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How Long It Takes Workers To Earn the Equivalent of a $1,200 Stimulus Check

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There’s no doubt that the Economic Impact Payments released as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act have helped many Americans keep their finances afloat amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. But for workers in occupations with traditionally lower incomes, a $1,200 check might have a bigger impact on their earnings than it would for higher-earning workers.

LendingTree researchers analyzed the 100 most common occupations in which workers earn less than $75,000 per year, using 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. This analysis determines how long it takes workers of various industries to earn an amount equivalent to the $1,200 stimulus payment in pre-tax income.

Key findings
Occupations in which $1,200 takes the longest to earn
Some workers hit by the coronavirus pandemic will end up on unemployment
Occupations in which $1,200 takes the least time to earn
High earners in certain occupations make too much to qualify for a stimulus check

Key findings

  • Occupations in the food and service industries have to work the most hours to earn $1,200. Some of these workers have been deemed essential and continue to work under risk of exposure to the coronavirus, but millions of others have been laid off as of April 2020.
  • Fast food and counter workers need to work 107 hours, or about two and a half weeks of full-time work, to earn $1,200. People employed in this occupation earn $11.18 per hour.
  • Restaurant hosts and hostesses come in second, earning $11.54 per hour. It would take them nearly 104 hours of work to make $1,200.
  • Cashiers earn slightly more than hosts and hostesses at $11.73 per hour. They need to work 102 hours to accumulate $1,200.
  • Credit counselors and loan officers take the bottom spot, with the lowest amount of hours needed to work. They earn just under $74,000 per year ($35.46 per hour), so the majority of them would qualify for the full Economic Impact Payment. To earn $1,200, they need to work just under 34 hours.
  • Compliance officers follow, making $35.03 per hour. To take home $1,200, they would need to work just over 34 hours.
  • Property, real estate and community association managers rank No. 98 out of 100. For them, $1,200 is equivalent to just under 35 hours of work.

Occupations in which $1,200 takes the longest to earn

Employees in certain industries, like hospitality and food service, rank at the top of our list — this means they have to work the most hours to earn the equivalent of an Economic Impact Payment. For most of the workers on this list, it will take at least two full weeks of work to earn $1,200 in pre-tax income.

You’ll find many essential workers, from childcare workers to home health aides, taking the top spots on our list. This means that people whose jobs are deemed important enough to risk coronavirus exposure at work are also bringing home less income in the process. Workers in these occupations earn between about $11 and $16 per hour, which is still quite a bit higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Even then, the stimulus check can have a big impact on their finances.

Some workers hit by the coronavirus pandemic will end up on unemployment

Americans in many of these occupations, including some food service workers, retail workers and salon employees, are required to miss work due to stay-at-home orders, which are determined at the state level. Many have been laid off, which has resulted in an overall 14.7% unemployment rate for April 2020, according to the BLS. More than 20 million jobs were lost in April alone, 6.3 million of which were in accommodation and food service.

It’s no question that people in customer-facing industries are suffering amidst the pandemic, but expanded unemployment benefits will hopefully fill the gap. Under the CARES Act, workers who are unemployed due to the coronavirus outbreak are eligible for an extra $600 per week on top of their regular unemployment earnings. And as states begin to reopen, some of these employees may be able to return to work.

Occupations in which $1,200 takes the least time to earn

The bottom of our list is composed of many white-collar occupations, such as loan officers, PR specialists, market analysts and insurance workers. However, there are also some public-facing careers included here, including teachers and police officers. Workers in these occupations earn $75,000 or less, meaning that they’ll qualify for the entire stimulus check, unless they’re married (and file jointly) and their spouse makes enough money to put them over the threshold for couples.

Personal finance workers, including credit counselors and loan officers, will see the smallest impact of a $1,200 paycheck on their finances. For them, the stimulus payment will be worth just over four days’ worth of work when considering pre-tax income. For the majority of these 25 occupations, the $1,200 stimulus payment can be earned at work within a week.

Many (though not all) of these higher-earning occupations may also offer remote work, which can limit workers’ exposure to the coronavirus.

High earners in certain occupations make too much to qualify for a stimulus check

For the purposes of this study, the LendingTree data team analyzed occupations with mean annual earnings under $75,000. High-earning individuals in various industries, such as surgeons and IT professionals, will not qualify for the full check, and thus were left off our list.

The following groups earn too much money to qualify for a stimulus check:

  • Individuals earning $99,000 or more annually
  • Couples earning $198,000 or more annually
  • Heads of household earning $136,500 or more annually

Workers who make a certain amount under that (but more than $75,000 per year, for individuals) will qualify for a portion of the $1,200 stimulus check, but not the entire check.

If your financial situation has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, visit for resources and information about hardship assistance programs, critical COVID-19 updates and more news.


In order to rank the occupations where $1,200 takes the most time to earn, LendingTree researchers looked at the 100 most common occupations in which workers earn less than $75,000 per year. Occupations with miscellaneous titles were also removed.

For some occupations, hourly earnings were not available. In that situation, we divided annual earnings by 2,080 which is the equivalent of working 40 hours per week for 52 weeks. To determine the final number, we divided $1,200 by average hourly earnings and ranked the occupations from high to low based on this figure. BLS data is from 2019.


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