Saturday, January 24, 2009

Where Are the "Safe" Jobs?

The New York Times had an article today titled "Bad Times Spur a Flight to Jobs Viewed as Safe." Here is an excerpt:
Fearing layoffs, investment bankers at a Merrill Lynch or a Morgan Stanley are joining small Wall Street firms for less pay but with signed employment guarantees. Academics are migrating to community colleges, which are adding teachers as enrollment rises. And in Eastern Wisconsin, workers furloughed from a paper mill they fear will not reopen are training as truck drivers and welders.
It was interesting to read how individuals displaced by the recession or fearful they would be displaced by the recession are taking steps to secure what they perceived to be safe jobs. This got me wondering how one would know what is a safe job at this time. I looked to the Nonfarm Payroll employment data broken into sectors for some insight. Below is what I found for the period covering the recession (click on figure to enlarge):

So 3,369,000 net jobs were lost in the first 11 sectors in the table and 780,000 net jobs were added in the latter three sectors. I would not put too much hope in the first of these three--natural resource and mining--going forward.

Update: Further evidence that the safe jobs are in the government, education, and health care sectors can be seen below. The first figure shows employment in the professional & business services and retail trade sectors since 2000s. They are highly procyclical sectors. (Click on figures to enlarge.)

The next figure shows employment in the government and education & health services sectors. Notice any contrasts?


  1. David, I think the really safe jobs are in the Depts of Economics & Finance at the University of Chicago and other elite universities. Despite espousing theories such as efficient markets (Fama) and optimal business cycles (Prescott) that have shattered against the hard rock of reality into a million pieces of otiose flotsam, or setting up businesses based on faulty theories (LTCM) that have to be bailed out by the Fed, or writing blogs of astounding buffoonery (Casey Mulligan) there is no penalty for these profound failures. Nice work if you can get it.

  2. Step 1, find a job listing website and start your search. Step 2, get a job. Step 3, be happy.