The U.S. economy is massive. Regardless of the recent stock market ups and downs, GDP grew 2.9% in the fourth quarter of 2017. The U.S. generates over $18.5 trillion in annual economic activity, well over 20% of that of the global economy. Americans enjoy such a large economy because they specialize and dominate in a wide range of industries. Similarly, individual states specialize in some industries more than others, as you can see in our latest map.
We gathered the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics survey, which 24/7 Wall St. compiled into a simple list of iconic jobs per state. Our analysis uses something called the location quotient to capture how common something is in a given location. For example, petroleum engineers are relatively hard to find across the county, but you can find more than 50% of them in Texas. We mapped these so-called “iconic” jobs by color-coding their popularity in each state and we added the average salary as a reference.
Top Five States with the Highest-Paying Iconic Jobs
1. New Mexico: Physicists ($143,330)
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2. Texas: Petroleum engineers ($139,800)
3. Maryland: Health diagnosing and treating practitioners ($130,690)
4. Virginia: Legal support workers ($104,760)
5. Connecticut: Actuaries ($101,580)
Top Five States with the Worst-Paying Iconic Jobs
1. Missouri: Locker room, coatroom, and dressing room attendants ($18,850)
2. New Jersey: Shampooers ($19,440)
3. California: Farmworkers and laborers, crop ($21,960)
4. South Dakota: Forest and conservation workers ($23,820)
5. North Carolina: Textile machine operators ($24,670)
This data paints an interesting picture of the U.S. economy. Given the right conditions, workers with an iconic job in their home states can be extremely well compensated. This is especially true for jobs requiring advanced degrees and special certifications. Texas stands out in the list of top five. More than 50% of the country’s petroleum engineers live there, raking in on average $140k each year. Another high-paying industry, commercial and industrial designers are concentrated in Michigan, where they make $81k. Fashion designers in New York also do well for themselves with $71k in annual compensation. These pockets for specialized skills can attract talent from around the country. If you want to drill oil, move to Texas.
Unfortunately, the sad news is that most workers with iconic jobs are not very well-compensated, probably because their jobs do not require any post-secondary education. Locker room attendants in Missouri and shampooers in New Jersey probably didn’t go to college. Another factor in holding down wages in some of these industries is the supply of labor. More than 50% of all the farmworkers in the country live in California. Since bosses can easily replace these workers, they only make $22k. Just because your job is “iconic” and often associated with your state due to its significance there, does not mean it will pay you well.
Our map also validates some of the preconceived notions Americans have about different parts of the country. Iowa needs a lot of soil and plant scientists because the state’s economy relies so much on agricultural production. Want to captain a ship for a living? Go to Louisiana. Trying to sell mining equipment? Open a location in Alaska. Western states like Idaho, Montana and South Dakota all have a lot of forest and conservation technicians. No surprise that Nevada houses the majority of workers in the gambling industry. Even Hawaii’s iconic job fits a common stereotype: dancers, with no median salary given by 24/7 Wall St., are the most iconic employees.
Data: Table 1.1