The U.S. economy has recovered considerably since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, with unemployment down substantially from its recession peak of nearly 10%. New minimum wage laws in some U.S. states, as well as wage hikes in retail and food services companies in recent years, have also helped raise earnings among American workers.
The share of hourly-paid workers with earnings at or less than the federal minimum wage fell from 3.9% in 2014 to 3.3% in 2015, and again to 2.7% last year. Despite the recovery and the occasional worker-friendly company announcements, the U.S. economy is full of exceptionally low-paying jobs.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the latest job market data from the U.S. Labor Department to determine America’s 25 lowest paying jobs. To ensure low wages for a particular occupation could not be entirely attributed to part-time employment, we only considered full-time, salaried positions.
In an email exchange with 24/7 Wall St., chief regional economist Martin Kohli highlighted several notable characteristics common across these low-wage jobs. “The most noticeable characteristic of many of the lowest-paid occupations is that they typically don’t require educational attainment beyond high school.”
In addition to fewer years of training required, these occupations often involve manual labor. While jobs requiring manual labor have been vulnerable to automation and outsourcing, employment growth in many of the jobs listed here is expected to keep pace with the overall job growth rate nationwide.
A number of the nation’s lowest paying jobs are quite common. The number of people working as cashiers is well over 1 million, as is the number of people working as cooks. In fact, all but five of the 25 lowest paying full-time occupations employ more than 100,000 people nationwide.
Minimum wage laws have a major impact on low-wage workers, especially in states with relatively high concentrations of low-wage occupations. Most of the highest paying states for these jobs are states with the highest minimum wages.
Kohli observed that in some of these jobs, women make up an outsized share of employment. In 18 of the 25 lowest paying jobs, the share of employees who are women exceeds the national average percentage of 44.3%.
To identify the lowest paying jobs in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2016 annual average median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of workers employed in each occupation was also obtained from the BLS. The estimated yearly earnings for each occupation was calculated from the median weekly earnings figures.
These are the lowest paying jobs in America.