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These are Michigan’s middle-paid occupations

In recent posts we have been exploring payroll jobs wages by occupation and education. Dividing the labor market into occupations with median wages below the national median of $39,810, occupations we call middle-paid occupations with median wages between the national median and the 75 percentile of $64,230, and occupations with median wages at or above the 75th percentile.

The first post, The truth about the relationship between education and earnings, in this series summarized how many jobs were in each of the three categories: low-paid, middle-paid and high-paid occupations. Then we focused on the proportion of good-paying jobs in STEM occupations and blue collar occupations.

Those posts were based on data from the more than 800 occupations identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS divides those 800 occupations into 22 occupational groups. In our last post we looked at which of those occupational groups have a median wage above the national 75th percentile which we call high-paid occupations.

In this post we will look at the middle-paid occupations groups with median wages between $39,810 and $64,230. There are seven of these middle-paid occupations groups:

  • Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations
  • Community and Social Service Occupations
  • Educational Instruction and Library Occupations
  • Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations
  • Protective Service Occupations
  • Construction and Extraction Occupations
  • Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations

Combined they employed 771,000 Michiganders in 2019. 18 percent of the 4.344 million Michigan payroll jobs in 2019. Employment in each is:

  • Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations: 32,000
  • Community and Social Service Occupations: 63,000
  • Educational Instruction and Library Occupations: 225,000
  • Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations: 54,000
  • Protective Service Occupations: 78,000
  • Construction and Extraction Occupations: 147,000
  • Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations: 172,000

Median wages in each of the middle-paid occupations groups are:

  • Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations: $59,820
  • Community and Social Service Occupations: $46,890
  • Educational Instruction and Library Occupations: $47,660
  • Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations: $46,000
  • Protective Service Occupations: $41,590
  • Construction and Extraction Occupations: $49,540
  • Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations: $45,780

The best portrayal of middle-paid occupations comes from an analysis of the more than 800 occupations. In addition to our analysis, you can check out information on each occupation at the state’s Pathfinder website.

You will, of course, find middle-paid occupations that are not in these seven occupation groups. And you find some of the occupations in these seven are not high-paid.

An example of middle-paid occupations that are not in these seven occupation groups, is that there are four-occupation groups with median wages below the national median that have wages at the 75th percentile between $39,810 and $64,230. So 25 percent of jobs in these occupations groups we would consider middle-paid.

  • Sales and Related Occupations
  • Office and Administrative Support Occupations
  • Production Occupations
  • Transportation and Material Moving Occupations

What this look at middle-paid occupations groups does provide is a snapshot of today’s labor market realities. The reality is that there are far fewer middle-paid jobs than conventional wisdom has it. Only 18 percent of all Michigan jobs in the strong 2019 economy. Also these middle-paid occupations are not predominantly in the blue collar trades. Construction and Extraction Occupations and Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations account for 41 percent of Michigan jobs in middle-paid occupations groups.

In fact what most jumps out at you is the wide variety of occupations, needed skills and education requirements in these middle-paid occupations groups. This finding is aligned with what we found when we did focus groups with individuals earning more than $40,000 a year who did not have a four-year degree. The focus group participants were in a wide variety of occupations and had an equally wide variety of education and training paths that they followed to their current jobs. Far fewer than conventional wisdom has it got to their job by earning a credential in a trade.

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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