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100 lowest-paying jobs in America

  • 100 lowest-paying jobs in America

    The United States is one of the richest countries in the world. According to the CIA World Factbook, America’s gross domestic product per capita is $59,500—ranking it as 19th out of 229 countries. However, this wealth does not benefit all Americans equally.

    Wealth inequality is a growing problem in the United States. A jaw-dropping wealth gap between the rich and the poor in the United States looks more like that of Russia and China than the United Kingdom, France, and other advanced democracies. More than two-thirds of the wealth is concentrated in the top 10% of earners, while median family wealth shrunk by 40% after the Great Recession compared with pre-2007 figures. It’s getting harder for Americans to stay in the middle class, and some are struggling to get by. It begs the question: Which workers are struggling the most?

    To determine which workers have the bleakest prospects, Stacker identified the 100 lowest-paying jobs in the United States using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Based on average annual wage, ties between jobs with the same salary were broken by their median hourly wage. The data is originally from 2018 but received an update in April 2019. Only occupations in the “detail” level were considered, and jobs with “all other” in the title were excluded from this list.

    Stacker found that the national annual mean income for all occupations was $51,960—a figure that’s almost $20,000 more than the highest-paying occupation on this list, and nearly $30,000 more than the lowest-paid job in America. Read on to learn which of the nation’s occupations pay barely livable wages, and see how your job stacks up to others on the list.

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  • #100. Security guards

    - Annual mean wage: $32,050 (38.3% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $13.70
    - Number employed: 1,114,380

    Security guards are charged with the keeping hospitals, schools, stores, and other facilities safe. The occupation has relatively low barriers to entry, considering the vital role it plays. Workers may not even need a high school diploma to apply for a position as a security guard.

  • #99. Mail clerks and mail machine operators, except postal service

    - Annual mean wage: $32,040 (38.3% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $14.63
    - Number employed: 86,150

    The primary function of this occupation is to take care of incoming and outgoing mail and packages in industries like publishing, business support services, and public relations. It’s a job that’s on the decline. Mail clerks and machine operators face a high risk of job loss due to automation, and the field is expected to shrink by at least 2% from 2018 to 2028.

  • #98. Crossing guards

    - Annual mean wage: $31,970 (38.5% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $13.92
    - Number employed: 79,880

    Crossing guards help guide people and cars near schools, construction sites, city streets, and railroad crossings. While their salary is among the lowest of American jobs, crossing guards require no formal education or previous experience in a similar line of work.

  • #97. Grinding and polishing workers, hand

    - Annual mean wage: $31,900 (38.6% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $14.21
    - Number employed: 30,280

    People who grind or polish materials, such as metal, plastic, or stone, by hand, need a lot of physical abilities. They must have excellent manual dexterity, control precision, and near vision to see the details of their projects. Despite this skillset, many workers in this field may find themselves out of a job in the next 10 years. This occupation is expected to decline by 19% from 2018 to 2028, losing almost 6,000 jobs.

  • #96. Helpers: carpenters

    - Annual mean wage: $31,850 (38.7% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $14.85
    - Number employed: 33,020

    Professionals in construction trades, like electricians and carpenters, rely on helpers to take care of simpler tasks, like carrying tools, setting up equipment, or clean-up. While it’s not a well-paid occupation, helpers gain valuable on-the-job training that can lead to advancements in construction occupations that pay significantly more.

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  • #95. Merchandise displayers and window trimmers

    - Annual mean wage: $31,850 (38.7% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $13.68
    - Number employed: 128,960

    What would the holidays be without those extravagant displays in the windows of department stores and boutiques? The credit for this seasonal tradition, and the displays inside of stores, can be given to workers in this occupation. Unfortunately, the growing popularity of online shopping may be killing the art of creative merchandise displays. This type of work is predicted to grow at a much slower rate than average between now and 2028.

  • #94. Helpers: roofers

    - Annual mean wage: $31,740 (38.9% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $14.61
    - Number employed: 8,630

    Workers in this occupation take on less-skilled tasks required by roofers, such as gathering materials, holding tools, and cleaning work areas. Just like carpenter helpers, roofer helpers may learn essential skills on the job that can help them advance into better-paying positions. It’s a hands-on job that requires continually standing on high places outdoors.

  • #93. Helpers: painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons

    - Annual mean wage: $31,720 (39% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $14.40
    - Number employed: 10,600

    Helpers free up time for professionals, like paperhangers, plasterers, painters, and stucco masons, to take on more skilled tasks by taking care of duties that require less training. They might hold materials or tools, keep equipment clean, and assemble structures. They typically learn how to be a helper by working with a more experienced professional in the field.

  • #92. Machine feeders and offbearers

    - Annual mean wage: $31,710 (39% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $14.21
    - Number employed: 66,380

    Workers need little education to get a job in this occupation, which involves loading materials into a machine or removing them from equipment. Around 94% of machine feeders and offbearers have a high school diploma or less education. Knowledge of production and processing, and decent mechanical and mathematical skills, can help workers be successful in this job.

  • #91. Food cooking machine operators and tenders

    - Annual mean wage: $31,690 (39% below mean for all occupations)
    - Median hourly wage: $14.48
    - Number employed: 32,260

    Workers in this occupation run the machines used to make the foods that fill the snack aisle at your grocery store. It’s a demanding job that requires workers to stand all day in noisy manufacturing plants and risk serious injuries from cuts and falls. In fact, the related occupation of food processing workers has an extremely high rate of workers getting injured or ill, compared with other occupations.

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