Skip to main content

Main Area

Main

Worst jobs in America

1/
serato // Shutterstock

Worst jobs in America

American workers are reporting higher overall job satisfaction in 2019, with 85% of respondents to a quarterly poll by CNBC, First in Business Worldwide, and SurveyMonkey reported in July. Those numbers are virtually unchanged from first-quarter reporting and expected to remain throughout the rest of the year. They also represent a continued uptick in job satisfaction since the decade prior, which was wrought by the Great Recession of 2008 and punctuated with massive layoffs lasting into the 2010s. 

Work satisfaction is typically based on a combination of multiple factors, including pay and benefits, work environment, public and personal perceptions of the work, work-life balance, and interpersonal relationships with colleagues. With wage growth largely flat when adjusted for inflation, many Americans feel like they are underappreciated at work. On top of that, there are plenty of jobs that are just plain unattractive to the average American worker.

The more tedious and dangerous the job is and the less a person is paid to do it, the more miserable the job is likely to make him or her. To help make this point clear, Stacker has looked at data from PayScale and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine the 50 worst jobs in the United States. For this list, we examined 500 occupations to calculate their “misery score.”

Stacker developed the “misery score” using a combination of four factors: meaning, median income, job satisfaction, and projected job growth. PayScale defines meaning as jobs most people feel make the world a better place; the median income comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2017 data; “job satisfaction” is based on PayScale’s survey; and projected job growth by 2028 statistics from the BLS. All four factors are weighed equally for the final "misery" index.

Some people feel that working in a miserable job is a part of life, while others do not have the luxury of choosing the job they want. Despite the rationale, many Americans are finding themselves doing less than they would like. With Americans 55 and older driving much of the job growth, there is a sense that many senior citizens are struggling to make ends meet.

Read on to learn whether your job made the list of the 50 worst jobs in America.

You may also like: States with the fastest-growing rent

2/
Pixabay

#50. Construction laborers

- 'Job misery' index: 79.9
- Median pay: $33,100
- 'High meaning' score: 46%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 51%

Construction laborers perform the physical labor at construction sites. Widely considered a dangerous job, it can subject workers to falls from great heights, trench and scaffolding collapses, electric shock, equipment accidents, repetitive motion injuries, and personally inflicted injuries from failure to properly use protective equipment.

3/
Pixabay

#49. Railroad conductors and yardmasters

- 'Job misery' index: 80
- Median pay: $50,100
- 'High meaning' score: 39%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 48%

Railroad conductors are responsible for activities aboard a passenger or commercial train, while yardmasters manage the rail yards. Long hours and little opportunity to sit can lead to a sense of dissatisfaction for some, and consistent burnout. PayScale estimates that only 10% of railroad conductors and yardmasters are still in the industry after 20 years.

4/
aSuruwataRi // Shutterstock

#48. Computer-controlled machine tool operators, metal and plastic

- 'Job misery' index: 80.2
- Median pay: $36,500
- 'High meaning' score: 44%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 50%

Computer-controlled machine tool operator is a catch-all term for anyone who uses a robot or other computer-driven device to forge or shape plastic or metal. This can include Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Lathe operators, CNC machinists, CNC mill operators, and brake press operators. Low wages, a high risk of accidents, and continuing repetitive movements can make this job unpleasant for some who do it.

5/
Crew // Wikimedia Commons

#47. Bartenders

- 'Job misery' index: 80.4
- Median pay: $28,600
- 'High meaning' score: 32%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 61%

Pouring glasses of wine and making martinis may not be for everyone, but most bartenders tend to feel satisfied in their jobs—perhaps in part because of their interactions with customers. With an hourly rate of just $7.85, bartenders depend on tips to make a decent living.

6/
Pixabay

#46. Welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters, operators, and tenders

- 'Job misery' index: 80.4
- Median pay: $33,200
- 'High meaning' score: 26%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 63%

Automation has played a role in employment statistics for this profession. One interesting note has been in the increasing number of women seeking this kind of employment in an otherwise male-dominated industry. There was a deficit in skilled trade workers a decade ago, which led to efforts to recruit more women.

7/
Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

#45. Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks

- 'Job misery' index: 80.4
- Median pay: $24,700
- 'High meaning' score: 42%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 56%

Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks are typically the first line of contact guests usually come in contact with. These clerks receive and transmit messages, make and confirm reservations, assign room keys, present room and service rental statements, and accept payment. As they are guests’ immediate point of contact, hotel clerks may be subject to verbal or physical abuse from dissatisfied guests. Clerks also must work long hours while standing.

