Here is the lowest-paying job in every US state

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from Bureau of Labour Statistics
  • Using data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics, we found the job in each state with the lowest average annual salary.
  • Food service jobs were the lowest-paying job in 32 states.

One of the most successful movements to fight income inequality in the US in recent years has been the “Fight for 15” push to increase the minimum wage, and fast-food workers have been at the forefront of that fight.

According to a Business Insider analysis looking for the lowest-paying job in each state, there’s good reason for that: Food-service workers of various types had the lowest average annual wages in 32 states.

Using data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics program, we found the job in each state with the lowest average annual salary among the several hundred detailed occupational groups tracked by the BLS as of May 2017, the latest available data. For our calculations, we considered jobs employing at least 1,000 people in the state for which the BLS reported annual mean salaries.

In many states, jobs in food preparation or serving (illustrated in light blue in the map above) were the lowest-paying occupation. Fast-food cooks had the lowest average annual wage in five states, and combined food prep and serving workers – a category that also includes many fast-food workers – had the lowest average wage in six states.

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Because many occupations were the lowest-paying in multiple states, we’ve arranged the following list in alphabetical order of the 18 jobs that appear on the above map. The list also includes the states for which that job is the lowest-paying, along with the job’s average annual salary in those states:


Andrew Toth/Getty

North Dakota: $US20,140

Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Alabama: $US18,380

Hawaii: $US23,730

Maine: $US20,930

South Carolina: $US18,320

Utah: $US20,000

Wyoming: $US20,860

Fast food cooks

Hannelore Foerster / Stringer / Getty Images

Arkansas: $US19,420

Idaho: $US18,280

Mississippi: $US18,160

North Carolina: $US18,620

Virginia: $US19,430

Cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop counter attendants


New Jersey: $US21,210

Rhode Island: $US22,870

Crossing guards

Arizona: $US21,780

Dining room and cafeteria attendants, and bartender helpers

Colorado: $US21,670

Connecticut: $US23,460

Delaware: $US19,310

Montana: $US20,390

New Hampshire: $US20,720

New Mexico: $US19,280


Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

Georgia: $US18,760

South Dakota: $US20,930

Vermont: $US23,910

Wisconsin: $US19,220

Food preparation and serving-related workers, all other

Dan Kosmayer/Shutterstock

Washington: $US24,590

Gaming dealers

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Illinois: $US21,260

Iowa: $US18,610

Minnesota: $US22,030

Nevada: $US18,000

New York: $US20,810

Agricultural product graders and sorters


California: $US23,980

Florida: $US19,320

Restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop hosts and hostesses

Kentucky: $US18,550

Michigan: $US20,790

Ohio: $US19,980

Oregon: $US23,250

Tennessee: $US18,970

West Virginia: $20,020

Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers

Kansas: $US18,700

Missouri: $18,970

Nebraska: $US21,010

Meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers

Alaska: $23,480

Parking lot attendants

Washington, DC: $US26,830

Personal care aides

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Texas: $19,340


Maryland: $US20,800

Pennsylvania: $US19,450

Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers

Indiana: $US18,290

Massachusetts: $US25,360

Oklahoma: $US18,380

Waiters and waitresses

Louisiana: $US18,370

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