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Looking for a recession-proof career? Here are some to consider

October 21, 2022 - 14 min read

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What makes the best recession-proof job?

What jobs are recession-proof?

Who does a recession hurt the most?

How can you protect yourself?

No one can predict the future

During the Great Recession of 2008, 2.6 million Americans lost their jobs, creating record unemployment rates. At one point, 5.8% of all laborers found themselves without work.

Recessions are a natural part of the economic cycle, but they’re never easy. Interest rates spike, making it more difficult to borrow money. Inflation makes household products more expensive. And people opt to save their money rather than spend it, making it difficult for businesses to sell goods.

Without appropriate economic intervention, all of this contributes to a vicious cycle:

  • Businesses lay off employees because they can’t sell their goods
  • Laid-off employees can’t buy goods because they don’t have a job
  • Businesses continue to spend more than they make, leading to more layoffs

While COVID-19 has prompted an increase in economic anxiety, you might be worried about the current economic conditions. While you can try to make yourself indispensable to your company, looming layoffs could either zap your morale or force you into unemployment.

But, while there’s no such thing as a recession-proof career, some industries offer greater job security than others. Let’s look at the most stable industries you can get involved in.

 

What makes the best recession-proof job?

The most secure jobs in our economy share some common characteristics. By and large, they:

  • Save time for consumers. Jobs that help expedite a fundamental service enjoy a privileged position in our economy. Special couriers, taxi drivers, and public transportation workers resist recessions.
  • Assist big businesses. Fortune 500 companies have the resources to protect themselves during a recession, but some departments and services are always needed. If your job involves B2B services as IT support, accounting, or cybersecurity, you’re less at risk for layoffs.
  • Address a universal need. Healthcare professionals, utility workers, energy producers — without services like these, our society would grind to a halt. Working in these sectors can protect you from the worst effects of a recession.
  • Serve a human vice. Despite their health risks, tobacco and alcohol sales remain stable during a recession. While fewer people go to bars during recessions, they make up for it through at-home alcohol use. You could do well in the spirits, beer, or wine industries.
  • Offer an essential service. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us what services are “essential” versus not. In the public sector, social workers, firefighters, and police officers provide vital contributions to society. And in the private sector, pharmacies and grocery stores are fundamental, as everyone needs access to food and medications.
  • Deal with difficult public needs. Not everyone has the heart to be a mental health professional, social worker, or paramedic, and that’s okay. But we’ll always need people to do these tough jobs.
  • Maintain infrastructure and mechanical quality. Cars and fridges break down, pipes leak, and roads degrade. People who can fix these problems are often insulated from the worst effects of economic recessions.

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What jobs are recession-proof?

Unfortunately, no jobs aren’t truly-recession proof. When a recession hits and the gross domestic product (GDP) dips, there’s no guarantee it won’t impact you. But if you want to improve your outlook, here are some of the best jobs during a recession.

1. Government services

Government jobs enjoy a certain amount of stability during downturns. Many of them offer critical services essential to the smooth functioning of our communities, like road maintenance and public safety. Plus, as we saw in the wake of the 2008 crash, governments can propose policies to help the economy recover — but they’ll need bureaucrats across a number of departments to help put them into action.

Some example government jobs include:

  • Legislators
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Transportation specialists
  • Corrections officers
  • Engineers
  • Storage and distribution managers
  • Compliance officers
  • Economists

group-of-businesswoman-walking-on-hallway-recession-proof-careers

2. Health and social services

As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, few jobs were as crucial as social and health care workers. Even if you’re not qualified to be on the front lines (like a doctor or a crisis support worker), working in public health or an administrative position could be one of the most secure jobs during a recession. Positions in this category include:

  • Home health aides
  • Registered nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Physician Assistant
  • Physical therapist
  • Hospital administrators
  • Child care providers

3. Financial services

When the economy takes a hit, businesses and people across the country will be trying to maximize every dollar. Financial experts will be in high demand, as they can help people keep their books in the black.

financial-analyst-working-at-home-recession-proof-careers

Also, state and federal governments may give businesses grants or loans to keep them afloat during tough times. These assistance packages often come with strict reporting requirements. As a financial expert, you can help organizations maximize this money and keep them accountable. 

