5 Cities Where the Paychecks Are Smallest

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- The U.S. Labor Department recently found that more Americans quit their jobs during October than in any other month since 2008's crash, but here's a look at five cities you shouldn't move to if you're seeking generous pay.

"These cities all tend to be smaller metros, whereas the big earnings premiums for workers tend to be in the larger cities like New York, Boston or Chicago," says Jed Kolko of real-estate site Trulia.com, which recently analyzed pay levels in America's 100 most-populous communities.

The site adjusted U.S. Census earnings figures to account for differences in workers' educational levels, occupations and other factors and found a wide disparity between what people with similar backgrounds earn in different locales.

Kolko says that besides the fact that companies in large cities typically pay workers more (presumably to cover higher costs of living), education seems to play a big role in deciding who makes what where. The more educated a city's average worker is, the more money people in that community tend to make.

But the economist adds that there's more to picking a place to live than just looking at typical wages.

For instance, he says job hunters also need to consider whether a given locale has openings in their particular fields.

Kolko says job-seekers should also factor in local costs of living when deciding whether positions in a given city pay badly or not.

"The places with the biggest earnings premiums also tend to be more expensive to live in," he says. "There's no one measure that can tell you where you should move to."

Click below to check out the five metro areas that Trulia found offer the lowest pay after adjusting for education, the local mix of professions and other factors (or click here to see where the biggest paychecks are).

Trulia based its rankings on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey for 2007-11, the latest period with numbers available. All earnings estimates refer to locations where people work rather than live, and statistics cover entire metro areas rather than just cities proper.

"Typical-earnings" figures approximate how much less you can expect to earn in a given city vs. the U.S. average for workers with similar qualifications.

Cost-of-living estimates refer to third-quarter numbers from the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, while jobless rates refer to U.S. Labor Department figures from October (the most recent month with local and national data available).

Fifth-worst metro area for high-paying jobs: Little Rock, Ark.
Typical earnings:
8.7% below U.S. average

Move to The Rock and you won't be rolling in dough.

That's because the typical worker in Arkansas' state capital makes nearly 9% less than the U.S. average, according to Trulia's analysis.

Kolko isn't sure exactly why Little Rock trails the national average, other than the fact that smaller metro areas generally offer workers lower pay.

On the plus side, Little Rock's 718,000 residents face just a 6.5% jobless rate -- well below the 7.3% U.S. average. Locals also enjoy a cost-of-living level 2.4% below what's typical nationwide.

Fourth-worst metro area for high-paying jobs: Tulsa, Okla.
Typical earnings:
9.2% below U.S. average

You might strike oil in or around Tulsa, but don't expect to strike it rich on salary.

Trulia estimates the T-Town's workers earn almost 10% below the U.S. average even though the oil-and-gas industry (historically Tulsa's biggest economic driver) is booming.

The good news: Tulsa's cost of living runs 11.6% below U.S. average, more than making up for weak local pay. You've also got a good shot at getting a job of some kind in Tulsa, as the metro area enjoys a low 5.8% jobless rate.

Third-worst metro area for high-paying jobs: Oklahoma City
Typical earnings:
10.9% below U.S. average

Don't move to OKC unless you're OK with a so-so paycheck.

Although Oklahoma's state capital has lots of oil-and-gas wealth, Trulia estimates the metro area's 1.3 million residents can expect to earn nearly 11% below the national average for wages.

But like Tulsa 110 miles to the northeast, Oklahoma City offers its citizens plenty of other economic benefits.

For instance, the metro area has just a 5.3% unemployment rate, one of the lowest levels of any major U.S. city.

Oklahoma City-area residents also pay 9.9% below the U.S. average for living expenses.

In fact, the nearby community of Norman -- home to the University of Oklahoma and its famous Oklahoma Sooners football team -- enjoys the lowest living costs of any American city. Costs of living there run 17.6% below the national average.

Second-worst metro area for high-paying jobs: Knoxville, Tenn.
Typical earnings:
11.3% below U.S. average

You might not want to volunteer to live in Knoxville even though the University of Tennessee (and its famous Volunteers basketball and football teams) calls Knoxville its home.

After all, Trulia found that the Knoxville area's 848,000 residents earn around 11% less than the U.S. average.

The only real good economic news for locals is that Knoxville's living costs run 11.5% below the U.S. average. The community also has a 7% local jobless rate, a tad below the U.S. average.

Worst metro area for high-paying jobs: El Paso, Texas
Typical earnings:
16.8% below U.S. average

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, you might fall in love with a Mexican girl -- but don't expect to impress her with your high-paying job.

That's because the 831,000-person community takes the No. 1 spot on Trulia's rundown of metro areas with low pay.

Located along the Lone Star State's border with Mexico and New Mexico, El Paso offers earnings that run almost 17% below the U.S. average, according to Trulia.

And unlike other cities that fared poorly in Trulia's study, El Paso also has a higher-than-average unemployment rate. Some 8.5% of locals lacked jobs there as of October.

That said, residents do pay an estimated 9.2% lower living costs that the typical American faces.

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