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Michigan’s top ten upper middle class occupations

This post answers the question “What are Michigan’s top ten upper middle class occupations?” Where we define upper middle class as jobs that pay at least $70,539. Our calculation of what it takes to be upper middle class for a three person household.

In 2019 there were 914,000 of those jobs out of a total of 4,344,000 Michigan payroll jobs.

The answer is:

  1. Management: 160,000
  2. Healthcare practitioners: 127,000
  3. Business and finance: 100,000
  4. Architecture and engineering: 94,000
  5. Computer and mathematical: 65,000
  6. Educational instruction and library: 61,000
  7. Sales: 60,000
  8. Office and administrative support: 44,000
  9. Production: 43,000
  10. Construction and extractive: 30,000

What big picture lessons about today’s Michigan labor market can we learn from this list?

  • First and foremost is the paucity of Michigan jobs, even in a robust economy, that are high-wage jobs. Only 21 percent of Michigan payroll jobs paid upper middle class wages for a three person household in the full-employment 2019 Michigan economy.
  • High-wage jobs are predominately in occupations that require a four-year degree. The first six of our top ten upper middle class occupations are in major occupation where most jobs require a B.A. Those six major occupations account for 66 percent of all Michigan’s upper middle class jobs. 607,000 of 914,000 upper middle class jobs.
  • As we have detailed previously, STEM occupations do not dominate high-wage jobs. Of the top ten major occupations, three are in STEM fields: healthcare practitioners; architecture and engineering; and computer and mathematical.
  • Blue collar occupations don’t dominate high-paid work. Only the ninth and tenth of our top ten are blue collar occupations. They don’t even dominate the major occupations that don’t require a four-year degree. Of the four top ten major occupations that don’t require a four-year degree, the top two (sales and office and administrative support) are not in the trades.
  • Given Michigan’s history, it is surprising––even shocking––that only 43,000 high-paid Michigan jobs are in blue-collar factory work. About 1% of all Michigan jobs.

A final word about what these data represent. They are for payroll jobs only and for full-time equivalent jobs only. So earnings from self employment and/or gig jobs are not included. Neither is overtime pay or any bonuses workers receive. Even with those limitations, these data provide a good description of what employers pay workers by occupation. And of today’s labor market realities.

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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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