Layoffs are more likely for some jobs
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.
The new FRED release tables make it much easier to find related series. One example is Table A-13 in the BLS’s household data release, which describes the employment situation by occupation. The graph here shows the unemployment rate in some occupations: Clearly, any occupation linked to producing stuff or moving it has 1) a higher unemployment rate and 2) substantial seasonal fluctuations. Also, even in the best times (booms in the summer) these occupations maintain a higher unemployment rate than others. Why is that? A similar graphical ladder exists for unemployment rates by educational attainment (discussed in a previous post on this blog), and similar factors may be at work behind this graph.
How this graph was created: Go to release Table A-13, select the relevant series, and click on the “add to graph” button.
Suggested by Christian Zimmermann
View on FRED, series used in this post: