Are there any recession-proof industries? And which recession-proof jobs should you be looking for?
With COVID-19 putting so many people across the world out of work, it begs the question: “Are there any recession-proof businesses?” To find out, we looked into both businesses that are succeeding in spite of the current pandemic and industries that performed well during the Great Recession.
You can read a breakdown of how we calculated these results in our methodology.
Top 10 industries least affected by the COVID-19 recession
1. Mortgage and non-mortgage loan brokers
The mortgage and nonmortgage loan industries have done surprisingly well during the recession, seeing employment grow from 89,300 in January 2020 to 102,500 employees by September 2020, an increase of 13,200 employees or 14.78%.
People working in this industry also saw the hours they were working increase by about 4.62%, from 36.8 hours in January to 38.5 hours in September 2020.
Best of all, mortgage and nonmortgage loan brokers saw their weekly wages increase between January and September 2020 — jumping from $1,404.29 to $1,609.30, an increase of $205.01, or 14.6%.
2. Miscellaneous professional and similar organizations
A far more ambiguous job title than “mortgage broker,” this term describes professionals such as those working for condominium and homeowners’ associations, tenants’ associations — except advocacy — and the like. Employment in these roles jumped by 11,400 employees, or 6.9%.
They also saw their weekly hours increase from 31.8 hours before the coronavirus outbreak to 33.2 hours in September, an increase of 1.4 hours, or 4.4%. And their weekly wages jumped from $781.01 in January to $878.80 in September, a growth of $97.79, or 12.52%.
3. Surgical appliances and supplies
It probably comes as no surprise that this profession made the list considering what’s happening in 2020. Employment in the industry expanded from 105,200 in January to 113,100 employees by September 2020. This is an increase of 7,900 employees, or 7.51%. While it may not be the only reason this industry made the list, it’s surprising there wasn’t even more growth considering the need for PPE.
Hours worked in the industry ramped up, with employees working an additional 0.5 hours a week, an increase of 1.34%, jumping from 37.2 to 37.7 hours per week in September. Average wages also grew, jumping 9.66% from $1,010.72 in January to $1,108.38 in September — a growth of $97.66.
4. Other building exterior contractors
Back to ambiguous business descriptions with this group of employees who work in structure trade work and foundation. Repairs, maintenance, alterations, additions and new work are included. But there are several exceptions, including roofing, siding, masonry, framing and poured concrete, among others.
Employment in this industry saw a decent bump from 46,100 in January to 50,500 employees in September 2020 — an increase of 4,400 employees, or 9.54%. Hours for these workers increased by 3.48%, jumping from 37.4 hours in January to 38.7 hours. Weekly earnings also rose by 4.39%, from $1,059.54 in January to $1,106.05 in September.
5. Supermarkets and other grocery stores
Panic-buying might be behind the jump in the number of people employed by supermarkets and grocery stores. The number of employees went from over 2.5 million in January 2020 to over 2.6 million by September 2020 — an increase of 3.49%.
The hours worked by these employees went up by 2.92%, from 30.8 hours in January to 31.7 hours in September. Wages also jumped 14.77% from $492.18 in January to $564.89 in September.
6. Sporting goods
One of the biggest talking points at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak was that sporting equipment such as kettlebells were selling out all over the place because of gym closures. The sporting goods industry saw its ranks swell from 53,600 to 55,800 employees in September 2020 — an increase of 2,200 employees, or 4.1%.
Weekly hours worked by employees jumped by two whole hours, an increase of 5.35%, from 37.4 to 39.4 hours. Weekly wages also had a tidy increase of 7.32%, up $73.04 from $997.46 in January to $1,070.50 in September 2020.
7. Packaging and labeling services
Another industry that has managed to thrive during the pandemic is packaging and labeling services — unsurprising, as social distancing is increasing our need to shop and send items via mail.
Employment in this industry only rose by 0.78%, increasing from 64,400 to 64,900 employees. Weekly hours worked increased by 2.59% — jumping from 38.6 hours to 39.6 hours. Employees in this industry got a windfall, with wages rising by 13.63% from $763.89 in January to $868.03 in September.
