Chart Book, May 2008

Occupation Focus

Figure 1

The 15 smallest occupations combined made up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of total U.S. employment

Employment and mean wages for the smallest occupations in the United States, May 2008
Occupation Employment Median Wage
Hourly Annual


370 >=$80.00* >=$166,400*

Radio operators

820 17.85 37,120

Fabric menders, except garment

960 13.69 28,470

Locomotive firers

970 23.17 48,190

Mathematical technicians

1,100 18.46 38,400


1,120 32.02 66,600

Segmental pavers

1,170 13.17 27,400


1,280 48.70 101,300

Industrial-organizational psychologists

1,460 37.03 77,010

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists

1,580 15.09 31,380


1,660 13.18 27,410

Model makers, wood

1,740 15.06 31,320

Dredge operators

1,910 16.70 34,740

Makeup artists, theatrical and performance

1,930 12.63 26,270

Patternmakers, wood

1,930 16.35 34,010

* The median wage is greater than $80 per hour or $166,400 per year.

  • Employment in many of these occupations is concentrated in specific industries.
  • Nine of the smallest occupations paid more than the U.S. median annual wage of $32,390.

Figure 2

Retail salespersons and cashiers made up about 6 percent of employment in May 2008

Employment and mean wages for the largest occupations in the United States, May 2008
Occupation Employment Percent of U.S. Employment Mean Wage
Hourly Annual

Retail salespersons

4,426,280 3.27 $9.86 $20,510


3,545,610 2.62 8.49 17,660

Office clerks, general

2,906,600 2.15 12.17 25,320

Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food

2,708,840 2.00 7.90 16,430

Registered nurses

2,542,760 1.88 30.03 62,450

Waiters and waitresses

2,371,750 1.75 8.01 16,660

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

2,335,510 1.73 10.89 22,660

Customer service representatives

2,233,270 1.65 14.36 29,860

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

2,145,320 1.59 10.31 21,450

Stock clerks and order fillers

1,873,390 1.39 10.00 20,800

Secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive

1,872,070 1.38 13.96 29,050

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

1,855,010 1.37 15.63 32,510

General and operations managers

1,697,690 1.26 44.02 91,570

Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer

1,672,580 1.24 17.92 37,270
  • One-quarter of U.S. employment was found in the 14 occupations listed.
  • Ten of these occupations paid below the U.S. median annual wage of $32,390.
  • Many of the largest occupations are found in a wide variety of industries.

Figure 3

Many of the largest occupations with wages near the U.S. median were office and administrative support occupations

Employment and median hourly wages of occupations with wages near the U.S. median, May 2008

  • Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks and general maintenance and repair workers were the two largest occupations with median wages within 5 percent of the U.S. all-occupations median of $15.57 per hour. Both also were among the 20 largest occupations overall.
  • Several other office and administrative support occupations with wages near the U.S. median also had employment of 150,000 or more, including billing and posting clerks and machine operators, insurance claims and policy processing clerks, and reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks.

Figure 4

Occupations with wages within 5 percent of the U.S. median accounted for 7.4 percent of total employment in May 2008

Number of occupations with wages near the U.S. median, and employment in these occupations, by occupational group, May 2008

  • Most occupations with median wages near the middle of the earnings distribution were production; office and administrative support; construction and extraction; installation, maintenance, and repair; or transportation and material moving occupations.
  • Twelve office and administrative support occupations, with total employment of 3.8 million, had median wages within 5 percent of the U.S. median wage of $15.57 per hour. Although 26 production occupations had wages in this range, because of their smaller average size, total employment in these 26 occupations was only 2.1 million.

Figure 5

The wage range of most health therapists was very wide

Wages of selected health therapists, May 2008

  • Health care and social assistance is the industry with the fastest projected employment growth from 2006 to 2016.
  • Of the therapists listed, audiologists had the widest range between the 10th and 90th percentile wages, with 10 percent earning $40,360 or less per year and 10 percent earning $98,880 or more. Respiratory therapists had the narrowest wage range. Despite their differing wage distributions, these two occupations had the lowest mean wages of the therapists shown.
  • Among the therapist occupations in the chart, respiratory therapists had the lowest mean wage and radiation therapists had the highest mean wage. For both of these occupations, an associate's degree was the most common level of education, according to BLS Occupational Projections and Training Data, 2008-09 edition.
  • A master's degree was the most common level of education for people entering careers as physical therapists, occupational therapists, or speech-language pathologists.

Figures 6-7

Reporters and correspondents accounted for the largest share of total nationwide employment of the three writing occupations, employing 50,690 workers

Profile of writing occupations, May 2008

  • In each of the four States for which data are presented (each State representing a different region of the country), technical writers had the highest average wage, followed by writers and authors, and lastly reporters and correspondents.
  • Of the selected States, New Mexico had the highest mean annual wage for writers and authors, yet the lowest wage for reporters and correspondents.
  • In Georgia, the top 10 percent of reporters and correspondents earned more than $77,800, while the lowest decile earned less than $17,810.

Employment of writers and authors, by industry, May 2008

  • The top three industries for writers and authors—professional, scientific, and technical services; publishing industries, except Internet; and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations—made up more than half of the employment of writers and authors.
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services employed 11,050 writers and authors, more than any other industry.
  • Motion picture and sound recording industries paid the highest wages to writers and authors among the industries listed, an average of $98,370 annually.

Figure 8

While the U.S. average annual wage grew 18.9 percent from 2002 to 2008, from $35,560 to $42,270, wage growth of occupational groups varied and was correlated with the groups' 2002 wages

Growth in the nominal mean annual wage, by occupational
group, 2002-08

  • The upper-right quadrant of the chart shows occupations with above-average wages in 2002 and above-average wage growth from 2002 to 2008, while the lower-left quadrant shows occupations with below-average wages in 2002 and below-average wage growth from 2002 to 2008.
  • In general, the lower the initial wage of an occupational group, the lower the wage growth of that occupational group was. For example, personal care and service occupations had a below-average wage of $21,370 in 2002 and below-average wage growth of 12.9 percent from 2002 to 2008. The two occupational groups of architecture and engineering and business and financial operations occupations both had average wages of more than $53,000 in 2002, and their wages grew more than average, by 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively.
  • Exceptions to the general trend are those occupational groups in the upper-left and lower-right quadrants. These include construction and extraction occupations, which had slightly above average wages in 2002 but below-average wage growth from 2002 to 2008, and protective service occupations, which had slightly below average wages in 2002 but higher than average wage growth from 2002 to 2008.
  • The general trend of high wage growth among high-paying occupational groups and low wage growth among low-paying occupations leads to a wider dispersion of wages between higher and lower paying occupational groups over time.

Next: Occupations within industries


Last Modified Date: April 2, 2010