Special Report

25 Cities With The Lowest Paying Jobs

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5. Laredo, TX
> Median annual wage: $29,790
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 7.4%
> Poverty rate: 20.5%

The Laredo metro area in southern Texas is one of just five U.S. metro areas in which most workers earn less than $30,000 per year. However, the area has shown improvement — its median annual wage increased by 19.3% from 2015 to 2020, well above the 15.9% increase nationwide for all occupations. The number of workers in the area has also grown rapidly, up 3.0% in the last five years — more than triple the nationwide rate of growth.

A lack of education may be contributing to relatively low earnings in Laredo. Just 66.1% of area adults 25 and older have a high school diploma — the lowest share among all metro areas and well below the 88.6% nationwide share. Workers with high school diplomas tend to earn much more than those without.

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4. Hot Springs, AR
> Median annual wage: $29,560
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 5.9%
> Poverty rate: 17.4%

The Hot Springs area of central Arkansas has a median annual wage of $29,560, lower than all but three other U.S. metro areas. The largest job sector is sales and related occupations, which includes jobs like cashiers, retail sales workers, and more. The sector, which accounts for 13.1% of the area’s total employment, has a median annual wage of $25,180 in the Hot Springs area.

As is the case with many other areas with low wages, the number of people working in the Hot Springs area is in decline. The area’s total employment fell by 1.4% from 2015 to 2020, even as the number of total workers in the U.S. grew during that time.

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3. Gadsden, AL
> Median annual wage: $29,520
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 4.1%
> Poverty rate: 19.7%

The Gadsden, Alabama, metro area has some of the lowest paying jobs in the country. The area’s median annual wage is just $29,520, more than $12,000 less than the U.S. median. The area is facing a severe shortage of jobs — employment dropped by a staggering 10.6% from 2015 to 2020, compared to nationwide employment expanding by nearly 1% during that time.

Gadsden has a relatively low unemployment rate, at 4.1%. Holding a job is not enough to keep one out of poverty, however, and nearly one in five area residents lives below the poverty line. Gadsden’s largest employment sector is production, which has occupations like manufacturing, employing 13.7% of all workers. Production workers in the area have median annual wages of just over $24,000.

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2. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
> Median annual wage: $27,880
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 11.4%
> Poverty rate: 27.3%

The McAllen metro area in southern Texas is one of just two U.S. population centers in which most workers earn less than $28,000. The area’s economy is struggling, based on a number of key indicators. The area’s 27.3% poverty rate is by far the highest in the nation and more than double the U.S. poverty rate. McAllen also had the fifth highest unemployment rate as of April 2021, at 11.4%.

Nearly a third of workers in the McAllen area work either in a health care support occupation or as a home health and personal care aide. These health care job sectors pay relatively low wages — both sectors have an annual median wage of less than $23,000.

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1. Brownsville-Harlingen, TX
> Median annual wage: $25,680
> April 2021 unemployment rate: 9.8%
> Poverty rate: 25.6%

The Brownsville-Harlingen metro area at the very southern tip of Texas is the U.S. metro area with by far the lowest paying jobs. The median annual wage of the area is $25,680 — more than $2,000 lower than any other city and well below the overall U.S. median of nearly $42,000.

Of the 25 metro areas with the lowest paying jobs, the Brownsville area reported the slowest median wage growth from 2015 to 2020, at 10.2%. Nationwide, the median annual wage grew by 15.9% during that time.

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