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Top 5 Recession-Proof Jobs—and 4 to Avoid

Jobs don’t come with guarantees, but there are some industries that fare better than others in the midst of a recession.

Written by Sara Coleman / July 5, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Although no job is 100% guaranteed, certain fields like teaching, healthcare and accounting tend to be more stable during economic downturns.
  • These jobs may require advanced degrees, specialized training or certifications, so preparing now could help you weather a severe economic storm.
  • These jobs may require advanced degrees, specialized training or certifications, so preparing now could help you weather a severe economic storm.

Your job is never guaranteed, but in recessionary times, some industries can be more stable than others. The more niche your job, the more likely you are to keep it. And if you work in an industry that provides basic and necessary services, or contributes to a company’s profit, then you’re also probably going to be okay.

Let’s dig further into what a recession is and which are the best industries to be in and jobs to have in a downturn.

Inside this article

  1. What's a recession?
  2. What makes a job recession-proof
  3. Top recession-proof jobs
  4. Worst jobs in a recession

What's a recession?

A recession is defined as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months,” according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a private, non-partisan organization focused on economic issues.[1] If it sounds a little vague, that’s because it is.

These economic periods are notoriously hard to predict. This is thanks to the many variables like unemployment, housing prices, and consumer spending feeding into the official diagnosis.[2]

How To Prepare for a Recession

How To Prepare for a Recession

Is a recession coming? Who knows. But it can't hurt to be ready for one.

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The bottom line is we know we are likely in a recession when the production of goods and services is negatively impacted, unemployment rises and our household income and spending decrease.

What makes a job recession-proof?

The only things certain in life are death and taxes.

There are, however, some professions that hold up better when times are tough.

Recession-proof jobs tend to be centered around roles we need most to function in society, says Andrew Duffy, a behavioral economics and labor expert who founded SparkPlug.app, a sales management app.

The “vice industries” are also strong in a downturn, Duffy says. They are likely to maintain the status quo or even explode from demand.

What Businesses Are Recession-Proof?

What Businesses Are Recession-Proof?

Are you selling something that is essential to daily life? Then it’s probably recession-proof. Otherwise, you might feel the squeeze in dark times.

Find out more

A prime example of the vice industries are cannabis, alcohol and tobacco. “Think of products where there is a lower cost replacement instead of someone spending it on a higher cost expenditure. So someone may be cutting back on travel expenditures, but they are putting money into cannabis or alcohol.”

Another aspect to consider is what Duffy refers to as the “Proximity to Profit Principle.”

Basically, the roles contributing the most to the company bottom line, such as salespeople, tend to be the last to go.

“Look at roles where you are generating a profit and creating more value in the business,” Duffy says. “If you identify a way to get closer to the profit, it makes [the job] more stable.”

Top recession-proof jobs

With trends seen from past economic downturns and industries with higher projected growth according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics info, we rounded up a list of top recession-proof jobs to consider.

1. Teaching

Jobs in primary, secondary, higher education and adult education will stay in-demand and relevant. We also need tutoring and non-traditional teaching methods, as education needs continue to shift as a result of COVID-19. No matter how the economy is performing, we all depend on teachers at some point either for our own educational needs or our children’s.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts educational instruction jobs to increase over 10% between 2020 to 2030, further solidifying this job prospect.[3]

2. Funeral director

Death is inevitable. For this reason alone, a funeral director’s job is likely safe no matter if there's a boom or bust around us. Funeral directors not only provide visitation and burial services; they also manage their own business. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) predicts steady growth for the industry, around 4%, from 2020 to 2030.[4]

3. Healthcare

It’s likely no surprise to you to see healthcare on the list. But just how recession-proof are health-related jobs?

The BLS asked this very question and published interesting data on the growth of healthcare during the Great Recession (defined as December 2007 through June 2009.) In a nutshell, while the economy was experiencing a devastating 10% unemployment rate, healthcare was immune to this downturn.[5] Healthcare grew nearly 32% from 2001 to 2014. After all, we’re living longer but we can’t escape illness.

