On this page, we examine low-wage work through the lens of the worker's occupation (see the sidebar for our definition of "occupation"). Understanding which occupations are low-wage in North Carolina helps us understand how low-wage work is unevenly distributed throughout our economy. This analysis shows us which types of jobs are valued the least in the North Carolina economy - jobs including retail and food service but also jobs that involve caring for our loved ones, like childcare workers (median wage: $9.14/hour) and pharmacy aides ($9.28/hour). By looking at occupations over time, we can also see which types of workers things are looking up for, and which types of workers have been left behind over the last decade.

Definition of Low-Wage Occupations

542 occupations in North Carolina have median wages below $11.34/hour, meeting our definition of low-wage jobs. An estimated 1,192,890 workers work in occupations where the median wage is below $11.34/hour, or about 30.2% of workers in North Carolina. Of workers in low-wage occupations, an estimated 341,790 or 28.7% work in low-wage Food Preparation and Serving occupations, 264,290 (22%) work in low-wage Sales occupations, and 104,450 (8.8%) work in low-wage Healthcare Support occupations.

Of these occupations, 9 occupations have a 90th percentile wage below $11.34/hour, meaning that virtually all workers in these occupations are low-wage workers. These workers have little opportunity to leave low-wage status without leaving their occupation. An estimated 193,030 NC workers (4.9% of all NC workers) work in these occupations, 134,960 of them as Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers (including fast food). 

For each bar, the tooltip shows occupation, SOC code, SOC category and 10-25-50-75-90th percentile hourly wages. The dashboard allows users to sort by top-level occupational category.

Occupation Wage and Employment Growth

For each occupation, we compared total employment and wages in 2013 (the most recent data) with total employment and wages in 2003. In 53.7% of occupations in NC, real wages decreased between 2003 and 2013. Looking only at low-wage occupations, 82% saw a decrease in real wages between 2003 and 2013. An estimated 946,920 NC workers (24.0%) work in low-wage occupations where real wages declined between 2003 and 2013.

Low-Wage Occupations in Industries

In the Industries section, we showed which industries have a median wage below $11.34/hour. We also used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Industry-Occupation Matrix to measure how many workers in each industry are in low-wage occupations. While median wages tell us something about the average worker in a given industry, breaking down industries by occupations gives us more information about how workers (and wages) are distributed within each industry.