Here are some example jobs in this category:

  • Accountants and auditors
  • Budget analysts
  • Actuaries
  • Human resource managers
  • Insurance brokers
  • Financial analyst

4. Communication and information technology

During times of hardship, people need to stay informed and connect to each other. Journalists help the public understand key economic developments, while telecommunications companies help people connect online. Example jobs here include:

  • News reporters
  • Programmers
  • Telecommunications technician
  • Data analytics experts
  • Journalists

5. Trades and other specialized services

Manual projects like home renovations and non-essential car repairs will be on the back burner for many people during a recession. But, while this can negatively impact folks working in the trades (e.g., automotive repairs and carpentry), essential repairs are inevitable.

Other specialized services, like hairdressing and cosmetology, can also remain surprisingly consistent through a recession. 

Jobs in this category include:

  • Automotive technicians
  • Veterinarians
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Hairdressers/cosmetologists
  • Carpenters 
  • Car mechanics

veterinarian-doing-a-checkup-on-a-dog-recession-proof-careers

Who does a recession hurt the most?

In an economic downturn, the above industries are safer than most others. But some careers are at higher risk during these periods. Here’s a look a who loses jobs in a recession:

  • Any job that can be automated. When businesses feel the crunch, they look for efficiencies anywhere they can. Even paralegals and legal assistants are at risk as cheap technologies become advanced enough to replace them.
  • Leisure and entertainment. Movie theatres, concert venues, sporting events, and other forms of entertainment will experience less traffic than usual, putting people in this sector at risk — whether they’re branch managers or marketing directors. 
  • Hospitality and tourism. With less money to spend, fewer vacationers will visit other communities. If hotels can’t book their rooms or restaurants aren’t seating customers, managers may have to reduce hours or lay off staff.
  • Real estate and automotive sales. High-interest rates will deter prospective home buyers from seeking a mortgage or leasing a new car. This could spell bad news for real estate brokers out there.
  • Other retail goods. Shoes, clothing, and cosmetics see fewer sales during a recession. That means jobs in this sector are particularly vulnerable during an economic downturn.

empty-cinema-chairs-recession-proof-careers

How can you protect yourself?

Even if you work in a high-risk industry, developing your soft skills can help you overcome the challenges of a recession. These are all competencies you can learn through experience — no certifications are needed.

  • Leadership. This refers to your capacity to inspire and influence others to perform at their best. Not everyone is equipped to lead, so sharpening your leadership skills lets you stand out from your peers.
  • Adaptability/resilience. Economic downturns present all sorts of challenges, from staffing shortages to supply chain issues. Your ability to confront unexpected problems and overcome them is essential to competent project management. This adaptability makes you invaluable to your employers.
  • Collaboration. When times are tough, it’s tempting to turn against your colleagues to protect yourself. But this only hurts the organization in the long run and causes the very results you’re trying to prevent. Working together can help your solve problems quickly and demonstrate everyone’s worth.
  • Creativity. Working with cutbacks requires creative management of resources. If you find solutions no one else can, you’ll be an asset to your employer.
  • Savings. While a lack of spending can fuel a recession, you should make sure your safety net is ready to go. The financial security of your current position is one thing, but if you lose that job, are you prepared for unemployment? Make sure you have enough money saved to prevent panic if your boss does choose to keep another team member over you. 

These are transferable skills across any industry. Even if you do find yourself unemployed, they’ll make you more appealing during your job search.

No one can predict the future

Pursuing a recession-proof career can help you lower your chances of being laid off. But the truth is, there’s no such thing as a zero-risk role. Working in indispensable industries can certainly improve your chances, but recessions are unpredictable — so you must be ready to adapt if you find yourself back in the job market.

Surviving a recession really comes down to you and your abilities and a bit of luck. Learning to be a leader, a critical thinker, and to be resilient can make a difference when your boss can only keep certain employees.

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Published October 21, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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