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Retail salespersons and cashiers were the occupations with the highest employment in 2011


Retail salespersons and cashiers were the occupations with the highest employment in 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. These two occupations combined made up nearly 6 percent of total U.S.  employment, with employment levels of 4.3 and 3.3 million, respectively. National employment and wage information for all occupations is shown in table 1.

These data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, which provides employment and wage estimates by area and by industry for wage and salary workers in 22 major occupational groups and nearly 800 detailed occupations.


–The 10 largest occupations accounted for more than 20 percent of total employment in May 2011. In addition to retail salespersons and cashiers, the largest occupations included general office clerks; combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food; registered nurses; waiters and waitresses; and customer service representatives.

–Most of the largest occupations were relatively low paying. Of the 10 largest occupations, only registered nurses, with an annual mean wage of $69,110, had an average wage above the U.S. all-occupations mean of $21.74 per hour or $45,230 annually. Annual mean wages for the rest of the 10 largest occupations ranged from $18,790 for combined food preparation and serving workers to $33,120 for customer service representatives.

–Office and administrative support was the largest occupational group, making up nearly 17 percent of total U.S. employment. The next largest groups were sales and related occupations and food preparation  and serving related occupations, which made up about 11 and 9 percent of U.S. employment, respectively. Seven of the 10 largest occupations were in one of these three groups. The smallest occupational groups included legal occupations and life, physical, and social science occupations, each making up less than 1 percent of total employment.

–The highest paying occupational groups were management, legal, computer and mathematical, and architecture and engineering occupations. Most individual occupations in these groups were also high paying. For example, of the 35 architecture and engineering occupations, only one–surveying and mapping technicians, with an annual mean wage of $42,050–had an average wage below the U.S. all-occupations mean.

–The lowest paying occupational groups were food preparation and serving related; farming, fishing, and forestry; personal care and service; and building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations. Annual mean wages for these groups ranged from $21,430 for food preparation and serving related occupations to $25,560 for building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations. Nearly all of the individual occupations in these groups had below-average wages.For example, chefs and head cooks was the only food preparation and serving related occupation with a mean wage above the U.S. all-occupations mean, and 15 of the 18 occupations in this group had annual mean wages of $25,000 or less.

Occupational profiles for all occupations are available on the BLS website at www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_stru.htm.


–Eight of the 10 largest occupations in the private sector were the same as those in the economy as a whole; stock clerks and order fillers and general and operations managers rounded out the largest private sector occupations. Among the 10 largest occupations overall, over 91 percent of employment was in the private sector, with the share of private sector employment ranging from 75 percent of janitors and secretaries to nearly 100 percent of retail salespersons and waiters and waitresses.

–Five of the 10 largest occupations in the public sector were education related: elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers,  except special education; teacher assistants; and teachers and instructors, all other. Seventy percent or more of total employment and over 90 percent of public sector employment in each of these 5 occupations was in local government. Other large occupations in local government included police and sheriff’s patrol officers, janitors, general office clerks, and firefighters.

–Correctional officers and jailers and general office clerks were the largest occupations in state government, with employment of nearly 250,000 and 190,000, respectively. Additional large occupations in state government included registered nurses, graduate teaching assistants, postsecondary health specialties teachers, and police and  sheriff’s patrol officers.

–Three of the 10 largest occupations in the federal government  were specific to the U.S. Postal Service: postal service mail carriers, with employment of 315,320; postal service mail sorters,  processors, and processing machine operators (139,680); and postal service clerks (64,710). The largest federal government occupations also included registered nurses, management analysts, and compliance officers.

OES data by ownership are available on the BLS website at www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrci.htm.


–Health care and social assistance was the industry sector with the  highest employment. Over half of May 2011 employment in the health care and social assistance sector was in healthcare-related occupations. Registered nurses was the largest occupation in this sector, with nearly 2.4 million jobs, almost 70 percent of which were  in hospitals. Other large healthcare occupations in this sector were nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants; home health aides; licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses; and medical assistants.

Outside of the healthcare occupational groups, the largest occupations  in this sector were personal care aides, childcare workers, and three office and administrative support occupations: medical secretaries, receptionists and information clerks, and general office clerks.

–Other large industry sectors included retail trade, educational  services, and manufacturing. More than 60 percent of retail trade employment was in just 4 occupations: retail salespersons, cashiers, stock clerks and order fillers, and first-line supervisors of retail sales workers. Education, training, and library occupations made up about 59 percent of employment in the educational services sector,  including 5 of the 10 largest occupations; the largest occupation  outside of the education group was janitors and cleaners, except maids  and housekeeping cleaners. About half of manufacturing employment was in production occupations, including team assemblers, with employment of 703,740; first-line supervisors of production and operating workers (406,820); and machinists (294,620).

–Industries with the highest all-occupations mean wages included  computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing, software publishers, oil and gas extraction, and several financial services industries. These industries tended to have high employment concentrations of  occupations with high wages, and in some cases, above average wages for individual occupations. For example, the largest occupations in oil and gas extraction included petroleum engineers, with an annual mean wage of $150,890; geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers ($139,390); and accountants and auditors ($75,720); these three occupations also had higher wages in oil and gas extraction than in all industries combined.