Skip to main content

The lead chart is courtesy of the St Louis Fed study on Unemployment Rates by Occupation.

> This FRED graph shows the unemployment rates for various occupations. What’s striking is that, over the 18-year sample period, the ordering hardly changes. Of course, the magnitude of unemployment responds to what’s happening in the overall economy. But management occupations and professionals, for example, always have the lowest unemployment rates by quite a margin. Mining, agriculture, construction, and maintenance have the highest unemployment rates, whether the economy is in a boom or a recession, with manufacturing and other production occupations a close second. These two are particularly affected by recessions. Sales, office, and service occupations fall in the middle.

> Obviously, what happens in specific labor markets correlates with what happens in the sector at large: For example, construction workers typically work in the construction sector. But this correlation isn’t absolute—a prime example being that managers are sprinkled across all sectors. This data picture shows that choosing which occupation to work in can be more important than which sector to work in.


The chart shows the cyclical nature of jobs, especially in mining and construction. Nearly all of the unemployment highs in natural resource and transportation were in January or February.

The same chart for Australia would likely show unemployment peaks in July and August.

Scroll to Continue


Seasonal cycles or not, the charts shows that management is the place to be (assuming you are qualified to be a manager and can actually stand the job).

Difference of Opinion

The Fed concludes "This data picture shows that choosing which occupation to work in can be more important than which sector to work in."

I suggest "Take a job that you like to do and want to do, or you will be unhappy." Just be prepared for volatility if your choice is seemingly not optimal in either salary or likelihood of unemployment.

That said, if you dream of owning a bookstore on account of your degree in English Literature, good luck. You also have to be realistic.

Education does not guarantee a job in your field of choice.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock