Special Report

25 Cities With The Lowest Paying Jobs

Source: George Dodd / Getty Images

10. Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, AL
> Median annual wage: $31,250
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 2.9%
> Poverty rate: 10.1%

The Daphne metro area in southwestern Alabama has one of the fastest-growing job markets in the country. The number of area workers increased by 10% from 2015 to 2020, about 11 times faster than employment growth in the U.S. overall. The area reported an unemployment rate of 2.9% in April 2021, less than half of the U.S. rate.

Yet the typical area jobs do not pay well. The area’s median annual wage of $31,250 is $10,700 lower than the U.S. median. The two largest job sectors in the Daphne metro area are sales and food preparation and serving occupations, which pay median annual wages of $28,480 and $20,260, respectively, to workers in the area.

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9. Sebring, FL
> Median annual wage: $30,780
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 6.6%
> Poverty rate: 14.4%

The Sebring metro area is about 75 miles south of Orlando in central Florida. It is one of just nine metro areas in the country in which most workers earn less than $31,000 annually. More than 3% of the workers in the area work as farmworkers and laborers or in farming, fishing and forestry occupations — these two highly concentrated industries typically pay workers less than $25,000 per year.

Earnings tend to increase with education level — workers with a high school diploma tend to earn more than those without, and workers with a bachelor’s degree earn even higher wages. Lower-income areas therefore tend to have lower educational attainment rates, and Sebring is no exception. Just 85.1% of Sebring adults 25 and older hold at least a high school diploma, compared to 88.6% of all Americans that age. The area’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 16.7% is also low, just over half of the U.S. rate of 33.1%.

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8. El Paso, TX
> Median annual wage: $30,590
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 7.7%
> Poverty rate: 18.7%

The El Paso metro area makes up the far western point of the Texas panhandle. It is one of four Texas Metro areas to have among the 10 lowest median annual wages in the country. Most workers in the area earn less than $30,600.

As is the case with many areas on this list, people in El Paso are much more likely to struggle financially than the typical American. The area’s 18.7% poverty rate is one of the highest in the nation, and well above the 12.3% national poverty rate.

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7. Cleveland, TN
> Median annual wage: $30,330
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 5.1%
> Poverty rate: 15.2%

The Cleveland metro area is located just across from Tennessee’s southern border with Georgia. The area’s median annual wage of $30,300 is the seventh lowest median in the nation, equivalent to an hourly wage of $14.58.This is the seventh lowest median in the nation, equivalent to an hourly wage of $14.58.

The number of workers in the Cleveland, Tennessee, metro area increased from under 45,000 workers in 2015 to over 47,000 in 2020, a 4.5% increase. Nationwide, the number of workers increased by less than 1%. Even as the number of workers increased rapidly, wages did not. The area’s median annual wage increased by 11.6% from 2015 to 2020, well behind the nationwide 15.9% increase.

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6. Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC
> Median annual wage: $30,120
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 5.4%
> Poverty rate: 11.8%

Over the past five years, both the number of jobs and the amount those jobs pay have increased in the Myrtle Beach metro area along the North Carolina-South Carolina border. The total area employment increased by more than 5% from 2015 to 2020, well above the 0.9% increase nationwide. The median annual wage increased by 18.7%, also well above the U.S. increase. Still, the area’s median annual wage of $30,120 is lower than all but five other U.S. metro areas.

The Myrtle Beach area is a popular vacation spot, attracting tourists from across the country to its beaches. About one out of every six jobs in the area falls under the food preparation and serving sector. These jobs typically do not pay well, with a median annual wage of just over $21,000 — roughly half of the overall U.S. median annual wage for all occupations.

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