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Job Unemployment Rates

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Planet Money, one of my favorite NPR programs, just posted a list of the occupations with the highest and lowest unemployment rates. The lowest unemployment rate was shared by four different roles with only 0.4% while the highest unemployment rate was 36% for “helpers, construction trades.”

A full third of those who identify with that job are without work… that’s pretty scary.

Low Unemployment

The jobs on the list of lowest unemployment rates is led by appraisers and assessors of real estate with only 0.4%. I was surprised to read that because of the housing crisis but I guess appraisers don’t care about housing starts, they are only important when it comes time for a house to change hands or when the state is reassessing property values.

The other jobs on the list are very skilled and specialized positions like locomotive engineers and operators, dentists, physicians and surgeons. Many of the jobs have high barriers to entry (you can’t just decide to become a surgeon one day, you’ll need loads of training and a license!) so I imagine competition, while it’ll still be fierce, is somewhat metered.

High Unemployment

Not surprisingly, the list of jobs with high unemployment rates was littered with housing related jobs, such as roofers, drywall installers, and construction laborers. I think it’s a situation of the business contracting withe housing prices dropping and a large pool of workers. When it comes to construction, you need a lot of people to do the drywall installation, the brick laying, and other jobs. When you contract, a lot of people find themselves without work.

I used to think that jobs with high unemployment were the result of competition because they had a lower barrier to entry. While that’s partially true, these are still skilled positions (unlike, say, retail sales at the mall) that require training. Try hanging drywall or doing any sort of roofing. The professionals are significantly better than novices and it takes training and practice to get that good.

Update: Joe from the WSJ sent me their interactive tool that shows you unemployment rates with pretty interactive graphs and charts. It’s enlightening, and fun, to play with.

The list is interesting to scan through because it’s a good basis of conversation. Why do you think certain jobs have faired well or poorly lately? Which jobs surprised you with where they appeared and which jobs did you expect to see?

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12 Responses to “Job Unemployment Rates”

  1. eric says:

    Unemployment is still pretty bad in my area. I know loads of people looking for work and not finding any. My brother-in-law worked in construction and hasn’t had stable work for more than a year.

  2. Shirley says:

    Unemployment in my CA county is at 12.8%.

    One of my sons works in construction and is skilled in several areas of that field including indoor and outdoor remodeling and basic construction. Still, he works two part-time jobs and is on-call for two others. There’s simply not much going on there right now.

  3. DIY Investor says:

    Interesting data. It demonstrates the basic resource allocation of economics. Fed sparked a real estate bubble by driving rates to 1% in 2003. Resources shifted into home building, mortgage brokering etc. Bubble burst and these people can’t find jobs today. Appraisers are fine because they are needed to do foreclosures which is a boom area at present. Good example of one of the causes of the debacle turning around and prospering as mess is cleaned up. It just points up the folly of the government controlling and manipulating markets.

  4. cubiclegeoff says:

    Not a surprise, either the low unemployment jobs are highly specialized, or need advanced degrees, The high-unemployment jobs do not need much formal education and have a higher number of individuals that can do them.

  5. freeby50 says:

    It is a surprise to me that real estate appraisers are doing so well. About 60% of appraisers / assessors are either self employed or work for governments. But theres still 30-40% of them out there that aren’t in those categories. I’m sure foreclosures would give them some work but I don’t see how its enough to make up for the massive drop in home sales. Home sales peaked over 6.1M a year in 2005 and dropped to 4.5M in 2009. But that includes a drop of about 900k fewer new homes and I don’t know how many appraisers are employed to count new homes.

    I wonder if the low unemployment rate is also a reflection that many appraisers left that career in 2007-2008?

  6. poor O.D. says:

    Many jobs requiring higher education and training have increased in unemployment, too, although it may not be shown by statistics, which also often skew the income potential and demond for these jobs. For optometry, commercial modes of practice are killing private practice, and they opened up 2 more optometry schools in the past 2 years just because everyone wants a piece of the incredibly expensive tuition! Once you get out of the the 4 gruelling years, you’ll find it’s very difficult to find full time work for optometrists in any metropolitan area. After speaking with colleagues in other health professions, I find this is often the case. So, better plan to move out to the boonies if you want to make any decent money in health care and pay off your monstrous student loans!

  7. freeby50 says:

    Ah ha… That WSJ link has the answer on appraisers. While they may have 0.4% unemployment but the real picture is the total number of jobs in the occupation. They’ve lost over 40% of their jobs in the past 3 years. HEres the total employment figures per year:

    2007 = 118
    2008 = 102
    2009 = 99
    2010 = 79

    So I think that 0.4% unemployment number is very misleading.

  8. skylog says:

    thank you for the interactive tool! there is a ton of data there.

  9. tbork84 says:

    Yea, that’s a great breakdown of the numbers. Thanks!

  10. The greatest and most effective way ever developed to prevent being laid off is this …… employ yourself! Working for someone else sucks in every single way you can think of. Why work to make someone else rich….when you can directly benefit from your labors. Instead of buying a house … rent! Then use the down payment you were going to put on that house and start your own business doing something that you are interested in and love. If you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life. Life is a series of choices….choose wisely!

  11. cdiver says:

    Gotta love how the unemployment rate does not include people who have been on unemployement, ran out of benefits, are still looking for work, but are no longer counted in the rate.

  12. Craig says:

    I’m from Michigan where unemployment is a state pastime. Unfortunately I was caught up in the frey and had to file bankruptcy. I used that experience as a learning tool and started my own company. I prepare bankruptcy petitions and file paperwork for others to start LLC’s and Corporations. I don’t ever want to have a “job” again.


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