Chart Book, May 2009

Occupation Focus

Figure 1

Almost 35 million jobs, or over one-quarter of U.S. employment, are found in 15 occupations.

Employment and mean wages for the largest occupations in the United States, May 2009
Occupation Employment Percent of U.S. employment Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage

Retail salespersons

4,209,500 3.22 $11.84 $24,630

Cashiers

3,439,380 2.63 9.15 19,030

Office clerks, general

2,815,240 2.15 13.32 27,700

Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food

2,695,740 2.06 8.71 18,120

Registered nurses

2,583,770 1.98 31.99 66,530

Waiters and waitresses

2,302,070 1.76 9.80 20,380

Customer service representatives

2,195,860 1.68 15.58 32,410

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

2,135,790 1.63 12.16 25,290

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

2,090,400 1.60 11.60 24,120

Stock clerks and order fillers

1,864,410 1.43 11.28 23,460

Secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive

1,797,670 1.38 14.93 31,060

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

1,757,870 1.35 16.71 34,750

General and operations managers

1,689,680 1.29 53.15 110,550

Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer

1,550,930 1.19 18.87 39,260

Elementary school teachers, except special education

1,544,300 1.18 (1) 53,150
1 Wages for some occupations that do not generally work year round, full time, are reported either as hourly wages or annual salaries, depending on how they are typically paid.
  • Twelve of the largest occupations had wages below the U.S. mean annual wage of $43,460. General and operations managers; elementary school teachers, except special education; and registered nurses had wages above the U.S. average.
  • The two largest occupations, retail salespersons and cashiers, were sales occupations. Five of the 15 largest occupations were office and administrative support occupations, with combined employment of over 10.4 million.
  • Some of the largest occupations were concentrated in specific industries, while others were found in a wide variety of industries. For example, about 75 percent of waiters and waitresses were employed in full-service restaurants, and nearly all elementary school teachers were employed in elementary and secondary schools. General office clerks, however, were found in many industries, with their largest employer—local government— accounting for less than 7 percent of jobs in this occupation.

Figure 2

The smallest occupations in the United States are more specialized and include several occupations with annual mean wages of $100,000 or more.

Employment and mean wages for the smallest occupations in the United States, May 2009
Occupation Employment Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage

Prosthodontists

660 $60.29 $125,400

Fabric menders, except garment

840 13.28 27,630

Radio operators

870 20.86 43,400

Locomotive firers

960 24.71 51,400

Farm labor contractors

1,000 17.37 36,130

Segmental pavers

1,040 13.81 28,730

Mathematical technicians

1,090 21.27 44,230

Geographers

1,170 34.33 71,420

Astronomers

1,240 49.40 102,740

Models

1,510 17.51 36,420

Patternmakers, wood

1,540 18.53 38,540

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists

1,540 18.36 38,180

Animal breeders

1,700 16.93 35,210

Industrial-organizational psychologists

1,710 49.31 102,570

Model makers, wood

1,900 16.33 33,970

Makeup artists, theatrical and performance

1,930 21.64 45,010

Dredge operators

1,990 18.43 38,330
1 Omits some occupations that are concentrated in private households and the agricultural sector (except logging and support activities for crop and animal production), which are not covered by the OES survey.
  • The 17 occupations shown in figure 2 accounted for less than 0.2 percent of U.S. employment.
  • Twelve of the 17 occupations had wages similar to or below the U.S. annual mean wage of $43,460. Of the five occupations with above-average wages, three were life, physical, and social science occupations: astronomers, industrial-organizational psychologists, and geographers. Prosthodontists and locomotive firers also had above-average wages.
  • Several of the smallest occupations were specialized construction; installation, maintenance, and repair; production; or transportation and material moving occupations, including segmental pavers, fabric menders, wood model makers, and dredge operators.

Figure 3

Employment opportunities for people interested in repairing mechanical devices are found in a number of related fields, each with differing ranges of remuneration.

Employment opportunities for people interested in repairing mechanical devices are
found in a number of related fields, each with differing ranges of remuneration

  • Among the mechanics occupations, aircraft mechanics and service technicians had the highest average wage at $25.47 per hour, followed by rail car repairers at $22.32 per hour. Bicycle repairers and outdoor power equipment and small engine mechanics had the lowest average hourly wages at $11.65 and $14.61, respectively.
  • Automotive service technicians had the greatest spread in wages, with a 10th percentile wage of $9.54 per hour and a 90th percentile wage of $28.81.
  • The most common of the mechanics occupations was automotive service technicians, with 606,990 workers employed nationally. Bicycle repairers (9,290 workers) and recreational vehicle service technicians (10,860) were the least common.

