Within the nation’s robust and diverse economy, each state stands out in certain trades and industries. Texas has established itself as the country’s largest oil producer, California the largest agricultural producer, and Georgia one of the primary textile manufacturers. A state’s most iconic job can often provide a useful snapshot of its entire economy.
Using workforce composition data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the location quotient of every job in every state. A location quotient is a measure of relative concentration, which compares the state and national workforce compositions of a particular job. A state’s most iconic job is defined as the job with the highest location quotient, or the most unusually common, occupation in that state.
Iconic jobs tend to reflect the industrial composition of a geographic area. In West Virginia for example, where mining is the largest contributor to the state’s GDP, roof bolting — a legal requirement for all U.S. coal mines — is the most iconic job. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Martin Kohli, Chief Regional Economist at the BLS, explained that a state’s most iconic job is often within its largest industry. “The iconic occupations for Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma are also all associated with the oil and gas industry, and that’s not a surprise.”
Similarly, the game supervisor occupation is the most iconic job in Nevada, one of the few places with legalized gambling. The state’s art, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services industry is also the largest contributor to Nevada’s GDP, and employs over one quarter of the state’s workforce, the highest share compared to the same industry in other states by a significant margin.
In other cases, a state’s most iconic job is not in alignment with its dominant industry. For example, despite Silicon Valley’s well-known computer industry, California’s most iconic job is not in the technology sector. As Kohli explained, software design and web development jobs are simply more evenly distributed across the country than a lot people are aware of, making these occupations less unique to California than others.
A state’s most iconic job is by no means its most common job. In almost every case, the occupation with the highest location quotient comprises far less than 1% of the state’s workforce. While in New York, fashion designers jobs are more uniquely concentrated than any other occupation, they still comprise just 0.8% of the state’s workforce. A state’s iconic occupation tends to account for a major segment of all such jobs in the country, however. The 7,190 fashion designers in New York may be a small share of the state’s total workforce, but amount to 40.3% of the 17,840 fashion designers nationwide.
Employment in a state’s iconic occupation is no guarantee of a high wage. In about half of all states, the typical employee in the iconic occupation earns more than the national median salary for the position. In the other half of states, employees in the iconic occupation earn less.
To identify the most iconic job in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the highest location quotient for each job in each state with data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If an occupation was identified as iconic, but only comprised one of every 2,000 jobs or fewer, the next most iconic job was considered instead. State and national median salaries also came from the BLS. GDP contribution by industry came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). State workforce compositions came from the U.S. census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). All data are as of 2014, the most recent period for which data is available.
In the case of nine states, the iconic job listed was a subset of a broader BLS occupation class for which no greater level of detail was provided. These jobs included: mining machine operators, food processing workers, special education teachers, grounds maintenance workers, metal workers and plastic workers, extraction workers, logging workers, and legal support workers.
These are the most iconic jobs in each state.