Recession-Proof Jobs

I sometimes get questions from people wondering what kinds of jobs will be safest in the future. I always recommend that people look for something that interests them in either the energy or health care field. I am not as familiar with the manpower issues in the health care field, but we have serious shortages in the energy sector.

This is also consistent with my investment strategy. I invest primarily in energy, health care, international stocks, and environmental companies. Today, Yahoo published an article that suggests that these sectors – plus the education and security sectors – are exactly where jobs will be safest from a recession:

Recession-Proof Jobs in 2008

John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, told Yahoo! HotJobs that careers in the following fields may offer a good chance of weathering a storm this year.

* Education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has historically shown teaching to be relatively recession-proof. But demographics are important: High-growth areas like the Sun Belt offer much better prospects than the Rust Belt.

* Energy. “This is a major issue for the global economy, and jobs related to oil and gas, alternative energy and even nuclear are likely to see strong growth,” Challenger said.

* Health care. Almost half the 30 fastest growing occupations are concentrated in health services — including medical assistants, physical therapists, physician assistants, home health aides, and medical records and health information technicians — according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

* International business. “If you have a strong knowledge of other cultures, and an ability to work in another country, you’ll find plenty of opportunities,” according to John Challenger. “If you’re first generation Chinese, with business skills and Chinese language skills, you’re in good shape.

* Environmental sector. There is a huge and growing industry geared to combat global warming. “Not only will professionals with skills in sustainability issues be in demand through the end of the decade, we are likely to shortages of professionals with ‘green’ skills,” said Rona Fried, president of, a networking service for sustainable businesses.

* Security. “Crime doesn’t stop during a recession, and police officers, port security specialists and international security experts will continue to be in demand,” Challenger emphasized.

The article also warned that anything around the housing sector was a danger zone:

“The housing slump will touch anything related to housing, from real estate to investment banks, to engineering and architecture,” Koropeckyj said. Though public sector jobs grew at a fast clip in the last five years, state and local government jobs are likely to slow as home values, and, consequently, tax revenues, sink.

The housing slump could even extend to industries dependent on discretionary spending, like restaurants and retail, she indicated. Manufacturing, too, long in dire need of an upswing, is likely to keep waiting for one through 2008, Koropeckyj said.

People are going to need energy, even though they may despise the people that provide it for them. They are going to need health care. Find an interest in those fields, and you should have a relatively stable job.

13 thoughts on “Recession-Proof Jobs”

  1. There is lots and lots of demand in the building commissioning field. My company is interviewing like mad (if you’re interested, email me), and recruiters are constantly pestering me.

    New building commissioning may get hit by a recession, though I kind of doubt it: commercial buildings will still get built, though at a slower pace, but an increasingly large fraction of them will require commissioning. So the commissioning industry will likely grow even if the overall building sector suffers.

    Retrocommissioning (i.e. existing buildings) is almost certain to continue to grow. As energy prices go up, it becomes a really attractive option. And alot of retro work (at least in CA) is funded by utility programs. I think it very unlikely that those programs will be cut, even as budgets get increasingly tight. (And if they are, that would be a sign to me that we have passed the point where there is any hope of recovery, since at that stage we’re basically burning the furniture for heat.)

  2. “I sometimes get questions from people wondering what kinds of jobs will be safest in the future.”

    * Funeral directors — People will always die and it is a needed job that is almost impossible to transfer offshore.

    * Skilled service jobs — Such as plumbers. A plumber (or any other technician) who knows his/her job, does quality work, and is dependable and honest can virtually name their price and will never lack for work.

  3. The interesting thing about times like these is the opportunity for introspection, about goals, risk, and ultimately satisfaction.

    I think it’s good to follow a plan or strategy for risk set in saner times, but dangerous to jump or change plans on “news.”

    It is quiet the experiment in risk assessment though, no question.

  4. Recession? It’s boom times in Regina, Saskatchewan. Everything here was severely undervalued and the economy is in a major growth period.

