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Wages stink at America's most common jobs

  • Written by Tami Luhby/CNNMoney

wages-300America's most common jobs come with lousy pay.

Workers in seven of the 10 largest occupations typically earn less than $30,000 a year, according to new data published Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's a far cry from the nation's average annual pay of $45,790.

Food prep workers are the third most-common job in the U.S., but have the lowest pay, at a mere $18,720 a year for 2012. Cashiers and waiters are also popular professions, but the average pay at these jobs tallies up to less than $21,000 annually. There are 4.3 million retail sales workers out there, making them the most common job, but the position pays only $25,310 for the year.

Among the 10 most popular professions, only the nation's 2.6 million registered nurses earn a good living, bringing home nearly $68,000 a year on average. Another two of the most common jobs – secretaries and customer service representatives -- have an average annual wage of about $33,000.

Wages have been in the spotlight this year as the debate over income inequality intensified. Middle-class Americans have been losing ground, as median household income dropped by more than $4,000 since 2000.

Part of this decline stems from a disappearance of middle-class jobs and an explosion of lower-paying ones. Some 58 percent of the jobs created during the recovery have been low-wage positions, according to a 2012 report by the National Employment Law Project. These low-wage jobs had a median hourly wage of $13.83 or less.

President Obama has been pushing to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, and several states are considering increasing their minimum wages.


0 #1 Jim Sdoia 2013-04-01 15:50
Food prep workers, cashiers and waiters are all low-skilled jobs. Almost anyone with a little training can perform these functions. Being an RN takes time, hard study and difficult exams. I know, one of my daughters is an ER RN. Therefore, the pay associated with the job is higher. The higher the skill required, the higher the wages paid because there are fewer people with those skills. It is the old supply and demand rule in action. Raising the minimum wage is the wrong answer.

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