Special Report

The Most Iconic Job in Every State

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Alabama: Metal-refining furnace operators
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 6.0 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 1,390
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $35,030 (nationwide: $43,280)
> Share of all US metal-refining furnace operators in Alabama: 8.1%

Birmingham, the largest city in Alabama, is the only place in the world where there are large deposits of coal, iron ore, and limestone — the three raw ingredients needed to make iron — close together. Though the industry has waned in the past few decades, there are over 1,000 metal manufacturing companies in Alabama exporting over $1.5 billion in metal goods per year. Metal manufacturers employ furnace operators to melt and refine metal and cast it into steel. These furnace workers are nearly seven times more concentrated in Alabama than they are nationwide.

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Alaska: Misc. underground mining machine operators and extraction workers
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 15.5 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 460
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $64,860 (nationwide: $52,280)
> Share of all US misc. underground mining machine operators and extraction workers in Alaska: 3.3%

Underground mining machine operators and extraction workers are about 15.5 times more concentrated in Alaska’s labor force than they are in the national labor force. Resource extraction is an economic pillar in the state, and mining operations across Alaska generate billions of dollars each year. Metals like silver, gold, zinc, and lead are mined in the state, as are construction materials like sand, gravel, and rock in addition to coal. Some of the mining operations in the state are among the most productive in the country, including the Red Dog and Greens Creek mines.

Jobs in Alaska’s mining industry are relatively well paying. The average mining machine operator and extraction worker earns nearly $65,000 a year, over $12,000 more than the average American working in the same field.

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Arizona: Plasterers and stucco masons
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 4.4 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 2,340
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $47,300 (nationwide: $49,710)
> Share of all US plasterers and stucco masons in Arizona: 8.6%

Arizona is home to parts of the Sonoran, Mojave, and Chihuahuan deserts — and building materials commonly used in other parts of the country do not hold up especially well in desert conditions. Stucco, however, does. Stucco plaster made up of a mixture of sand, Portland cement, lime, and water is used in homes across Arizona.

There are over 2,300 plasterers and stucco masons working in Arizona, or about 8.6% of all Americans working in the profession nationwide.

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Arkansas: Misc. food processing workers
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 11.5 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 4,080
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $26,570 (nationwide: $28,820)
> Share of all US food processing workers in Arkansas: 9.5%

Miscellaneous food processors are over 11 times more concentrated in the Arkansas workforce than they are in the U.S. workforce overall. The relative commonality of food processing jobs is due largely to the presence of several major food companies. For example, Frito-Lay, the company behind snacks like Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, and Funyuns, has a plant in Jonesboro with over 700 full-time employees. Additionally, Tyson Foods, a company that produces 1 out of every 5 pounds of chicken, beef, and pork in the United States is headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas.

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California: Farmworkers and laborers
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 5.8 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 201,440
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $27,550 (nationwide: $27,780)
> Share of all US farmworkers and laborers in California: 68.2%

Thanks to the state’s climate, farming is a $50 billion a year business in California. Over one-third of vegetables grown in the United States come from California, as do over two-thirds of fruits and nuts. Parts of the state, like Napa and Sonoma, are renowned for their winemaking — one of the fastest growing industries in the United States.

Over 68% of American crop, nursery, and greenhouse farm workers are employed in California. Employment in those jobs is nearly six times more concentrated in the state than it is nationwide.