Healthcare support occupations, which includes jobs like physical therapists, nursing assistants and orderlies for example, are projected to grow at a staggering rate of 23.1% through 2030.[3]

“What’s hard about recessions is that every economic downturn looks different, but typically there are industries that are truly essential such as healthcare. In theory, people need access to healthcare, even in times of recession,” Duffy says.

4. Personal care occupations

Along the lines of healthcare are jobs related to personal care. Personal care jobs include a wide range of occupations but in general help people monitor chronic conditions or manage daily activities for people with disabilities. The BLS projects these jobs to grow at an astounding rate of almost 22% through 2030. Some jobs, like home health aides, are projected even higher at 33%.[6]

5. Accountants

If numbers are your thing, then you may be happy to know accountants have great job potential, even during a recession. No matter what’s going on with discretionary spending, money is always moving and the demand for accounting services (both personal and business) is steady. While a bachelor’s degree is required, the average annual salary for accountants is over $77,000and with a projected job growth rate of 7% through 2030, the outlook for accountants is strong.[7]

Worst jobs in a recession

On the flipside, there are jobs that have proven to be unstable during economic downturns. These are the services that tend to get cut first from household budgets and industries that have suffered the most in the past.

1. Construction

Construction impacts many segments, including building new homes and offices. Ambitious projects are often put on pause during a downturn. This not only affects construction workers, but has a ripple effect with electricians, plumbers, carpenters and roofing contractors facing less demand.

2. Home furnishings

When cutbacks are needed, the new sofa or sparkling chandelier may take a backseat to school supplies or groceries. Home furnishings are often a want, and not a need, which means stores may see sales slump.

Top Jobs That Are Impacted in a Recession

Top Jobs That Are Impacted in a Recession

Jobs in essential industries like healthcare are more likely to be recession-proof. On the other hand, travel and hospitality gigs are at higher risk of getting cut in down times.

Find out more

3. Auto dealers

When the economy is suffering, people are more likely to hold on to their existing vehicles, versus purchasing a new one. We saw this firsthand during the Great Recession, when new car sales plunged 40%. Recreational vehicles, motorcycles and boats all met similar fates too.[8]

4. Vacation travel

Unsurprisingly, when families have to cut spending, it’s often with travel-related expenses. This means travel jobs, such as those centered around luxury hotels or transportation, are often the first to go.

What else can I do?

Many of the recession-proof jobs listed (and others) do require specialized training, certifications or degrees. Now may be the right time to invest in the right education for the safest position in the future.

Not only can we set ourselves up to weather tough economic conditions with certain in-demand jobs, but there are things we can do ourselves to improve our own job situation in our current roles.

“Recessions are hard on everyone—the employer and employee,” says Kathleen Quinn Votaw, chief executive officer at TalenTrust. “If you work with a great organization a recession might not affect you, but be open to contributing differently, stepping up and doing more with less resources and understanding that it is hard on everyone.”

Article Sources
  1. “'Business Cycle Dating Procedure: Frequently Asked Questions.” National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) https://www.nber.org/business-cycle-dating-procedure-frequently-asked-questions#:~:text
  2. “Why Are Recessions So Hard to Predict? Random Shocks and Business Cycles.” Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. First Quarter 2019. https://www.philadelphiafed.org/-/media/frbp/assets/economy/articles/economic-insights/2019/q1/eiq119.pdf
  3. “Employment by major occupational group.” U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. April, 19, 2022. https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/emp-by-major-occupational-group.htm
  4. “Occupational Outlook Handbook for Funeral Service Workers.” U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/funeral-service-occupations.htm#:~:text
  5. “Healthcare jobs and the Great Recession.” U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. June 2018. https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2018/article/healthcare-jobs-and-the-great-recession.htm
  6. “Occupational Outlook Handbook for Home Health and Personal Care Aides.” U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-aides-and-personal-care-aides.htm#:~:text
  7. “Occupational Outlook Handbook for Accountants and Auditors.” U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#:~:text=
  8. “Auto Sales and the 2007-09 Recession.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. July 2019. https://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/economic-synopses/2019/07/05/auto-sales-and-the-2007-09-recession

About the Author

Sara Coleman

Sara Coleman

Sara has worked as a writer and editor in the personal finance space for several years. She has written about insurance, budgeting and credit cards.

Full bio

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