8/
alexkich // Shutterstock

#44. Outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics

- 'Job misery' index: 80.4
- Median pay: $30,500
- 'High meaning' score: 32%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 60%

Outdoor power equipment mechanics service small engines for power lawn motors, chain saws, recreational and sporting equipment, and other small gasoline-powered devices. Since these mechanics handle and disassemble power tools, there is a danger of being cut or maimed. In addition, there is a risk of inhaling gasoline fumes, danger from fire, or being burned by melted plastic or hot metal.

9/
U.S. Air Force photo // Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin

#43. Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders

- 'Job misery' index: 80.5
- Median pay: $35,500
- 'High meaning' score: 42%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 51%

The workers operate machines that paint ceramics, metal, or plastic products. Growth in these jobs is expected to be sluggish by 2020 compared with most other occupations in the United states. This is partly because the industry is becoming more automated.

10/
Ramon Espelt Photography // Shutterstock

#42. Home appliance repairers

- 'Job misery' index: 81.1
- Median pay: $38,000
- 'High meaning' score: 44%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 47%

Home appliance repairers have seen job prospects dwindle as more people turn to the internet for help fixing things around the house. Those working in electronics and appliance stores stand the best chance of staying employed.

11/
Provincial Archives of Alberta // Wikimedia Commons

#41. Foundry mold and coremakers

- 'Job misery' index: 81.2
- Median pay: $37,600
- 'High meaning' score: 41%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 49%

Foundry mold and coremakers create forms used to make metal castings. This job has terrible odds of employment growth in the United States, as manufacturers move operations out of the country, where they can pay workers less.

12/
FrameStockFootages // Shutterstock

#40. Film and video editors

- 'Job misery' index: 81.3
- Median pay: $39,500
- 'High meaning' score: 29%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 56%

Film and video editors manipulate moving images and sounds on film, video, or digital media. The job may entail syncing a soundtrack to an image sequence, cutting and combining video and audio feeds, or converting video and audio from one format to another. While this sounds exciting, the work is actually tedious. Usually involving watching the same video sequence repeatedly to get the transitions and other effects correct, it is a job that involves little physical movement, having to take criticism regularly from multiple sources, and receiving little to no acknowledgment for the work performed.

13/
Nejron Photo // Shutterstock

#39. Cleaners of vehicles and equipment

- 'Job misery' index: 81.4
- Median pay: $24,400
- 'High meaning' score: 37%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 57%

Vehicle and equipment cleaners clean vehicles and equipment, as suggested by the job title. Usually subjected to corrosive or potentially toxic chemicals, these workers also have to deal with dust, grease, and other waste by-products, and usual make a low wage.

14/
John Keith // Shutterstock

#38. Construction and related workers, all other

- 'Job misery' index: 81.4
- Median pay: $33,300
- 'High meaning' score: 49%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 45%

Occupations in the category construction and related workers, all other include solar thermal installers and technicians and weatherization installers and technicians. Like construction laborers, the same dangers apply—including falls, work hazards, and equipment failures—with the addition of such risks as electrocution from ungrounded solar panels.

15/
LuckView // Shutterstock

#37. Cutting, punching, and press machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

- 'Job misery' index: 81.5
- Median pay: $34,400
- 'High meaning' score: 39%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 51%

Those who work in the automotive or contracting industries stand to earn above the median wage for this industry. The Midwest, California, and Texas have the most job opportunities for those doing this kind of work, although there generally are few jobs available for workers who specialize in these tasks.

16/
4 PM production // Shutterstock

#36. Automotive service technicians and mechanics

- 'Job misery' index: 81.5
- Median pay: $36,500
- 'High meaning' score: 36%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 52%

Automotive service technicians and mechanics repair cars and light trucks and install new and replacement parts. A low-wage position, mechanics typically work in unclean environments and are subject to grease, gasoline, and potentially toxic materials. Mechanics are also exposed to sharp materials and dangerous machinery, such as heavy motors.

17/
chainarong06 // Shutterstock

#35. Telemarketers

- 'Job misery' index: 81.6
- Median pay: $25,600
- 'High meaning' score: 46%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 50%

It isn’t easy being a telemarketer. By most accounts, it’s difficult to sell items over the phone. And no one likes being hung up on—especially not for around $24,000 a year.

