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Job Unemployment Rates

Posted By Jim On 01/31/2011 @ 7:02 am In Career | 12 Comments

Planet Money, one of my favorite NPR programs, just posted a list of the occupations [3] 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 [4] 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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[3] list of the occupations: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/01/12/132859364/which-jobs-have-the-highest-and-lowest-unemployment-rates

[4] interactive tool: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703791904576075652301620440.html

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