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 Current Population Survey has more detailed data that can add to this perspective.
How this graph was created: Start from the Current Population Survey, click on the table with employment and unemployment by occupation (A-13), select the relevant series, and click “Add to Graph.” Change the order of the series legend to match the order in the graph by clicking “Edit Graph,” opening the format tab, and moving the series up or down. (This last step can be slow.)
Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.