18/
Tong_stocker // Shutterstock

#34. Stock clerks and order fillers

- 'Job misery' index: 81.9
- Median pay: $25,400
- 'High meaning' score: 36%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 56%

Stock clerks spend their days unpacking merchandise and stocking it in stores. PayScale notes that while a fair percentage of people report average satisfaction in this position, one downside is that not all workers have health benefits.

19/
Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

#33. Driver/sales workers

- 'Job misery' index: 81.9
- Median pay: $30,700
- 'High meaning' score: 37%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 53%

This occupation title specifically refers to delivery truck drivers and sales workers who operate on a local level, bringing packages, take-out, or other items to customers. Ecommerce is increasing the demand for these local drivers, but much of the profit from deliveries goes to large companies rather than to the drivers themselves.

20/
Myfuture.com // Flickr

#32. Tellers

- 'Job misery' index: 82.3
- Median pay: $25,200
- 'High meaning' score: 33%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 57%

The bank teller has become all but obsolete in an era of online banking and ATMs. Plus, bank branches are expensive to operate. A fair number of people in this profession don’t have benefits, which might also help explain the low satisfaction.

21/
Nordroden // Shutterstock

#31. Helpers-production workers

- 'Job misery' index: 82.3
- Median pay: $26,600
- 'High meaning' score: 35%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 55%

Helpers help production workers by doing jobs that require minimal skills. Low-paying, these jobs typically involve tasks such as cleaning and restocking.

22/
kelly // Flickr

#30. Fabric and apparel patternmakers

- 'Job misery' index: 82.4
- Median pay: $52,900
- 'High meaning' score: 25%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 50%

Computer modeling has dealt a debilitating blow to the pattern-making industry. Jobs are drastically on the decline. Some pattern makers, however, make twice the median wage. It all depends on, among other things, the location where they work.

23/
Dispossessed1974 // Wikimedia Commons

#29. Multiple machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

- 'Job misery' index: 82.5
- Median pay: $32,800
- 'High meaning' score: 35%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 52%

Those who work this job in the aerospace-manufacturing industry on average make around $49,000, far above the median wage. While employment is expected to decline in the coming years, the decrease is far less compared with other manual labor professions.

24/
Nejron Photo // Shutterstock

#28. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers

- 'Job misery' index: 82.6
- Median pay: $40,300
- 'High meaning' score: 28%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 53%

Data suggests there’s something deeply unsatisfying about setting a precious stone in a ring or creating a piece of jewelry only to have to part with it. Plus, the job market is sluggish: The government projects a 7% decline in these positions from 2018 to 2028.

25/
Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best // US Air Force

#27. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks

- 'Job misery' index: 82.7
- Median pay: $29,300
- 'High meaning' score: 32%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 55%

On a typical day, these clerks verify records for incoming and outgoing shipments, and prepare items for shipment. The repetitiveness can get old quickly. Some tough it out for a better payoff: Clerks working for the U.S. Postal Service can expect the highest average salary in this sector at close to $60,000 a year.

26/
Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

#26. Retail salespersons

- 'Job misery' index: 82.7
- Median pay: $24,500
- 'High meaning' score: 35%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 55%

With difficult customers and long days on your feet, working in retail isn’t easy. Some say learning other skills can help boost a career. In retail, that might mean someone who works the floor learning how to use the cash register, or taking business classes to pursue opening a shop of one’s own.

27/
panpote // Shutterstock

#25. Team assemblers

- 'Job misery' index: 82.7
- Median pay: $28,100
- 'High meaning' score: 40%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 50%

Team assemblers are part of a team responsible for a product or a component of a product. Assemblers in this classification usually learn how to perform all the tasks of the team and rotate through stations. Along with low wages, there is a need to learn multiple tasks—which can be taxing.

28/
David Peters // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Printing machine operators

- 'Job misery' index: 82.9
- Median pay: $35,400
- 'High meaning' score: 27%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 55%

Printing workers are at the last stage of the publishing process: they arrange pages, operate printing and binding equipment, and do other tasks required to produce printed books and other materials. This work can be tedious and unsatisfying, and job opportunities are in decline as more publishing takes place online. Plus, PayScale estimates that more than two-fifths of workers in this industry don’t receive benefits.

