Ron French| Bridge Magazine
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.”