Looking for a Secure Job? Start with these 20 Occupations with the Lowest Unemployment Rate

Job Security is something that we all strive for. But are any jobs offering it these days? Perhaps we can look to the very recent past to find out. Much like stocks, past performance isn’t always indicative of future results. Or is it?

There can’t be many better ways to find out which jobs are the most and least secure than to look at the unemployment rate of each profession over the past year.

That’s why I was so geeked to see the Wall Street Journal’s unemployment charts, which pulled in data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for each profession in 2010. I’m a bit of a data whore, if you haven’t noticed.

Job Security, Revisited

In my opinion, there are four pillars to job security:

  • Locale: some jobs will never get outsourced because warm bodies are needed on site.
  • Communication: if you are an ‘expert’ in your niche who can connect & drive business, you’re hard to let go.
  • Scarce Skill Set: think doctors, lawyers, brain surgeons, rocket scientists. It’s hard to find these skills.
  • Trends & Economic Forces: the U.S. has an aging population, health care professionals are in high demand. On the flip side, manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas because there is cheaper labor abroad.

Jobs with the Lowest Unemployment Rate

lowest unemployment rate by job

With the 4 pillars in mind, it was interesting to see a list of the top 20 professions in terms of the lowest unemployment rate in 2010 and how the pillars apply to each (employment rates for 2010 in parentheses):

1. Appraisers & Assessors of Real-Estate (0.4%): I couldn’t believe this at first. 0.4%? Completely counter-intuitive with as few people buying homes as there are. But when you think about it, when are appraisers needed? Not only when homes are being passed from one family to another, but when they are being passed from one family to a bank. Foreclosures! This is an example of where locale and economic trends are a huge driving force.

2. Therapists (0.4%): This is the first of  in the health care field. With all of the depressed people out there who are struggling financially, it’s no surprise that therapists are doing well.

3. Managers of Police & Detectives (0.4%): I’m a little surprised on this one with the cutbacks in police force that we’ve been reading about in the news.

4. Locomotive Engineers & Education (0.4%): These guys (or gals) definitely have the ‘locale’ pillar going for them, as well as economic trends, and a scarce skill set. Trains will probably be run by computers at some point, but until then, it will take people. With gas prices so high, the rail business has made a strong comeback.

5. Directors, Religious Activities & Education (0.8%): When the going gets tough, people get all spiritual. They have to, in order to keep their minds.

6. Dentists (0.8%): Definitely have locale and a scarce skill set going for them.

7. Speech-Language Pathologists (0.8%): Health-related field.

8. Detectives & Criminal Investigators (0.8%): Unemployment inversely proportional to the # of crimes committed?

9. Physicians & Surgeons (0.9%): Aging population trend, locale, and scarce skill set.

10. Occupational Therapists (1.0%): Occupational therapists treat those who are mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabled. I wonder if all of the vets coming back from their tours has anything to do with this? It would make sense.

11. Farmers & Ranchers (1.2%): Yes, there is the economic trend of rising food prices, which has helped make farming a profitable profession again. However, I think the low unemployment rate here is simply from the fact that if you are a farmer or rancher, you are self-employed and you own land. And as long as you are both, why would you be “unemployed”?

12. Pharmacists (1.2%): Like most medical professions, pharmacists have 3 of the 4 pillars going for them right now: locale, scarce skill set, and economic forces/trends.

13. Dental Hygienists (1.2%): Throw dentists and hygienists in with the medical professionals.

14. Clergy (1.4%): Pretty hard to lose your job when god is on your side  (or lose football games).

15. Veterinarians (1.4%): A bit surprising in that many families who have been foreclosed upon have given up their pets. Of course, many of those were lower income families who didn’t take their animals to the vet in the first place.

16. Lawyers (1.5%): There’s always going to be bullshit lawsuits out there. And how many lawyers are going to admit they are ‘unemployed’ in the first place?

17. Police & Sheriff’s Patrol Officers (1.7%): Third ‘criminal justice’ occupation to make the list.

18. Operations Research Analysts (2.0%): You think it’d be easy to fire someone who you don’t even know what the heck it is they due. Apparently not.

19. Judges, Magistrates, & Other Judicial Workers (2.0%): 4th criminal justice occupation to make the top 20 list. I need to look into this trend more, because it’s not very intuitive other than crime rates being up due to more people falling on hard economic times.

19. Physical Therapists (2.0%): Medical. Again.

20. Psychologists (2.1%): Medical. Yet Again.

21. Registered Nurses (2.1%): I had to add nurses, even though they were just outside of the top 20. Why? At 2.84 million, there are more than 2.5 X employed nurses out there than any other occupation on this list (lawyers came in second at 1.04 million). Why is that important? It’s one thing to have an unemployment rate of 2.0% when there are only 71,000 jobs out there (judicial workers), but it’s an entirely different thing when there is 2.8 million. That signals a true strong demand for that occupation. And this is one that is not going away anytime soon.

10 of the top 21 were in the medical field (11 if you factor in veterinarians). Four were in the criminal justice field (5 if you throw in lawyers). And 2 were in religious works. That’s a total of 18 out of 21 in medical, law enforcement, and religion.

Top 10 Jobs with the Highest Unemployment Rate

I’ll cover the top 10 jobs with the highest unemployment rates, but only a few comments need to be made, since 8 of the top 10 are in the construction/build trades, and are as follows:

1. Helpers, construction trades (36%)

3. structural & steel workers (28.4%)

4. roofers (27.1%), 5. millwrights (25.5%)

6. cement masons/concrete (25.3%)

7. brick/stone masons (25.1%)

8. construction laborers (25.0%)

9. drywall installers (23.9%).

When the economy shrinks, credit is hard to come by, and real-estate value is plummeting, it’s no surprise that people in these occupations are going to suffer greatly. It’s unfortunate, because they are some of the hardest working people in the world. But this recession is about as strong of a negative economic trend as you will come across.

The other two to make the top 10 with the highest unemployment rate were:

2. Telemarketers (34.8%): Telemarketers are usually below the college graduate level and don’t have highly valued skill sets. In other words, they are easy to fire when times get tough and rehire when they get better. At the same time, more and more are going overseas. Communication skills are important, but highly undervalued in the telemarketer field.

10. Interviewers (23.4%): Nobody was hiring! And because of that nobody was hiring interviewers.

Unemployment Rate by Job Discussion:

If you’re thinking of changing professions, trying to absorb some of these trends is a good place to start. The Wall Street Journal list is sortable by number of jobs, unemployment rate, and % increase or decrease from 2009 to 2010. Occupations with high unemployment rates now are going to take time to turnaround because the market is flooded with workers looking to get back in. But those with very low ones at the tail end of a recession might be a pretty safe bet. I wouldn’t jump to be a real estate appraiser though.

Was your job on the list?

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