20. Las Cruces, NM
> Median annual wage: $32,100
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 7.7%
> Poverty rate: 25.9%
Along with Yuma, Arizona, the Las Cruces metro area of southern New Mexico is one of just two metro areas outside of the South to rank among the metro areas with the 25 lowest median annual wages. The median worker in Las Cruces earned just $32,100 in 2020.
The job market in the Las Cruces area is struggling — the number of workers decreased by 1.6% from 2015 to 2020. In April 2021, the area reported a 7.7% unemployment rate, well above the 6.1% national rate. The Las Cruces’ poverty rate is 25.9% — the third highest poverty rate in the country and more than double the 12.3% national poverty rate.
19. Fort Smith, AR-OK
> Median annual wage: $31,930
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 5.0%
> Poverty rate: 19.4%
The Fort Smith area on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border is one of just 19 U.S. metro areas in which most workers earned less than $32,000 a year. The number of workers in the area declined by 5.8%, or over 6,000 workers, from 2015 to 2020, one of the steepest employment declines in the country.
Though wages in the Fort Smith area are relatively low, money tends to go farther in the metro area than in almost every other major population center in the country. The cost of living is more than 17% lower than the overall U.S. cost of living.
18. Morristown, TN
> Median annual wage: $31,890
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 4.8%
> Poverty rate: 11.9%
The median annual wage in the Morristown metro area in northeastern Tennessee is $31,890, among the lowest in the country. From 2015 to 2020, the median wage increased by just 10.6%. Out of nearly 400 U.S. metro areas, less than 20 had slower wage growth. More than one out of five area workers are employed in production occupations, like manufacturing. The median annual wage of these workers is $32,320, well below the median for all occupations nationwide of $41,950.
Though wages are relatively low in the Morristown metro area, poverty is relatively uncommon. The area’s poverty rate of 11.9% is slightly lower than the 12.3% national poverty rate. Also, just 4.5% of area households earn less than $10,000 per year, compared to 5.8% of all U.S. households.
17. Jacksonville, NC
> Median annual wage: $31,830
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 4.8%
> Poverty rate: 11.1%
The Jacksonville metro area, which covers a portion of southeastern North Carolina, near the coast, has one of the lowest median annual wages in the country, at $31,830. In spite of the relatively low wages, the area reported several positive job market and economic indicators.
Wages in the Jacksonville area increased by 16.9% from 2015 to 2020, a full percentage point higher than the nationwide median wage growth. The area’s April 2021 unemployment rate is just 4.8%, well below the 6.1% U.S. unemployment rate. Jacksonville’s poverty rate is relatively low, at 11.1%, compared to the 12.3% national rate.
16. Dothan, AL
> Median annual wage: $31,550
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 3.3%
> Poverty rate: 18.6%
The median annual wage in the Dothan metro area in southeastern Alabama is $31,550, lower than all but 15 other major population centers in America. The area’s poverty rate of 18.6% is well above the nation’s 12.3% poverty rate.
Workers with college degrees tend to earn higher wages than those without. Like nearly every other metro area on this list, Dothan has a relatively low bachelor’s degree attainment rate — just 20.1% of Dothan residents 25 and older have earned at least a college degree. The U.S. bachelor’s degree attainment rate is 33.1%.
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