29/
RossHelen // Shutterstock

#23. Purchasing agents and buyers, farm products

- 'Job misery' index: 83.5
- Median pay: $40,600
- 'High meaning' score: 26%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 52%

Purchasing agents and buyers, farm products buy agricultural products either for resale or as components in manufactured products. The jobs require negotiating with farmers, who may not be best positioned to absorb low market prices. As such, there is little appreciation by the farmers for buyers.

30/
ALPA PROD // Shutterstock

#22. Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop

- 'Job misery' index: 83.8
- Median pay: $19,200
- 'High meaning' score: 33%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 56%

A host or hostess welcomes customers and seats them at tables. The average hourly wage is $9.23 per hour, though people rarely make it a lifelong career. A whopping 82% of hosts and hostesses last less than five years.

31/
ChickenStock Images // Shutterstock

#21. Counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop

- 'Job misery' index: 84.1
- Median pay: $19,800
- 'High meaning' score: 33%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 55%

This position ranks low, but employment is expected to grow. Heartland states such as South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have some of the highest concentrations of these workers, according to government data. In addition, the West Coast has some of the highest wages for workers in restaurants and coffee shops.

32/
Pixabay

#20. Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

- 'Job misery' index: 84.1
- Median pay: $27,000
- 'High meaning' score: 37%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 49%

These laborers move materials with their hands. While there’s typically on-the-job training, there’s no formal education required. The employment rate for this industry is estimated to rise 4% between 2018 and 2028, which the government estimates is as fast as the average for other occupations.

33/
Shannon E. Renfroe // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Motorboat mechanics

- 'Job misery' index: 84.3
- Median pay: $40,800
- 'High meaning' score: 29%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 48%

Working as a motorboat mechanic doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of satisfaction. But the employment market has improved a notch recently, as boat sales have been healthy in recent years.

34/
Glenn Highcove // Shutterstock

#18. Industrial truck and tractor operators

- 'Job misery' index: 84.3
- Median pay: $29,100
- 'High meaning' score: 29%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 53%

Moving materials around a warehouse or a factory might pay decently at more than $17 an hour, but it doesn’t provide much job satisfaction; ranking on the index at a total score of 84.8. The top-paying industry for this occupation is electric power generation, transmission, and distribution at $ 62,720.

35/
Pixabay

#17. Waiters and waitresses

- 'Job misery' index: 84.3
- Median pay: $20,500
- 'High meaning' score: 30%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 56%

While waiters and waitresses don’t make much salary, they typically make up for it in tips. Still, it’s an industry with high turnover. Only 5% of waiters and waitresses have spent 20 years or more on the job. Government data shows that tips are usually higher in major cities, such as Boston and San Francisco.

36/
Pressmaster // Shutterstock

#16. Baggage porters and bellhops

- 'Job misery' index: 84.3
- Median pay: $22,800
- 'High meaning' score: 33%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 53%

It seems helping people with their bags doesn’t offer much happiness, especially when the average wage is $10 an hour. Most porters and bellhops count on tips to supplement their incomes. The position is also physically demanding, especially for those working long hours.

37/
Chamille White // Shutterstock

#15. Photographic processing machine operators

- 'Job misery' index: 84.5
- Median pay: $24,300
- 'High meaning' score: 42%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 46%

This position has terrible growth prospects as the field of digital photography continues to expand. Those who can’t bear to leave the industry entirely are likely to find more promising prospects by instead becoming photographers.

38/
US Air Force

#14. Prepress technicians and workers

- 'Job misery' index: 84.6
- Median pay: $38,300
- 'High meaning' score: 25%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 51%

Widespread computer use in desktop publishing for tasks such as page layout has stunted job growth prospects for prepress technicians and workers. Industry workers might have better luck becoming engravers or designers.

39/
Jorge Royan // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Cooks, restaurant

- 'Job misery' index: 85.2
- Median pay: $22,500
- 'High meaning' score: 33%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 51%

More than half of the restaurant cooks surveyed reported satisfaction working in the kitchen, although it seems cooks struggle as much as bartenders to find meaning in their work. And with a median wage of $10.42 an hour, many might have a hard time making a living since they rarely receive tips.

40/
viviandnguyen_ // Flickr

#12. Packers and packagers, hand

- 'Job misery' index: 85.3
- Median pay: $22,900
- 'High meaning' score: 34%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 50%

There has been a shrinking need for human packers and packagers as companies like Amazon increasingly automate tasks. Most hand packagers also move on to find other employment once they accumulate more than a decade of experience.

