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Underpaid Workers

underpaid workers, a review of payment and working hours

Overview

A Review of Pay and Working Hours across Countries, States, and Industries

It’s no secret that the amount you’re paid for any given role can vary a lot from company to company. More prestigious companies and corporations can usually afford to offer higher pay packets, helping them to attract the best talent in their industry and stay ahead of their competitors.

However, differences in pay can also be a result of geographical location, with average pay varying greatly in different parts of the world, and even within different parts of a single country. This means that the location of a job should be an important consideration in any job search, as you want to maximize the amount you earn for the hours you work.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a comparison of wages and working hours in different countries and US states to find the locations that offer the best average pay per hour worked. We’ve also assembled a comparison of pay and working hours across different industries in the US to find out which sectors have received the best and worst pay per hour. 

Pay and Hours Worked across US Industries – Average Hours Worked

The Industry with the Longest Working Week

Mining and Logging Average Weekly Hours Worked: 44.9

Mining and logging is the industry where employees work the most hours in a week, with an average of 44.9, just over 10 hours more than the private sector average! Careers in this industry can be very physically demanding, so the extra-long working week means a lot of hard work on the part of employees, but does it show in their salaries?

The Industry with the Shortest Working Week

Leisure and Hospitality – Average Weekly Hours Worked: 26.1

The industry with the lowest average weekly hours worked is leisure and hospitality with 26.1. A total of 8.7 hours below the private sector average in the US, workers in leisure and hospitality are often on part-time zero-hour contracts, with many employers reducing the number of active staff outside of peak business hours. This could leave employees in this industry picking up several jobs to make up those missing hours.

Average Pay across US Industries

The Industry with the Highest Weekly Earnings

Utilities – Average Weekly Earnings: $1,953

Utilities is the industry with the highest average weekly earnings at $1,953, which is $861 higher than the private sector average of $1,092. 

The Industry with the Lowest Weekly Earnings

Leisure and Hospitality Average Weekly Earnings: $506

The industry with the lowest average earnings is leisure and hospitality, in which employees only take home $506 every week. This is just 25.91% of what workers in the utilities industry earn and less than half the private sector average.

Average Pay per Hour Worked

The Industries with the Lowest Hourly Pay

  1. Leisure and Hospitality – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $19.40

Leisure and hospitality workers earn the least on average per hour worked at just $19.40. The combined low working hours and low salary of workers in this industry mean they are some of the lowest-paid workers in the country, so much so that many front-of-house staff such as waiters and waitresses rely on tips to supplement their wages.

  1. Retail Trade – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $22.50

Workers in the retail industry are the second lowest paid for their time, earning $22.50 on average for every hour worked. Retail workers have the second lowest number of weekly working hours and, much like the leisure and hospitality industry, there are fewer shifts available outside of the busiest trading hours.

  1. Transportation and Warehousing – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $27.36

Transportation and warehousing workers earn the third smallest amount for every hour worked at $27.36. Despite this relatively low hourly rate, which is $4.02 below the private sector average, workers in transportation and warehousing work an above-average 38.1 hours a week, allowing them to make up the difference.

The Industry with the Highest Hourly Pay

Utilities – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $45.96

Workers in the utilities industry earn the most per hour of any sector in the US, with an average hourly pay rate of $45.96. While utilities workers have the highest average weekly earnings of $1,953, they also work the second-highest number of hours at 42.5 per week. This shows that workers in this industry have to put in some solid work hours to earn their high salaries.

Pay and Hours Worked In Different States

 

The State with the Longest Working Week

Texas – Average Weekly Hours Worked: 36.1

Texas is the state with the highest average hours worked per week at 36.1. This is 0.5 hours more than any other state, with Tennessee and West Virginia tying for second place on 35.6 hours worked per week.

The State with the Shortest Working Week

Montana – Average Weekly Hours Worked: 32.8

Montana has the lowest average number of hours worked at just 32.8. This is 0.1 hours less than Delaware, which had the second-lowest number of hours worked at 32.9, and 3.3 hours fewer than first-place Texas.

Average Annual Pay

The State with the Highest Annual Pay

California – Average Annual Earnings: $65,470

California is the state with the highest average annual earnings at $65,470 per year. California is one of the largest economies in the world and is home to the tech powerhouse of Silicon Valley, as well as the entertainment industry’s base in Hollywood. The state is just ahead of second-place Massachusetts, where the average annual salary is $65,436.

The State with the Lowest Annual Pay

Mississippi – Average Annual Earnings: $41,195

Mississippi is the state with the lowest average annual earnings at $41,195 per year, meaning people in the state earn just 62.92% of what their Californian counterparts take home. The second lowest annual earnings are seen in New Mexico, where workers earn an average of $43,883.

Average Pay per Hour Worked

The States with the Lowest Hourly Pay

  1. Mississippi – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $22.90

Mississippi has the lowest average salary per hour worked at just $22.90. Oil, gas, and mining play a large part in the Mississippi economy, as does agriculture, with the state being well-known for its fertile soil and huge catfish farming industry.