Figure 4

Many of the largest occupations with wages near the U.S. mean were skilled manufacturing jobs or skilled trades.

Employment and hourly mean wages of largest occupations with wages
near the U.S. mean, May 2009

  • Executive secretaries and administrative assistants and carpenters were the two largest occupations with mean wages within 5 percent of the U.S. all-occupations mean of $20.90 per hour.
  • The construction and extraction major occupational group and the installation, maintenance, and repair major occupational group both had three detailed occupations represented among the 15 largest occupations with wages near the U.S. mean.

Figure 5

Workers in skilled construction trade occupations earned between 34 and 83 percent more than workers in those occupations that assist them.

Hourly mean wages for selected construction trade occupations, May 2009

  • Mean wages were higher than $20.00 per hour for 6 of the 11 construction trade occupations shown, but mean wages were lower than $15.00 per hour for all of the accompanying helper occupations.
  • Although the mean wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters ($23.97) was significantly higher than the mean wage for their helpers ($13.24), the mean wage for pipelayers ($17.81) was only 34 percent higher than the helpers’ wages and represented one of the lowest wages among the construction trade occupations shown.

Figure 6

Hourly mean wages for selected construction helper occupations, May 2009

  • Average wages varied more among some construction trade occupations than among helpers for the same occupations. For example, while electricians had a higher mean hourly wage (by $6.47, or 36 percent) than roofers, electricians’ helpers had a mean hourly wage that was only $1.69 (14 percent) higher than the wage earned by roofers’ helpers.
  • Electricians; plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters; and brickmasons and block masons were among the highest paid construction trade occupations, and their helpers were the highest paid helpers.
  • While nearly all of the construction trade occupations shown, including carpenters and paperhangers, receive training through apprenticeship programs or have moderate-term and long-term on-the-job training, their helpers have only short-term on-the-job training.

Figure 7

Occupations with higher mean and median wages had a wider distribution of wages.

Distribution of employment by wage range for selected occupations, May 2009

  • Occupations with low wages had a narrow wage range.
  • For example, the lowest paying occupation shown, combined food preparation and serving workers, was clustered near the minimum wage, with a median wage of $8.28 per hour.
  • Psychiatrists showed the largest variability in wages, ranging from $7.50 per hour to greater than $80 per hour.

Distribution of employment by wage range for selected occupations, May 2009

  • The majority of workers within an occupation did not earn a wage in the closest range to the occupation median, but within the nearest few ranges above and below the median. Overall, only 12 percent of workers earned a wage in the same range as the median, but 58 percent were within two wage ranges above and below the range that contains the median.

Figure 8

Three of the five occupational groups with high unemployment rates had 70 percent or more of their employment in a single industry sector: construction and extraction, production, and food preparation and serving related occupations.

Distribution of employment by industry sector for selected occupational groups with high
unemployment rates, May 2009

  • Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations and transportation and material moving occupations were distributed more evenly across industry sectors than the other occupational groupings. The administrative and support services sector, which includes janitorial services and facilities support services, had higher employment of building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations than any other sector, but accounted for only 38 percent of employment in this group. Similarly, the largest employer of transportation and material moving occupations, the transportation and warehousing sector, employed less than 30 percent of this group.
  • Of the occupational groups shown in the chart, food preparation and serving related occupations was the largest, with total employment of more than 11.2 million. Production occupations and transportation and material moving occupations each had employment of nearly 9 million.

Figure 9

Two of the occupational groups with low unemployment rates had their employment concentrated in the healthcare and social assistance sector, and a third had employment concentrated in educational services.

Distribution of employment by industry sector for selected occupational groups with low
unemployment rates, May 2009

  • Total employment in education, training, and library occupations was approximately 8.5 million, and total employment in healthcare practitioner and technical occupations was approximately 7.2 million. The remaining three groups each had employment of less than 2 million.
  • Community and social services; legal; education, training, and library; and healthcare practitioner and technical occupations each had half or more of their employment in a single industry sector. The most concentrated group was education, training, and library occupations, with 89 percent of this group employed in the educational services sector.
  • Of the groups shown, the life, physical, and social science occupations group was the least concentrated in a single sector. About 29 percent of this group was employed in professional, scientific, and technical services, and about 23 percent in Federal, State, and local government.

