Nine of the Ten most Common Occupations in U.S. Pay less than the National Average Wage

Friday, April 11, 2014
(Graphic: CBS/AP)

Nearly all of the top 10 most common jobs in America don’t pay well, according to new figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


Data collected from May 2013, the most recent date available, shows nine of the 10 largest occupations produced an average wage below the U.S. average wage of $46,440 annually (or $22.33 per hour).


The lone exception among top jobs was registered nurses, who make an average of $68,910 per year.


The BLS says the average annual wage for the rest of the 10 largest occupations ranged from $18,880 for food preparation and serving workers to $34,000 for secretaries and administrative assistants (legal, medical and executive assistants excluded).


Office and administrative support comprised the largest occupational group (16% of all U.S. jobs).


In addition to food prep workers, the lowest paying occupational groups include farming, fishing, and forestry; personal care and service; building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; and healthcare support occupations, according to the agency.


In terms of job growth, retail salespersons and cashiers experienced the largest employment jumps in May 2013. They now combine to make up nearly 6% of the workforce.


At the other end of the pay scale, the highest paying jobs were in management, law, computers, mathematics, architecture and engineering. The BLS says “most detailed occupations in these groups were also high paying.”


Salaries of computer workers, for instance, ranged from $50,450 for user support specialists to $109,260 for computer and information research scientists.


Women continue to earn less than men, even in women-dominated jobs, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In its study (pdf), the group reported that, in 2013, there was about an 18% gap between men’s and women’s median weekly earnings for full-time employees: Women earned $706 per week, while men took in an $860 weekly salary.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Occupational Employment and Wages Summary (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Women Earn Less than Men Even in Woman-Dominated Jobs (Market Watch)

The Gender Wage Gap: 2013 (Institute for Women’s Policy Research) (pdf)

Hourly Wages See Sharpest Drop Since at Least 1947; Bank Profits Hit Record High (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Working Fulltime for Poverty Level Wages…The Case of Janitors (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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