Pig farmers and veterinarians have high prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) due to the occupational livestock exposure, while few reported this association on slaughterhouse workers. We conducted this cross-sectional study to explore the phenotypic and molecular characteristics of S. aureus and MRSA in slaughterhouse pig-related workers and control workers in Guangdong Province, China. Participants were interviewed and provided two nasal swabs. Swabs were tested for S. aureus, and isolates were further tested for antimicrobial susceptibility, virulence genes and multi-locus sequence typing. Compared with control workers, pig-related workers have significantly higher prevalence of MRSA carriage (adjusted odd ratio (aOR) 3·70, 95% CI 1·63–8·40). The proportions of MRSA resistant to clindamycin, erythromycin, tetracycline or chloromycetin were significantly higher in pig-related workers than in control workers. The predominant phenotypes of S. aureus were resistant to penicillin, clindamycin, erythromycin and tetracycline. Three MRSA CC9 isolates with livestock-associated characteristics (resistance to tetracycline and absence of immune evasion cluster (IEC) genes) were detected in pig-related workers but not in control workers. For human-associated CCs (CC7, CC59, CC6, and CC188), there was no significant difference in IEC profile or antimicrobial resistance between the groups. These findings reveal that there may be a potential risk for livestock-to-human transmission of LA-MRSA and human-to-human transmission of human-associated MRSA.