Exploring Frontline Worker Pay Across Industries

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High-volume hiring

Frontline worker pay is top of mind for both job seekers as well as employers. We will walk through average compensation for frontline roles across industries and job functions--however, it's important to note that salaries are impacted by location, seasonality, and skillset. It’s also essential to view these average wages in comparison with the current federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour (keep in mind that states may dictate a higher minimum wage, which you can find here).

*Minnesota defines “large employers” as businesses with $500K or more in gross revenue.
**Oregon’s minimum wage is adjusted annually based on the increase, if any, to the U.S. City average Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. Source: Paycom

Think of these as broad benchmarks--as you consider what compensation to seek or to provide to employees.

Who Are Frontline Workers?

It's important to get aligned on what we mean by using the term frontline worker.

We define frontline workers as individuals who perform jobs that are the closest to the product or customers. These roles often do not require previous experience or a formal degree. 

Individuals in frontline roles contribute to the daily operations of various industries, including restaurants, retail, construction, transportation, and hospitality. Other common terms used for these roles include deskless workers or hourly workers.

Frontline Workers vs. Essential Workers

Some people associate the term "frontline" with individuals who performed essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This might bring to mind firefighters, medical staff, or grocery attendants.

Even though the term "frontline" is frequently used to denote those carrying out critical roles that keep our society operational, nowadays, it more widely refers to individuals at the front of organizations rather than just humanitarian efforts.

Average Frontline Worker Pay

The average salary for frontline workers varies depending on the industry and job role. According to ZipRecruiter, the median annual wage across all frontline roles as of January 2024 is $18/hour.

However, this number does not accurately reflect the great variation of salaries of frontline workers across different industries. So, let’s see how compensation changes across the most common frontline verticals.

Retail Worker 

Retail workers’ responsibilities include assisting customers, providing product information, handling transactions, and ensuring a positive shopping experience. These dedicated individuals greet customers, address their inquiries or concerns, and offer recommendations. They also maintain clean and organized store environments, restock shelves, and handle inventory management. According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a retail sales associate in the United States is $34,000-51,000 or $16.30-24.50/hour.

Restaurant Workers

Restaurant frontline workers, including waitstaff, cooks, and hosts/hostesses, play a vital role in the hospitality industry. The 2024 average hourly wage for a restaurant server is $14.80. However, this does not account for roles that receive tips. Indeed estimates that tipped roles receive about $55 in tips/day, though this does vary across location and restaurant type.

For kitchen staff, such as chefs, the average annual salary ranges from $38,000 to $78,200, depending on their experience, location, and establishment type. However, on average, chefs make $25.19/hour.

Construction Laborers

Frontline workers in the construction industry earn an average hourly wage of $15 to $30 in the United States in 2023. This can vary based on factors like location, experience, and specific job roles. Specialized workers may command higher wages and opportunities for career growth can lead to increased earnings over time. Factors such as skill level, location, and project complexity should be considered when assessing individual wages in the construction industry.

Manufacturing Workers

Manufacturing frontline workers earn wages between $12.26-36.54/hour in the United States, with an average of $25/hour. Specialized roles and opportunities for career growth will impact growth potential over time. It’s also important to note that previous experience does come into play when calculating pay in many manufacturing roles, especially those that require special licenses or certifications. 

Hotel Staff

Hotel workers make up a subsector of hospitality. A hotel staff member’s role is to greet and assist guests, handle check-ins and check-outs, answer inquiries, and ensure a comfortable stay. The average hourly wage for a hotel worker in the United States in 2023 is between $17-27, with an average of $21/hour. 

Transportation Workers

Transportation workers are responsible for moving goods, materials, or passengers from one location to another, following designated routes and schedules. Whether it's delivering packages to customers' doorsteps or transporting goods across long distances, transportation workers are the lifeline of logistics, keeping supply chains running smoothly. 

The average wage for these transportation workers is $20/hour, but this industry has maybe the largest salary range of all the industries, which reflects that there are opportunities to grow in these roles. Compensation for these roles ranges anywhere from $9.86-37.50/hour.

Types of Jobs Held by Frontline Workers

Frontline workers hold a wide range of jobs in various industries. Here are some of the most common roles held by frontline workers.

Customer Service Representatives

Customer service representatives are frontline workers who interact directly with customers. They often handle intake calls, answer questions, address complaints, and provide information about products and services. Customer service representatives earn, on average, $17.96/hour in the US. However, there is a wide salary range ($9.85-32.76/hour) for these roles, meaning there is an opportunity to grow within this function. 


Cashiers are vital frontline workers who serve as the face of customer service in retail establishments. They play a critical role in handling transactions, providing assistance, and ensuring customer satisfaction. Cashiers’ hourly wage ranges from $7.69-18.27, with an average wage of $13/hour

Retail Sales Associates

Retail sales associates are responsible for assisting customers with their purchases and providing information about products and services. They work in a variety of retail settings, including clothing stores, grocery stores, and electronics stores. The average hourly wage for a retail sales associate in the United States is $16/hour, ranging between $9.62-20.43/hour.


Warehouse Workers

Warehouse workers are responsible for receiving, storing, and shipping goods. They work in a variety of industries, including retail, manufacturing, and transportation. According to Indeed, the average annual wage for warehouse workers in the US as of 2024 is $40,142. The hourly wage ranges from $10.00-27.47/hour (with an average of $16.57/hour). Interestingly, on average, this subset of the frontline workforce accumulates $5,000/year in overtime.

Production Associates

Production associates play a crucial role in the manufacturing industry. They are responsible for various tasks, such as assembling products, operating machinery, and ensuring quality control. The average hourly wage for production associates, as of 2024, is $17. The pay range for production associates is $10.10-$22.12/hour, as reported by ZipRecruiter.

Delivery Drivers

Whether it involves transporting packages, delivering food orders, or handling various items, delivery drivers guarantee the efficient and timely transportation of goods to customers. They adhere to prescribed routes, manage logistics, and prioritize customer satisfaction. Delivery drivers make $18/hour on average, with hourly compensation ranging between $8.17-25.24.

Final thoughts

Frontline workers are the backbone of many industries, and their contributions are essential to keeping our society functioning. They hold a wide range of jobs, from customer service representatives to delivery drivers. The average salary for these workers varies depending on the industry and job role, but their dedication and hard work are invaluable.

As we continue to navigate the post-pandemic world, it is crucial to recognize and appreciate the contributions of frontline workers. They are the ones who keep our society running, and their work should not go unnoticed.

This is why Emi is dedicated to helping frontline workers have greater access to opportunities. Learn more here.

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