What do fast food cooks, amusement park employees and farm workers have in common? They are among the lowest paying jobs in America today.
The mean hourly wage for all U.S. workers was $21.35 in 2010, but workers that get paid the least have seen their mean wages get dangerously close to minimum wage levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics. The data examined wages for workers in 22 major occupational groups and almost 800 detailed occupations, and found that fast food cooks made $8.91 per hour on average, only cents more than the highest state minimum wage of $8.67 in Washington state.
Those working in the restaurant and service industries account for many of the occupations with the lowest wages, including hosts and hostesses, as well as dishwashers. The low wages may not be surprising as eateries look to make due with fewer customers; a recent survey from the U.S. Census found that nearly half of Americans said they didn't dine out from fall 2009 to fall 2010.
But it's not just restaurant workers that are suffering. Americans' income growth has fallen off drastically in the last decade, a trend that only accelerated in the wake of the recession. Personal disposable income dropped by around 4 percent between the spring of 2008 and the second quarter of this year, Christian Science Monitor reports. Likewise, median household income fell $6,298 from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
While nation's median income has fallen, the wealthiest Americans have seen huge boosts in the amount of money they're taking home, boosting income inequality and making income mobility increasingly difficult. From 2002 to 2007, two of every three dollars of income growth went to the top 1 percent of Americans, The Atlantic reports. Now the 400 richest Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.
The wage decline has hit all workers including those with college degrees. College graduates have seen their starting wages drop by nearly a full dollar over the past 10 years.
Here are the 10 lowest paying jobs in America according to a May 2011 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: