White-Collar, Blue-Collar: The Job Market’s Highest and Lowest Paying Occupations

February 9, 2021
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Author: Glenn Hunter

It’s clear to see which segments of the job market have felt the full force of the coronavirus recession. In a new analysis, LaborIQ® by ThinkWhy details the stark differences in the pandemic’s impact on the highest-paying and lowest-paying U.S. occupations.

An economic divide in the labor market exists between many blue-collar and white-collar occupations.

On the upper end, the four highest-paying, white-collar occupations currently boast a national median annual salary of $94,000, with an average unemployment rate of 2.8%. That rate compares favorably to the average U.S. unemployment rate of 6.5% in Q4 2020 and is also below the pre-pandemic 3.5% unemployment rate.

Among the highly skilled professionals in these top categories are lawyers, architects, data scientists, construction managers and education administrators.

Talent acquisition professionals filling roles in these Management; Legal; Computer and Mathematical; and Architecture and Engineering occupations will find demand high and talent supply low, resulting in a tight labor market. To attract candidates who may be reluctant to switch jobs during a recession, talent acquisition pros may need to offer higher pay or other incentives.

An economic divide in the labor market exists between many blue-collar and white-collar occupations.

At the bottom end of the spectrum, in contrast, the four lowest-paying, blue-collar occupations have median salaries of just $28,000 and a 13.6% average unemployment rate. These service-sector jobs have been severely impacted by business shutdowns brought on by social distancing restrictions.

They include cooks, waiters and waitresses, childcare workers, farmworkers, building janitors and hotel maids.

Once robust demand returns when the pandemic ends, recruiters looking to hire for these Food Preparation; Personal Care; Farming, Fishing and Forestry; and Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance occupations should have a wealth of resumes to choose from.

Related: Are You Able to Find Qualified Talent?

In contrast to the more generalized practice of only using data associated with the occupational categories reported on by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, LaborIQ scientifically maps occupations to job titles, salaries and job requirements, to create precision answers for each job title.

LaborIQ by ThinkWhy reports, forecasts and advises on employment conditions and the impact to jobs, industries and businesses across all U.S. cities.