-time jobs.

“The best way out of economic hardship is a job that pays enough to make ends meet,” said Gilda Jacobs, president of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “People who work hard should be able to pay their bills. Sadly that is no longer the case in Michigan.”

More work, less pay

Public Sector Consultants conducted the 10-year job analysis for Bridge using projections made by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., in Idaho, based on U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That projects to 266,000 jobs added to the Michigan economy by 2023. That’s a growth rate of about 6 percent over 10 years, about half the projected growth for the rest of the country (11.4 percent).

Many low-paying jobs in Michigan, though, are projected to grow at a fast pace, for example:
•Healthcare support occupations are projected to add 30,000 jobs by 2023, a 20-percent jump from current levels. Healthcare support occupations, which include home health aides, pay an average of $12.78 an hour.
•Michigan is expected to add 21,000 restaurant jobs (average pay of $10.04 an hour)
•19,000 service workers ($10.76), and
•18,000 building, grounds and maintenance workers ($11.64).

Just those last three categories of workers will account for one of every five new jobs, according to Bridge’s analysis. Even when working fulltime, those workers would qualify for food stamps if they were the sole breadwinner for a family of four.

Direct care workers, which include personal care aides, home health aides and nursing aides (sometimes called attendants) will combined grow by almost a third. “It’s a giant occupational field, and 40 percent of the workers receive public assistance,” said Hollis Turnham, Midwest director for PHI-Michigan, an advocacy group that works with workers and consumers of home health care. “They’re paid like fast food workers, but they’re not pushing French fries, they’re taking care of grandma.”

Get more training or get food stamps

Most of the people working those jobs will have few options because of their lack of education.
The five most common jobs in 2023 for workers with a high school degree or less are projected to be sales clerks, cashiers, wait staff, fast food workers and office clerks, with only office clerks making more than $12 an hour in today’s dollars (Clerks average $14.21 an hour).

“In addition to low wages, many of these people are working part time, and most don’t have benefits like sick days and vacation,” Turnham said.

“The middle class is shrinking,” Turnham added. “There are fewer jobs that can support a family. How are we going to survive as a country? Are we going to become a two-class country in terms of economic stability? We as a country have to talk about all of that.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Miriam Meisler
Thu, 12/19/2013 - 10:38am
There is one obvious solution - raise the minimum wage so that full time work pays at least $30,000 per year. Maybe it would be more understandable if we talk about annual salary for full timework, rather than hourly rate. The rate of $9 per hour is only $18,000 per year before taxes. Raise wages, reduce profits or increase prices. Share the wealth!
Thu, 12/19/2013 - 11:51am
Great idea. When do you want to start sharing some of your wealth with me? $100 per week would be like I won the lottery (which I never will because I don't want to spend money on it) My newest coat is more than 7 years old. My truck is over 10 years old. Can only dream of things like a smart phone, but wouldn't want one because I wouldn't want to pay for the service.
Fri, 12/20/2013 - 9:28am
Miriam, AS someone who has hired a good number of employees, simply put there are a lot of people who sorry to say aren't worth even $10 per hour. I've hired a number of people who need to be shown how to sweep a floor, lack any concept what even a job done right is or even what a basic work ethic would consist of. I am not saying these people are beyond training but $15 or even $10 per hour? forget it! All you are doing is wiping out the bottom rungs of the ladder.
Fri, 12/20/2013 - 1:51pm
And yet, my honorable grown son with 4 years of college, majoring in physics and mathematics (no degree-had a personal catastrophe) cannot even get an interview. He is now several years away from college, applies for all types of work now. He has high work ethics and is so willing. No one ever calls... Help!
Tue, 01/07/2014 - 3:59pm
Just once I'd love for an economist or some other "expert" to suggest a real solution to the problem of full-time jobs that pay poverty wages. Something besides the tired old cliche of "get more training/education" (which, of course, is the financial responsibility of each individual worker, because businesses no longer believe it's their responsibility to train their own employees) If this is seriously your only proposed "solution" to the problem of impoverished workers, please explain how this will change the fact that the jobs being created in Michigan pay poverty-level wages????? It seems to me that this "solution" will lead to one of two outcomes: 1. Highly skilled/educated individuals will work for poverty wages....while paying off $30k in student loans. 2. Pay for the small number of jobs that actually require education and specialized training will FALL because the market will be flooded with qualified applicants and employers will be able to pay less as a result of this glut. NEVER once has Bridge Magazine, NPR, MLive, or any other legitimate news source addressed either of these realistic outcomes when their "experts" issue the trite advice that workers need to "get more education/training". Please explain how a worker getting more education/training will change the fact that future job growth is in jobs that pay poverty-wages.