- 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:
North Dakota: $US20,140
Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
South Carolina: $US18,320
Fast food cooks
North Carolina: $US18,620
Cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop counter attendants
New Jersey: $US21,210
Rhode Island: $US22,870
Dining room and cafeteria attendants, and bartender helpers
New Hampshire: $US20,720
New Mexico: $US19,280
South Dakota: $US20,930
Food preparation and serving-related workers, all other
New York: $US20,810
Agricultural product graders and sorters
Restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop hosts and hostesses
West Virginia: $20,020
Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers
Meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers
Parking lot attendants
Washington, DC: $US26,830
Personal care aides
Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers
Waiters and waitresses
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