25 Lowest Paying Jobs in America

Print Email

10. Cooks
> No. of workers: 1,408,000
> Median weekly earnings: $444
> Est. yearly earnings: $23,088

Wages of food service workers vary widely across industries and restaurants. The highest paying cook positions are often in fine dining restaurants or luxury hotels, while the lowest paying positions are often at fast food or short order establishments. The typical full-time cook earns just $444 a week, far less than the $832 national median for all U.S. occupations.

Source: Thinkstock

9. Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop
> No. of workers: 74,000
> Median weekly earnings: $442
> Est. yearly earnings: $22,984

Like most food service positions, pay for hosts and hostesses varies widely across industry and geographic region. The highest paid hosts and hostesses tend to be in metropolitan areas with luxury restaurants and hotels such as Atlantic City, New Jersey; Kahului, Hawaii; and Las Vegas, Nevada. Still, the median weekly earnings of hosts and hostesses is just $442, far less than the $832 national figure.

Source: Thinkstock

8. Maids and housekeeping cleaners
> No. of workers: 781,000
> Median weekly earnings: $441
> Est. yearly earnings: $22,932

BLS economist Martin Kohli noted that the nation’s lowest paid jobs frequently employ large shares of women, and often include part-time jobs. Close to 85% of maids and housekeeping cleaners are women. Only full-time, salaried maids were considered for this list, and for them the median weekly wage is just $441, among the lowest paid occupations in the country. For the many part-time maids, the weekly wage is likely much lower.

Source: Thinkstock

7. Sewing machine operators
> No. of workers: 165,000
> Median weekly earnings: $437
> Est. yearly earnings: $22,724

Operating a sewing machine professionally rarely requires a college degree, and it involves manual labor, paid hourly — characteristics common among the nation’s lowest paying jobs. While employment is actually projected to grow for many low paying jobs, sewing machine operator employment will likely shrink in coming years. Not only is the job vulnerable to automation, but garment manufacturing companies are known for outsourcing such jobs.

Source: Thinkstock

Dining room and cafeteria attendants are some of the lowest paid workers in the foodservice industry. Median pay for the job is just $420 a week, even less than the $465 median for all foodservice occupations. While the food service attendant profession is projected to grow slightly slower than the average pace across all U.S. jobs over the next decade, employment in the occupation in some industries will grow at a much faster pace than in others. The number of dining room and cafeteria attendants working in mental health and substance abuse facilities, for example, is projected to grow by 40% between 2014 and 2024 — far more than the 7% average for all occupations.