Special Report

25 Cities With The Lowest Paying Jobs

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25. Albany, GA
> Median annual wage: $32,810
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 5.7%
> Poverty rate: 22.6%

Albany, Georgia’s median annual wage of $32,810 is one of the lowest out of the nearly 400 American metro areas reviewed. The U.S. median annual wage is over $9,000 higher, at $41,950. From 2015 to 2020, the U.S. median wage increased by 15.9%, but wages increased by only 11.1% in Albany in that time, one of the lowest wage increases among U.S. metro areas.

Economic hardship is much more common in Albany than it is nationwide. The area has the 10th highest poverty rate of U.S. metro areas, at 22.6%. The U.S. poverty rate is 12.3%. Also, 12.1% of Albany households live on less than $10,000 per year — the second highest share in the country and more than double the 5.8% share nationwide.

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24. Auburn-Opelika, AL
> Median annual wage: $32,780
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 2.8%
> Poverty rate: 15.8%

Unlike all the other metro areas with the lowest paying jobs, the Auburn-Opelika metro area has a relatively high bachelor’s degree attainment rate. An estimated 41.4% of residents 25 and older hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 33.1% of adults nationwide. The area is home to Auburn University, and income figures in college towns are often skewed. Many college students work part-time jobs or do not not work at all and are financially supported by their parents or guardians.

Of all the metro areas with the lowest median annual wages, Auburn had the lowest unemployment rate as of April 2021, at 2.8% — less than half of the national unemployment rate of 6.1%. The metro area’s largest sector by employment is food preparation and serving, with nearly one out of every eight workers in the area employed in the sector. Most of these workers earn less than $20,000 per year.

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23. Yuma, AZ
> Median annual wage: $32,390
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 14.3%
> Poverty rate: 21.4%

Most Yuma, Arizona, workers earned less than $32,400 in wages in 2020, one of the lowest medians in America. However, this actually represents a major improvement as the area’s wages increased by 21.5% from 2015 to 2020, one of the largest increases among all U.S. metro areas. The Yuma metro area had one of the 10 lowest median annual wages five years earlier.

More than 10% of all workers in the Yuma area are farmworkers and laborers, making it by far the most highly concentrated occupation. These workers have median earnings of $27,600. While those working in the Yuma area earn relatively low wages, many are struggling to find work at all. Yuma’s April unemployment rate of 14.3% is the second-highest of nearly 400 U.S. metro areas and more than double the comparable 6.1% national rate.

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22. Ocala, FL
> Median annual wage: $32,350
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 6.5%
> Poverty rate: 15.0%

The Ocala metro area in central Florida has one of the lowest median annual wages of any major metro area in the nation — one of three Florida metro areas to have one of the 25 lowest median annual wages. The typical worker earns $32,350 per year, well below the U.S. median annual wage of nearly $42,000. .

The Ocala job market has expanded rapidly in recent years, growing from 95,500 total workers in 2015 to nearly 103,000 in 2020, a 7.8% increase. This is several times higher than the nationwide 0.9% total employment increase during that period. However, wage growth in Ocala lagged behind much of the country as the median annual wage grew by 11.4% from 2015 to 2020, compared to a 15.9% increase nationwide.

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21. Jonesboro, AR
> Median annual wage: $32,180
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 3.8%
> Poverty rate: 18.9%

The median annual wage in Jonesboro, Arkansas, is $32,180 — a lower median than all but 20 other metro areas in the country. Likely at least partially as a result, the area has a relatively high poverty rate, at 18.9%. The U.S. poverty rate is 12.3%.

Though wages are relatively low in the metro area, there are some positive indicators for Jonesboro’s job market. The area’s unemployment rate of just 3.8% is well below the national unemployment rate of 6.1%. The number of workers expanded significantly in recent years, with total employment increasing by 6.6% from 2015 to 2020 — several times higher than the 0.9% increase in the total employment nationwide.

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