15 Cities With the Most Physically Demanding Jobs

Tired construction worker
Dragon Images / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on Construction Coverage.

The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for the largest wave of job losses since the Great Depression. The mass layoffs caused by social distancing regulations have brought new meaning to the term “essential worker.”

Today’s essential workers often hold some of the most physically demanding jobs. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one-third of workers in protective service, construction, maintenance and repair engage in physically demanding activity.

Nationally, over 10% of all workers hold physically demanding jobs, defined here as jobs where workers engage in heavy or very heavy work activities. A large portion of those physically demanding jobs are in transportation and material moving, which employs over 12.5 million workers in the U.S. Construction occupations also account for a significant number of workers in physically demanding roles, with nearly 2.3 million construction workers engaging in heavy or very heavy work.

The employment and wage data used in this study are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics. Information on the physical demands of occupations is from the 2018 Occupational Requirements Survey. Specifically, researchers looked at the percentage of workers in each occupation where the strength requirement was either heavy or very heavy work.

To identify the percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs by location, strength requirement percentages were multiplied by each location’s occupation-specific employment numbers, summed, and then divided by the total employment for that location. Locations were ordered by the resulting statistic. In the event of a tie, the location with more total workers in physically demanding jobs was ranked higher.

Locations with a greater prevalence of physically demanding jobs tend to have lower overall wages. In locations where more than 10% of workers are in physically demanding jobs, the average median annual wage is slightly above $36,000. By comparison, the average median annual wage in locations where less than 10% of workers engage in physically demanding jobs is $41,000. Despite this trend, physically demanding jobs often require only a high school diploma or less. Adjusting for educational attainment, workers with physically demanding jobs actually tend to earn more than workers with similar education in different jobs.

Following are the metropolitan areas with the largest percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs.

15. Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City skyline
Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 10.4%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 64,924
  • Total workers across all jobs: 627,500
  • Protective service workers: 13,310
  • Construction workers: 36,090
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 27,240
  • Transportation & moving workers: 49,820
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $37,640

14. Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN

Vanderbilt Unversity
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 10.4%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 104,147
  • Total workers across all jobs: 999,030
  • Protective service workers: 23,010
  • Construction workers: 34,390
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 39,690
  • Transportation & moving workers: 102,930
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $38,900

13. Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville, Florida
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 10.5%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 73,877
  • Total workers across all jobs: 703,140
  • Protective service workers: 17,530
  • Construction workers: 32,850
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 31,340
  • Transportation & moving workers: 67,280
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $36,770

12. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN

Doug Lemke / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 10.5%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 114,206
  • Total workers across all jobs: 1,083,650
  • Protective service workers: 22,300
  • Construction workers: 36,770
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 43,250
  • Transportation & moving workers: 108,510
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $39,620

11. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

Home surrounded by greenery in Charlotte,NC.
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 10.6%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 132,596
  • Total workers across all jobs: 1,245,660
  • Protective service workers: 27,380
  • Construction workers: 55,170
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 51,630
  • Transportation & moving workers: 128,790
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $39,230

10. New Orleans-Metairie, LA

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 10.7%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 59,443
  • Total workers across all jobs: 557,190
  • Protective service workers: 18,640
  • Construction workers: 23,630
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 23,220
  • Transportation & moving workers: 47,990
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $35,620

9. Birmingham-Hoover, AL

Skyline of Birmingham at Railroad Park in Birmingham, Ala.
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 10.8%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 56,113
  • Total workers across all jobs: 518,210
  • Protective service workers: 13,710
  • Construction workers: 23,770
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 24,560
  • Transportation & moving workers: 41,190
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $38,020

8. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

Statue of King Neptune in Virginia Beach
JoMo333 / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 10.8%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 82,225
  • Total workers across all jobs: 758,420
  • Protective service workers: 21,040
  • Construction workers: 39,470
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 36,660
  • Transportation & moving workers: 63,780
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $38,960

7. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

Older couple in Las Vegas
sirtravelalot / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 10.8%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 109,739
  • Total workers across all jobs: 1,019,890
  • Protective service workers: 35,240
  • Construction workers: 53,250
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 34,390
  • Transportation & moving workers: 88,500
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $35,660

6. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

Houston, Texas
Nate Hovee / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 11%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 335,896
  • Total workers across all jobs: 3,052,170
  • Protective service workers: 73,870
  • Construction workers: 193,950
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 133,010
  • Transportation & moving workers: 258,690
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $40,570

5. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN

Indianapolis
Semmick Photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 11.1%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 116,880
  • Total workers across all jobs: 1,057,780
  • Protective service workers: 23,730
  • Construction workers: 42,030
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 40,200
  • Transportation & moving workers: 122,840
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $39,030

4. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI

Grand Rapids, Michigan
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 11.6%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 66,085
  • Total workers across all jobs: 567,640
  • Protective service workers: 7,530
  • Construction workers: 19,100
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 24,720
  • Transportation & moving workers: 56,810
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $37,410

3. Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN

Thomas Kelley / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 11.6%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 75,805
  • Total workers across all jobs: 656,250
  • Protective service workers: 12,410
  • Construction workers: 23,750
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 27,890
  • Transportation & moving workers: 82,040
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $37,460

2. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

Riverside, California at night
MattGush / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 12.3%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 188,989
  • Total workers across all jobs: 1,538,400
  • Protective service workers: 40,900
  • Construction workers: 82,200
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 59,480
  • Transportation & moving workers: 207,620
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $37,780

1. Memphis, TN-MS-AR

f11 photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of workers in physically demanding jobs: 12.6%
  • Total workers in physically demanding jobs: 79,900
  • Total workers across all jobs: 632,600
  • Protective service workers: 21,110
  • Construction workers: 18,330
  • Installation, maintenance, & repair workers: 23,300
  • Transportation & moving workers: 107,020
  • Median annual wage (all workers): $35,540

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More
10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More

Think you’re a savvy shopper? Find out how retailers persuade you to dig more deeply into your wallet.

8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers
8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers

We’ve brewed up a list of amazing Amazon products that are sure to perk you up.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

7 Things I Never Buy at Costco
7 Things I Never Buy at Costco

A bulk buy isn’t always the best buy.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination
This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination

Avoid doing this before you get vaccinated.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic
11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic

Many goods we take for granted have become tough to find in 2021.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car
9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car

Thinking of leaving these possessions in a car? Prepare for unexpected consequences.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently
10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.