Top 4 employment sectors in the United States pay $10 an hour or less: The uneven recovery being led by low wage labor.

It is hard to believe but we are now “officially” six years into this recovery.  For most Americans, it doesn’t feel anything like a recovery and that label appears to be a misnomer.  Americans need only look at their paychecks and the cost of living to realize that yes, things are getting tougher.  There appears to be a global race to the bottom when it comes to wages.  Most of the jobs added since the recovery hit have come in the form of low wage service sector jobs with scant benefits, if any.  The top four employment sectors in the United States are all in the service sector and all pay $10 an hour or less.  The math begins to get murky because you have so many older Americans depending on Social Security as their primary source of retirement income while our young labor force is earning less and therefore paying smaller amounts into the Social Security pool.  The recovery has been very uneven and when we look at the numbers today, we continue to find that the trend is continuing.

The low wage recovery

There are a few theories as to why this trend is happening.  First, we have outsourced a large part of our manufacturing labor force to places like China.  It is simply too hard to compete in places where they have no worker’s protections or rights.  So it is no surprise then that the service sector that requires physical people to be present is growing and representing a larger source of our employment work force.

Can you live on $10 an hour and raise a family?  Millions of families do and this is why dollar stores are so prolific around the nation.  You don’t see them advertising on television or getting any glamor spot in trendy magazines but they plaster the heartland.  First, let us look at the top four employment fields:


Source:  BLS

This is interesting.  The number one employment field in the US is retail salesperson with 4.4 million people working in this sector.  Then, you have cashiers with 3.3 million working in this field.  Food servers and food preparation workers comes in third with 3 million workers.  Finally you have office clerks coming in fourth with 2.8 million workers.  In fact, the only job out of the top 10 that pays a living wage is that of registered nurses.  Of course this requires going to college and that road is becoming more expensive by the day.

Is this trend getting better?  Not really if we look at net jobs gained and lost since the recession hit:


Here is an interesting look.  You’ll notice the massive number of mid-wage jobs that were lost and simply never came back.  The bulk of job growth since the recession ended has come in the form of low wage jobs.  This is a graphic representation of the middle class disappearing.  You will find that many college graduates are working in low wage jobs:

low wage jobs and college

1 out of 4 retail and amusement park workers have a college degree.  1 in 6 bartenders has a college degree.  And you wonder why so many Americans are having a tough time paying back their college debt.  Of course this is for people that are working.  Many young Americans are working part-time or not working at all in our massive “not in the labor force” category that is ignored.

Where does this all go?  It is hard to say.  We live in an interconnected global economy.  You see how a tiny country like Greece can shake up global markets.  China’s correcting stock and real estate market will have an impact here in the US.  With the global correction, you see how the US dollar is getting strong as a safe haven.  Which means our exports will get more expensive relative to other countries.  Which means it will be tougher for our goods to compete in a global landscape.  Cheap products here filling up Wal-Marts and dollar stores but more uncertainty when it comes to wage stability.  This seems to be a global trend.

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3 Comments on this post


  1. doodaa said:

    Employee to CEO: “Boss, production is up and costs are down. How come I received such a tiny raise?” CEO to employee: “So I could get a large one.”

    June 30th, 2015 at 12:12 pm
  2. Roddy6667 said:

    I don’t know why Registered Nursed are listed with low income jobs. In CT, the average RN makes over $66,000 a year. It’s easy for an RN with 5 years experience to make a 6 figure income.

    July 1st, 2015 at 12:56 am
  3. 7towers said:

    Add the cost of health care which is mandatory and which keeps rising and my pay check is barely enough to live on. Its a horrible joke. I will soon be paying 70 dollars weekly for health insurance , 280 a month. I have to live on far less money today than I did 25 years ago.Even though I am in the lower income bracket it’s clear We are all broke and the economy will not get better.

    July 1st, 2015 at 8:25 pm


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