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Most Secure Industries

Overview

Which Industries Have Retained the Best Job Security Throughout Disasters and Difficult Times?

In the last 20 years, the global economy has suffered through many difficult events such as pandemics, conflicts, and natural disasters. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered one of the worst job crises since the Great Depression, increasing poverty levels as inflation soars to new heights.

The destruction caused by wildfires, hurricanes, and floods can also seriously affect resources and job security, with employees facing job losses or wage cuts. Some US citizens may choose to focus their job search on roles that offer remote working to avoid some of the costs associated with commuting to the workplace.

In this research, we will reveal the most resilient industries that have retained employment through the most turbulent times, by analyzing employment data by industry during natural disasters, pandemics, and recessions.

The Most Secure Industries Throughout COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic caused insecurity throughout the job market, heavily impacting industries such as the retail and leisure sector, which are still yet to fully recover. In this section, we will reveal the industries that were the most secure in terms of employment rates during the 2020 pandemic:

  1. Transportation and Warehousing

Employment Levels (March 2020 – March 2021): ▲3.50%

The Transportation and Warehousing sector includes industries providing transportation of passengers and cargo, warehousing and storage for goods, and scenic and sightseeing transportation. The industry witnessed steady employment levels throughout 2020, despite the disaster of the pandemic causing millions of workers to face job cuts. 

While air transportation was one of the most affected sectors during the pandemic, this industry retained the highest employment rates of any other industry, at a 3.50% increase. During the first wave of COVID-19, the transport of cargo shifted from air to sea, which caused transport workers to accelerate operations to cope with an international supply demand.

  1. Federal Government

Employment Levels (March 2020 – March 2021): ▲ 0.38%

Employment within the federal government also retained a steady growth rate through 2020, and maintained a 2.49% increase in employment between March 2020 and March 2021. The federal government employs many people in multiple job types across various markets like administration, finances, security, clerical, construction, and design.

In March 2020, the Trump administration declared that federal agencies in Washington were moving to “maximum telework” due to the spread of the virus. While some workers were able to work remotely, others on the frontline continued to commute to work.

  1. Utilities

Employment Levels (March 2020 – March 2021): ▼ -0.75%

The utilities sector witnessed a small drop in employment levels during the worst period of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 1-year decrease of -0.75%. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Current Employment Statistics survey between 2020 and 2021 showed that a large number of workers had left the profession throughout the year of 2020, with 547,300 recorded employees in March 2020, and 542,000 workers by November.

The Most Secure Industries During The Great Recession

The Great Recession between 2007 and 2009 caused a widespread financial and economic crisis, involving job losses, unemployment, and wage repression in the United States, which increased working poverty. One in five employees lost their jobs at the beginning of the Great Recession.

  1. Private education and Health Services

Employment Levels (December 2007 – June 2009): ▲3.77%

Privately owned educational and health services comprise a number of major groups, including specialized establishments, such as schools, colleges, universities, and training centers. Employment in this sector grew by 3.77% during the Great Recession (between December 2007 and June 2009).

Since this economic fallout, education establishments have flourished and turned towards digital working. The imminent threat of another recession or global trade war is likely to negatively impact employment rates.

  1. Federal Government

Employment Levels (December 2007 – June 2009): ▲2.49%

The federal government sector also had an increase in employment levels, growing by 2.49% between December 2007 and June 2009. 

The Great Recession caused a sharp decline in economic activity and was the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression, yet this sector retained its employees and even had an increase in growth following the recession in June 2009.

  1. Local and State Government

Employment Levels (December 2007 – June 2009):▲ 1.07%

Employment within the state government sector maintained a steady growth rate throughout the Great Recession, growing by 1.07% from the start of December 2007 to June 2009. Local and state governments were forced to restructure in the wake of the fiscal stress of the Great Recession, which included direct spending on public goods and services (including their expenditures from federal funds). Yet, this sector retained its employment levels, and dealt with the pressures that triggered some of the biggest economic downturns the country has experienced.

The Most Secure Industries During Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was a devastating Atlantic hurricane which resulted in 1,392 fatalities and caused damage of up to $145 billion in August 2005, just one gauge of the hurricane’s economic effect. The disaster also affected employment levels, and from August to October 2005, non-farm employment in Louisiana fell by 241,000, a decline of 12 percent.

  1. Mining and Logging

Employment Levels (August 2005 – September 2005): ▲0.95%

Mining and logging industry remained largely unchanged in its employment levels during Hurricane Katrina, with a 0.95% increase in employment levels. Hurricane Katrina devastated coastal areas of the Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and the city of New Orleans. Major fixed platforms and smaller production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico were totally destroyed or severely damaged, and both transportation and in-field subsea pipelines sustained significant damage. Mining workers in these areas will have been extremely busy trying to fix these damages to major infrastructure.

  1. Professional and Business Services

Employment Levels (August 2005 – September 2005): ▲ 0.41%

Despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina across coastal areas of the Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi during August 2005, professional and business services retained a 0.41% growth in employment levels. Counseling services across New Orleans, which faced the biggest hit, were busier than ever before, as residents reached out for support in trauma counselling following the disaster.