  1. Arkansas – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $24.14

Arkansas has the second-lowest average salary per hour worked at $24.14. Arkansas is a largely rural state with dense woodlands covering large parts of its territory, leading to its current nickname of “The Natural State”. The largest industry in Arkansas in 2022 was meat, beef, and poultry processing, which was worth an estimated $13.5 billion in revenue.

  1. New Mexico – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $24.68

New Mexico has the third lowest average salary per hour worked at $24.68, which is an improvement of just $0.38 compared to Arkansas. While New Mexico has the second-lowest average annual salary of $43,883, people in the state only work 34.1 hours per week, which is relatively low compared to most other states. New Mexico has a fairly diverse economy which includes a range of industries such as oil and gas, mining, aerospace, tourism, and the automotive industry.

The State with the Highest Hourly Pay

Massachusetts – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $36.91

Massachusetts has the highest average salary per hour worked in the United States at $36.91. The state has the second-highest average annual salary of $65,436 while average working hours are lower than most at just 34 hours per week. Massachusetts is known for its thriving pharmaceutical and education industries, while also being a hotbed of tech development.

Pay and Hours Worked across the Globe

The Country That Works the Most Hours

Mexico – Average Annual Hours Worked: 2,127.8

Mexico has the highest average annual working hours at 2,127.8, which is over 200 more hours than any other country in the OECD, with second-place South Korea recording 1,915 hours worked per year.

The Country That Works the Fewest Hours

Germany – Average Annual Hours Worked: 1,349.3

Germany has the lowest average number of hours worked per year at 1,349.3, almost 800 hours fewer than in Mexico. Germany is known as the economic powerhouse of Europe, with a huge automotive industry and the fourth-highest GDP in the world.

Average Annual Pay

The Country with the Highest Annual Pay

United States – Average Annual Salary (USD): $74,738

The country with the highest average annual salary is the United States, where it stands at $74,738. The US is the global leader in many industries, from tech to finance to video games, and has the largest economy in the world.

The Country with the Lowest Annual Pay

Mexico – Average Annual Salary (USD): $16,429

The country with the lowest salaries in the OECD is Mexico, where workers take home an average of $16,429 per year. 

Average Pay per Hour Worked

The Countries with the Lowest Hourly Pay

  1. Mexico – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $7.72

Mexico is the country where workers are paid the least for the amount of time they work, with an average salary per hour worked of just $7.72. As Mexico has the longest hours worked and the lowest average salary, it was inevitable that the country would have the lowest salary per hour worked.

  1. Greece – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $13.75

The second lowest salary per hour worked is in Greece, where it stands at $13.75. The largest industry in Greece is tourism, which is both seasonal and traditionally low-paid, which could explain why so little is earned per hour in the country.

  1. Hungary – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $15.48

Hungary has the third-lowest average salary per hour worked at $15.48. The main industries in the company are heavy industry, such as mining, metallurgy, and machine production, as well as energy, chemicals, and the automotive industry.

The Country with the Highest Hourly Pay

Luxembourg – Average Salary per Hour Worked: $53.30

Luxembourg is the country with the highest average salary per hour worked at $53.30. This small European country, one of the three capitals of the EU, is a center for banking and finance. The average hourly salary is $3.04 higher than in second-place Iceland and is a whopping $45.58 higher than the country with the lowest hourly salary, Mexico.

How to Improve Your Pay per Hour

If you want to improve the amount of money you earn for every hour you work, there are two ways to go about it. The most obvious way to achieve this is by getting yourself a raise, which can be a daunting proposition.

The first thing you should do is consider the timing. Depending on how well the company is doing financially, your chances of getting that raise could be affected. For example, if the company has just posted record profits, then you’re probably much more likely to succeed.

You should also make sure to properly research market rates for your role in similar companies. This includes considering the state or city you live in, as pay scales can be substantially affected by your location.

Additionally, if you’ve received consistent praise for achieving a high level of work, or have been exceeding personal targets and KPIs on a regular basis, then you should have plenty of evidence to support your request for a boost in pay. 

In a similar vein, if you’ve taken on considerably more responsibilities since you started in your role, then you can bring this up as a reason for receiving more compensation.

Another way of improving your pay per hour is to reduce your weekly hours while completing the same amount of work. The prospect of working a 4-day week is increasingly becoming a reality, with the trend seriously taking hold in many parts of the world. This often means working a very intensive 4 days to earn that extra day off, so it might not be for everyone.

Achieving a better pay-per-hour ratio is easiest when applying for new jobs, as you can filter your search based on your desired salary and working hours. Depending on your situation, a part-time role with a higher hourly wage could be more appealing than a full-time position, giving you more time for other parts of your life, such as hobbies, childcare or studying.

Methodology

We wanted to explore average salaries and working hours in different countries, states, and industries to reveal where workers are the most underpaid. We used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for average salary and average hours worked in different industries and used them to calculate the average earnings per hour worked.

We repeated this process using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for average hours worked and average earnings in different states to see how workers’ average hourly earnings compared across the country.

To achieve an international outlook, we used OECD data for annual average hours worked and average annual earnings to calculate the average rate of hourly pay in 34 different countries.

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Team Lensa
Team Lensa is a group of HR specialists, career counselors, and tech enthusiasts dedicated to helping job seekers navigate the employment landscape through actionable tips and insights.

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