Figure 10

Political scientists had one of the highest geographic concentrations of any occupation. About two-thirds of political scientists were employed in a single metropolitan area—Washington, D.C.

Employment, mean hourly wages, and measures of concentration for selected occupations with high geographic concentrations, May 2009
Occupation Employment Mean hourly wage Herfindahl-Hirschman index Percent of occupational employment in the 10 metropolitan or nonmetropolitan areas with highest employment of this occupation

Political scientists

3,970 $48.58 4748.9 89.2

Subway and streetcar operators

6,050 25.38 2783.8 95.9

Fashion designers

15,780 35.78 2327.8 78.0

Fabric and apparel patternmakers

6,640 20.64 1643.8 68.8

Prosthodontists

660 60.29 1357.1 80.3

Economists

13,160 46.31 1275.8 57.4

Petroleum engineers

25,540 57.67 1226.8 63.1

Agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes

11,700 42.04 1123.4 68.4

Loading machine operators, underground mining

3,570 21.14 1109.1 68.4

Film and video editors

17,550 30.62 1040.3 59.1

Shuttle car operators

3,520 22.31 980.5 77.0

Gaming supervisors

24,760 23.52 889.2 57.7

Textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators and tenders

12,980 11.82 880.2 55.6

Astronomers

1,240 49.40 877.9 69.3

Segmental pavers

1,040 13.81 854.0 76.3
  • The figure shows some of the most geographically concentrated occupations, based on the Herfindahl-Hirschman index, commonly used to measure market concentration among firms in an industry. Here, high values of the Herfindahl-Hirschman index show that an occupation is concentrated in just a few geographic areas, while low values indicate the occupation is spread more evenly across areas.
  • Nearly 96 percent of subway and streetcar operators—an occupation associated with urban public transportation—were employed in just 10 metropolitan areas.
  • Three of the occupations with high geographic concentrations were associated with mining and natural resource extraction: petroleum engineers; loading machine operators, underground mining; and shuttle car operators.
  • Several other occupations were associated with textile and apparel manufacturing, including fashion designers and fabric and apparel patternmakers.

Figure 11

Postmasters and mail superintendents was one of the most geographically dispersed occupations. The 10 areas with the highest employment of this occupation accounted for less than 12 percent of occupational employment.

Employment, mean hourly wages, and measures of concentration for selected occupations with low geographic concentrations, May 2009
Occupation Employment Mean hourly wage Herfindahl-Hirschman index Percent of occupational employment in the 10 metropolitan or nonmetropolitan areas with highest employment of this occupation

Postmasters and mail superintendents

24,890 $28.65 44.4 11.9

Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators

57,990 18.53 55.7 14.2

Agricultural inspectors

14,030 20.12 58.4 15.0

Highway maintenance workers

139,490 16.98 59.5 15.6

Electrical power-line installers and repairers

108,980 26.86 59.6 16.1

Outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics

26,010 14.61 60.2 16.2

Water and liquid waste treatment plant and system operators

109,090 19.99 60.6 16.9

Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood

41,750 13.12 63.9 15.0

Fish and game wardens

7,530 26.42 65.2 17.4

Cooks, institution and cafeteria

383,540 11.48 65.5 18.0

Foresters

10,230 26.55 66.9 15.9

Correctional officers and jailers

455,350 20.49 68.3 16.7

Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators

368,200 21.24 69.4 19.2

Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks

224,360 10.16 70.1 19.4

Conservation scientists

16,810 29.41 71.9 19.8
  • Several of the occupations shown have job duties specifically associated with building, maintaining, and operating utilities and other infrastructure, including highway maintenance workers, electrical power line installers and repairers, and water and liquid waste treatment plant and system operators. Two other occupations— excavating and loading machine and dragline operators, and operating engineers and other construction equipment operators— also had significant employment in utility systems construction and highway, street, and bridge construction.
  • The figure also includes three occupations associated with natural resource preservation: foresters, fish and game wardens, and conservation scientists.

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    Last Modified Date: November 22, 2010