    1. Grain, fertilizer and oil prices are up.
    2. One of the largest Uranium deposits in the world
    3. The largest potash deposit and several operating potash, nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer plants.
    4. Plenty of undeveloped oil and due to the recent botching of Alberta’s oil royalties almost all of the oil/gas exploration is happening here
    5. The real estate has jumped, but the major cities are still relatively small. There is almost unlimited cheap land within a 1/2 hour drive from all the major centers.
    6. The local refinery/upgrader is going forward on a $1 billion expansion
    7. CP rail is moving their main yard out just out of town
    8. GM is planning a major North American parts distribution facility here
    9. A few hundred years worth of easy access coal
    10. A major kimberlite discovery in northern Saskatchewan
    11. North America’s largest wheat based ethanol facility will come online this spring
    12. The most housing starts last year in the past 30 years. A lot of this is due to people cashing out of Calgary and Edmonton and moving back here to avoid the long commute

    And… you can watch your dog run away for 3 days!

  5. Farmer. Yes, I read Staniford’s “The Fallacy of Reversibility,” but I still see a world food crisis. Farmers will be busy, and making money.

  6. greenengineer,

    I’ll be looking for apprentice HVAC/R employment in Jan.’09.

    I’m unfamiliar with ‘building commissioning field’. I have just googled it. But, I wonder if you have a link or two that you’d recommend to get up to speed ?


  7. BOSTON (Dow Jones) — Paul Larson, editor of the Morningstar Stock Investor newsletter, says that while the market’s downturn has made almost everything a bit cheaper it has not made every stock a bargain.

    In a radio interview with Chuck Jaffe, MarketWatch senior columnist, Larson noted that some stocks have gone from being “really, really expensive to being merely expensive. Those stocks are not worth buying yet.”

    Larson noted that “Volatility is back in style right now” and stressed that ” with your limited amount of money you need to focus on your very best ideas. Something may be mildly undervalued and if you buy it instead of something that is deeply undervalued you are not maximizing your investment dollar.”

    To that end, Larson put buy recommendations on Chesapeake Energy (CHK), Conocophillips (COP), Mueller Water Products (MWA), Bank of America (BAC) and Walgreen (WAG).

  8. Since we are speaking to Hypothetical Youngsters on The Internets … I was an active investor in my late twenties. I didn’t have much money because I’d just started working and had a new mortgage. That allowed me to make a little money, but also to “learn my lessons” much cheaper than if I’d started later.

    I learned not to trust inside information from my friend the accountant, for instance, and it only cost me a $600 loss.

    I learned not to bottom-fish for a few hundred more.

    I also learned that for me to actively manage individual stocks I need to put in an hour a day, and more on weekends. (I used to read Barrons cover-to-cover.)

    I think it’s important to figure out how much time you personally would need to dedicate, and only get into active trading if you can commit to that.

    I decided I wasn’t that interested, and I fell back to simpler instruments … essentially balancing S&P 500 Index Funds (or similar) and interest bearing vehicles (5% CDs were too good to pass up)

    Some reputable people suggest that we should stick to Index Funds, and stop trying to fool ourselves.

    So I’m not saying “don’t be a stock picker,” I’m saying don’t do it casually, and don’t think that you can just let your picks ride without attention.

    Another recurring lesson in the stock markets is the danger of Status Quo Bias. It’s easier to get into something that to get out again.


    Oh, the book “The Winner’s Curse” is loaded to the gills with things I wish I knew in my 20s.

  9. Another industry is water. Either utility or any of attendant first or second tier subcontractors.

    Depends of course on your local billing structure, but the infrastructure ain’t getting any younger and there’s plenty of money to see it done.

    Guess which industry I work in…..


  10. A great article.

    To survive a recession in the good days you have to ensure that you blow your own trumpet. Meaning that the management should feel that you add tremendous value and to make that happen you will have to let the management know, directly or indirectly, what you have done or achieved and how much value you have added. If you do not do that in the good times you would be the first to get the pink slip because you would be perceived as a resource who does not add value.

    Your ability to multi task can hold you in good stead as well. Therefore try and multi task at your job.

    Anyway informative blog and the comments are even better.

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