41/
Jason Person // Shutterstock

#11. Cooks, short order

- 'Job misery' index: 87.1
- Median pay: $20,600
- 'High meaning' score: 36%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 45%

A short-order cook is considered an undesirable job by many. That’s due in part to the gig’s long nights, lackluster growth prospects, and mediocre pay. Mix in little opportunity for advancement and it’s no wonder being a short-order cook ranks as one of the worst jobs in the United States.

42/
Wolfmann // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Cashiers

- 'Job misery' index: 87.5
- Median pay: $18,400
- 'High meaning' score: 33%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 47%

The monotony of standing all shift can certainly take a toll on workers. But cashiers actually face far worse problems on the job: Compared with other workers, they’re often victims of robbery and homicide.

43/
Seika Chujo // Shutterstock

#9. Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food

- 'Job misery' index: 87.8
- Median pay: $19,000
- 'High meaning' score: 33%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 46%

While the median wage is low for this industry, those who work in food preparation for rail transportation stand to make more than twice what workers in other areas of this category make. California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Ohio have the highest employment levels for food preparation and serving workers in the country.

44/
Daniel Lee // Flickr

#8. Cooks, fast food

- 'Job misery' index: 88.6
- Median pay: $17,800
- 'High meaning' score: 28%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 48%

There are plenty of reasons not to want to work in the fast food industry, least of all the way you smell at the end of a shift—like the food you have been cooking. Most fast-food places also don’t give their employees, including cooks, time off for the holidays, nor do they receive benefits.

45/
Needpix

#7. Crushing, grinding, and polishing machine setters, operators, and tenders

- 'Job misery' index: 88.8
- Median pay: $36,000
- 'High meaning' score: 26%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 41%

This position ranks low for meaning, satisfaction, and growth prospects. There’s also not much opportunity to find U.S. jobs in this sector. Even in populous states like California and Texas, employment figures are at or below 3,000 workers..

46/
Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos // Flickr

#6. Counter and rental clerks

- 'Job misery' index: 89.6
- Median pay: $26,500
- 'High meaning' score: 26%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 43%

Job numbers for counter and rental clerks are expected to rise in the next decade. Still, most people working these jobs move on to other positions after a decade in the field. In some case that may be because of fatigue from dealing so often with angry, demanding customers.

47/
Zephyris // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Lathe and turning machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

- 'Job misery' index: 89.9
- Median pay: $34,000
- 'High meaning' score: 32%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 35%

Job prospects for this manufacturing job are expected to decline in coming years as more companies outsource manufacturing jobs overseas. Robots also have replaced the human touch in many positions in this sector.

48/
DeVaul // Shutterstock

#4. Laundry and dry-cleaning workers

- 'Job misery' index: 90.2
- Median pay: $18,700
- 'High meaning' score: 35%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 39%

Working in laundry and dry cleaning comes with its own set of hazards. Studies suggest a strong correlation between exposure to dry cleaning chemicals and cancer. The data, backed up by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, doesn’t bode well for those working in the jobs. A chemical called perc is still widely used despite an EPA warning about it.

49/
aboutsung // Shutterstock

#3. Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers

- 'Job misery' index: 90.6
- Median pay: $19,400
- 'High meaning' score: 33%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 39%

Dining room workers are essential to the hospitality industry. These folks clean tables, remove dirty dishes, and serve water, coffee, or other items. Workers who find these jobs in the grant making and giving services sector stand to make more than the median; one annual salary estimate is nearly $38,000.

 

50/
Ryan Everton // Unsplash

#2. Dishwashers

- 'Job misery' index: 91.4
- Median pay: $18,300
- 'High meaning' score: 29%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 40%

Dishwashers are essential to any smooth-running restaurant. Yet these workers also are among the most underappreciated and underpaid employees in a food establishment. They work long hours, don’t receive tips, and work with little to no recognition.

 

51/
Martin Smith // Shutterstock

#1. Parking lot attendants

- 'Job misery' index: 97.2
- Median pay: $19,700
- 'High meaning' score: 5%
- 'High satisfaction' score: 41%

Although parking lot attendants are still in demand and will be for the foreseeable future, this position ranks highest on the list of the worst jobs. Parking attendants must deal with a lot of boredom, and a scant sense of meaning. The position also can take a toll on the bodies of workers who are stuck outside in terrible weather.

You may also like: States with the fastest growing rent

2018 All rights reserved.