Wages Stink at America's Most Common Jobs

Wages stink at America's most common jobsBy Tami Luhby

NEW YORK - America's most common jobs come with lousy pay.

Workers in seven of the 10 largest occupations typically earn less than $30,000 a year, according to new data published Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's a far cry from the nation's average annual pay of $45,790.

Food prep workers are the third most-common job in the U.S., but have the lowest pay, at a mere $18,720 a year for 2012. Cashiers and waiters are also popular professions, but the average pay at these jobs tallies up to less than $21,000 annually. There are 4.3 million retail sales workers out there, making them the most common job, but the position pays only $25,310 for the year. Among the 10 most popular professions, only the nation's 2.6 million registered nurses earn a good living, bringing home nearly $68,000 a year on average. Another two of the most common jobs -- secretaries and customer service representatives -- have an average annual wage of about $33,000.
Wages have been in the spotlight this year as the debate over income inequality intensified. Middle-class Americans have been losing ground, as median household income dropped by more than $4,000 since 2000.

Part of this decline stems from a disappearance of middle-class jobs and an explosion of lower-paying ones. Some 58% of the jobs created during the recovery have been low-wage positions, according to a 2012 report by the National Employment Law Project. These low-wage jobs had a median hourly wage of $13.83 or less.

President Obama has been pushing to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, and several states are considering increasing their minimum wages.
Employment & wages for largest U.S. occupations
Occupation U.S. employment 2012 annual mean wage
Retail salesperson 4,340,000 $25,310
Cashier 3,314,010 $20,370
Food prep worker 2,943,810 $18,720
Office clerk 2,808,100 $29,270
Registered nurse 2,633,980 $67,930
Waiter 2,332,020 $20,710
Customer service representative 2,299,750 $33,110
Laborer 2,143,940 $26,410
Janitor/cleaner 2,097,380 $24,850
Secretary/administrative assistant 2,085,680 $33,560

More From CNNMoney
12 Smart Ways to Cut Your Tax Bill
12 Tax Audit Red Flags
Which State Has the Highest Tax Rate?

Don't Miss: Companies Hiring Now


Looking for a job? Click here to get started.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

11 Comments

Filter by:
gp341

US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) MA wants the minimum wage to $22.00. What a great plan to level the playing field.

April 03 2013 at 9:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pinelsart

You forget one important thing: I worked for 15 years in food business, yes wages are not only very low, but there are NO benefits, No sick days, No bonuses, No paid vacations.
I am pretty sure for these kind of jobs the US rank close to even with China's employement situation at it stands now .....

April 03 2013 at 4:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
weakglovehand

ok lets explain a basic law of supply and demand. the more plentiful any item the less its worth, and the more scarce it is, the more its worth. using that as a basis for employment, the more plentiful the number of applicants the lower the wage scale as ANYBODY can do it! as compared to a neuro surgeon. raise your hand if you don't get this.
to confuse the issue government or unions (not much different now) strong arm the employer to over pay and then there are fewer jobs for fewer people and the cost of goods goes up or the company no longer exists.
Add some "bleeding heart" viewpoints from the government controlled media and whala we have a "wage crisis" that needs to be fixed! leading to fewer jobs and fewer companies to employ them. ever wonder where all the jobs of the 70's went? not all have been replaced by ATM's as BHO would like us to believe. yes he actually said that. (dirty little lie is that there are more people employed in the banking industry now that before ATM's were invented or in use) but lets not quibble over facts when its how a liberal with a microphone FEELS about something.

April 03 2013 at 12:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
alfredschrader

Yeah, but nurses deserve every penny. Why ? They have to change diapers, and change poopie sheets.
Sponge people in sitz baths. Get exposed to flesh eating bacteria.
Like I said, they deserve every penny of it.

April 02 2013 at 7:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to alfredschrader's comment
dedndogyrs

Those things are mostly done by nursing assistants, who get lousy pay. Registered nurses put in and manage IVs, monitor respirators and other life support machines, and other things that take advanced training. Registered nurses are exposed to diseases though.

April 03 2013 at 10:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dedndogyrs's comment
Laura

There are no nursing assistants on my shifts, so we do total patient care and this is becoming the norm. Besides cleaning and caring for patients, we make life and death decisions every time we go to work. And no hospital I know of pays their RNs 30.00 per hour. It's more like 19.00 per hour. If anyone thinks we are overpaid, go to work with a nurse sometime and then tell me what you think.

April 03 2013 at 12:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
kathy

Oh no they don't as a rule. The underpaid nursing assistant does that work. But I do agree the nurses deserve what they make.

April 03 2013 at 5:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

Rome is falling. If retail sales positions are more common than, say factory jobs, it follows that they are selling mostly foreign-made goods. We keep getting a snow job from the press and politicians about the "so-called" recovery, but the only thing recovering are the bailed out banks and the multi-millionaires that run them. The stock market hit record highs last month, but how many of US shared in that? Did rising stock prices lead to new investment in job creating industries, or did a few Wall Street traders shuffle numbers around until they all made themselves a lot of money? This article gives the answer loud and clear. Rome is falling. The aristocrats are insulating themselves nicely, but the rest of us are left to fight each other over retail and food prep jobs.

April 02 2013 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim's comment
weakglovehand

Hey Jim, ever hear of inflation? think that might be a reason for why both the stock market and housing went up without employment changing with it? The Fed has added another 3 trillion to the money supply since BHO took office with another 1.2 trillion to be printed this year. When traded against the other currencies the US stock market is on sale!
Go to Canada for a vacation. when I was growing up and as late as 10-12 years ago the dollarr traded nicely against the Canadian dollar. Not now. what was 62 to 67 cents per Canadian dollar is now $1.03 to $1.09. That puts the US stocks traded in US dollars on a 30% discount or more. No banker needed except for the Federal Reserve.

April 03 2013 at 12:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Lewis

Here it is, gang.

Employment may be up (according to the statistics that I personally doubt), but wages are down.

What good is it to you to just be grateful to HAVE a job, when the wages that job pays are not enough to maintain you in the basics of living like food and shelter?

April 02 2013 at 3:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John Lewis's comment
haam8howard

I agree stop telling me to be happy i have a job when i still walk around broke and bills comming out of my ears

April 03 2013 at 10:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

Week of Oct 19 - 26
View All

Featured Writers

Meet the team

Picks From the Web