15. Valdosta, GA
> Median annual wage: $31,540
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 4.3%
> Poverty rate: 20.9%
The median annual wage in the Valdosta metro area of southern Georgia is the 15th lowest of any U.S. metro area, at $31,540. Valdosta is one of just 24 metro areas in America in which more than one out of every five people live below the poverty line.
Like the majority of metro areas on this list, the largest job sector in Valdosta is office and administrative support occupations, accounting for 13.3% of all area jobs. The sector includes jobs like bill collectors, assistants, secretaries, customer service representatives, and more. In the Valdosta area, most of these workers earn less than $29,500 per year.
13. Hammond, LA (tied)
> Median annual wage: $31,490
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 8.2%
> Poverty rate: 22.9%
The Hammond metro area is tied with another Louisiana metro area, Monroe, for the 13th lowest median annual wage in the country. The typical worker earns less than $31,500 in a year, whereas the typical U.S. worker earns just under $42,000 per year.
Beyond low wages, the Hammond metro area job market is struggling. The area’s unemployment rate of 8.2% as of April 2021 was well above the 6.1% national unemployment rate. Hammond also has the seventh highest poverty rate in the country, at 22.9%. The U.S. poverty rate is 12.3%.
13. Monroe, LA (tied)
> Median annual wage: $31,490
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 6.4%
> Poverty rate: 26.0%
The Monroe metro area in northern Louisiana has a median annual wage of just $31,490, lower than all but a dozen other major population centers in the U.S. Wages in the area are growing slowly, as well, increasing by just 11.1% from 2015 to 2020 — one of the lowest wage growths out of nearly 400 U.S. metro areas. The Monroe metro area also shed nearly 5% of area jobs in that five-year stretch.
A very high share of households in Monroe live on very little income — 13.8% earn less than $10,000. This is by far the highest share in the country, and well more than double the national share of households living at this income level of 5.8%. Monroe also has the nation’s second-highest poverty rate, at 26.0%.
12. Homosassa Springs, FL
> Median annual wage: $31,390
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 7.1%
> Poverty rate: 15.7%
Homosassa Springs is located about 60 miles north of Tampa, along Florida’s western coast. The area’s median annual wage increased slowly in recent years, growing by 13.8% from 2015 to 2020 to $31,390. The area has also lost more than 2% of its workers during that time.
More than 13% of all workers in the Homosassa Springs area work in the sales sector, making it the area’s largest sector by employment. The sector includes jobs like cashier and retail sales worker. The median annual income for area workers in the sales is just $24,500.
11. Hattiesburg, MS
> Median annual wage: $31,370
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 5.6%
> Poverty rate: 22.5%
Hattiesburg, Mississippi, workers have a median annual wage of $31,370. Only 10 other metro areas in the U.S. out of nearly 400 have a lower median wage. Low wages typically translate to a high poverty rate, and Hattiesburg’s poverty rate of 22.5% ranks 11th highest in the country.
More than 15% of Hattiesburg area workers are employed in office and administrative support occupations like customer service representatives, office clerks, receptionists and more. The median annual income of these jobs in the area is $28,610.
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