  1. Construction

Employment Levels (August 2005 – September 2005): ▲ 0.28%

The effects of Hurricane Katrina also didn’t slow down employment growth in the construction industry during this period, and the sector witnessed a 0.28% increase in growth. Workers in the construction sector who lived around the areas hit the most were likely to have been directly affected by the hurricane, and complete reconstruction of local buildings in the vicinity will have kept employees busy in the aftermath.

The Most Secure Industries During The Pacific Northwest Floods

The Pacific Northwest floods, which occurred in November 2021, comprised a series of floods affecting British Columbia, Canada and parts of Washington. The flood, which cost around $7.5 billion in damages, was caused mainly by heavy rain falling on mountain snow and represents the worst flood on record for some of the affected rivers.

  1. Mining and Logging

Employment Levels (November 2021-December 2021): ▲1.21%

The Pacific Northwest floods did not have a detrimental effect on employment levels in the professional and business sectors, and the industry saw a 1.21% increase.

  1. Leisure and Hospitality

Employment Levels (November 2021-December 2021): ▲0.98%

The leisure and hospitality industry witnessed a 0.98% increase in employment levels during the time of the Pacific Northwest Floods. This could be due to the fact that the floods only occurred in parts of Canada and Washington, so levels of employment were only affected in these areas.

  1. Transportation and Warehousing

Employment Levels (November 2021-December 2021): ▲0.95%

Employment in transportation and warehousing were also not affected by the Pacific Midwestern floods, as employment levels witnessed a steady incline of 0.95% from the start of the floods til they ended in December 2021.

The Most Secure Industries During The 2021 California Wildfires

The wildfire season in 2021 was the second deadliest and most destructive in California history. It was also the largest on record at the time, now second after the 2020 California wildfire season. The series of wildfires spread across the US state of California, and by the end of 2021, 8,835 fires were recorded.

  1. Leisure and hospitality

Employment Levels (January 2021-December 2021): ▲15.88%

Employment levels in the leisure and hospitality sector remained once again unscathed by the wildfires in California, and even had an increase in growth, of 15.88%. Although the wildfire season only directly affected California, the fires were so intense and widespread that they could have also affected employment in other states, including the state and federal government sectors, which may have had to provide technical assistance and resources to regions in need of assistance.

  1. Professional and Business Services

Employment Levels (January 2021-December 2021): ▲8.67%

Professional and business services also witnessed an increase in employment during the period of the California wildfires, of 8.67% between the months of January and December 2021. Establishments providing legal services were likely to have been extremely busy during this time period, as California residents may have had to seek advice on protecting their property and businesses.

  1. Transportation and Warehousing

Employment Levels (January 2021-December 2021): ▲7.53%

Employment levels for the transporting and warehousing industry increased during the period of the California Wildfires, with a 7.53% rise. The ongoing wildfires during this period will have also threatened California’s growing logistics network.

The Industries Where Employment Increased the Most Between 2003 and 2023

Over the last 20 years, recessions, global pandemics and threats of war have had a considerable impact on the global economy. But which industries have witnessed the highest increase in employment levels between 2003 and 2023?

  1. Transportation and Warehousing

Increase Between January 2003 and 2023: ▲ 37.73%

The transportation and warehousing industry witnessed an increase of 37.73% in employment levels between January 2003 and January 2023, which is the highest increase on our list. According to the BLS, warehousing and storage, the largest sub sector in this industry, employs the most workers.

The boom in transportation and warehousing jobs continued throughout the 20 years recorded, as large warehousing companies like Walmart and Amazon gained more power in delivery services. Wage increases in the transportation and warehousing industry helped to attract and retain workers. However, controversy with the company first began in 2022, as Amazon laid off its fulfillment workers, and turnover rates at the company became extremely high.

  1. Private Education and Health Services

Increase Between January 2003 and 2023: ▲ 33.21%

Employment within the private education and healthcare industry also saw an increase in employment over the years recorded, at 33.21%. Industries with higher education and training requirements tend to pay employees higher salaries, due to a smaller labor supply capable of working those types of jobs. Higher wages and an increase in high school students attending college could be an indication of why there has been an increase in this sector.

According to ACS estimates, the number of people employed in colleges, universities and professional schools has grown at a rate of 0.942%, from 4.29 million people in 2019 to 4.33 million in 2020.

  1. Professional and Business Services

Increase Between January 2003 and 2023: ▲ 30.20%

Employment in professional and business had an increase of 30.20% in employment levels. This sector is part of the BLS service-providing industries subsector, which consists of Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, Management of Companies and Enterprises, and Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services. 

An increase in employment in these sectors is likely to have come with the digitalisation of businesses over the years, which has led to more job opportunities and the need for training and development across new company processes. This could have in turn led to salary increases and better job security.

Methodology:

The employment levels data was taken from the BLS for the last 20 years. All employee level data figures were taken from the start date of each event until the end date of the event.

The list of natural disasters was taken from Wikipedia, taking the data for the most expensive in damage costs hurricane, flood and wildfire season.

The list of recessions in the United States was taken from Wikipedia, taking the two most recent recessions.

Team Lensa
Team Lensa
Team Lensa is a group of HR specialists, career counselors, and tech enthusiasts dedicated to helping job seekers navigate the employment landscape through actionable tips and insights.

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