8. Other activities related to real estate
This ambiguously titled industry comprises real estate services outside of real estate agent and broker offices, property managers, offices of appraisers and lessors.
Employment in this industry rose by 1.93%, jumping from 67,200 to 68,500. Weekly hours climbing by 1.05% — from 38.1 to 38.5 hours. And wages saw a healthy bump of 11.95%, meaning weekly take-home pay went from $1,342.26 in January to $1,502.66 in September.
9. Direct title insurance and other direct insurance carriers
With those in the mortgage industry seeing their ranks rise during the coronavirus outbreak, it may not shock you to see that those providing title insurance and other direct insurance products are also doing well.
Employment in this industry grew steadily by 2.02% between January and September, with the number of employees going from 93,900 to 95,8000. The hours worked by employees were also up, going from 37.8 hours at the start of the year to 39.8 hours in September. And wages increased by 8.86% — from 1,358.91 to $1,479.37.
10. Veterinary services
It wasn’t just household staples and workout equipment that was selling out at the beginning of the pandemic; shelters across the nation saw an uptick in pets getting adopted. This may explain why pet services saw an increase in its ranks. Employees increased by 3.43%, from 408,300 people employed in January 2020 to 422,300 employees in September 2020.
Hours worked by those in this profession went from 29.9 hours to 30.8 hours, up 3.01%. And weekly wages jumped from $738.53 in January to $770.92 in September — an increase of 4.39%.
Industries least affected by the COVID-19 recession, ranked
|Rank||Industry||Change in employment||Change in weekly hours||Change in weekly earnings||Scoring – Higher is more recession-proof|
|1||Mortgage and nonmortgage loan brokers||14.78%||4.62%||14.60%||33.51|
|2||Miscellaneous professional and similar organizations||6.9%||4.4%||12.52%||20.75|
|3||Surgical appliances and supplies||7.51%||1.34%||9.66%||18.39|
|4||Other building exterior contractors||9.54%||3.48%||4.39%||17.97|
|5||Supermarkets and other grocery stores||3.49%||2.92%||14.77%||17.17|
|7||Packaging and labeling services||0.78%||2.59%||13.63%||12.36|
|8||Other activities related to real estate||1.93%||1.05%||11.95%||12.19|
|9||Direct title insurance and other direct insurance carriers||2.02%||5.29%||8.86%||11.41|
|11||Nursery, garden and farm supply stores||3.39%||0.89%||5.15%||9.00|
|14||Household appliance stores||1.26%||3.87%||5.05%||6.94|
|15||Offices of mental health practitioners||1.89%||1.09%||4.98%||6.83|
|16||All other financial investment activities, including funds and trusts||1.43%||1.32%||5.62%||6.74|
|17||Research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences||1.63%||0.53%||3.12%||4.85|
|18||Direct life and health insurance carriers||0.54%||0.76%||4.65%||4.55|
|19||Semiconductors and related devices||0.64%||1.98%||2.45%||3.45|
|20||Grains and field beans||1.21%||0.48%||2.06%||3.44|
|21||Research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences, except nanotechnology and biotechnology||0.11%||0.78%||2.00%||1.95|
Industries least affected by the Great Recession
Two deep recessions in such quick succession was certainly not expected — and both their impacts on various industries were quite different. Grantmaking foundations were the top performer during the Great Recession. They saw a 44.95% increase in employment, an additional 5.62% of work per week and with salaries increasing by 17.81%. Other top performing industries included pet care services — except veterinary — and telephone call centers.
Industries least affected by the Great Recession, ranked
|Rank||Industry||Change in employment||Change in weekly hours||Change in weekly earnings||Scoring – Higher is more recession-proof|
|2||Pet care services, except veterinary||9.04%||12.72%||13.14%||29.07|
|3||Telephone call centers||2.09%||12.54%||19.15%||25.14|
|5||All other insurance-related activities||1.5%||2.96%||27.71%||22.33|
|6||Offices of mental health practitioners||6.87%||7.80%||12.04%||21.91|
|8||Miscellaneous outpatient care centers||8.25%||1.57%||9.08%||16.44|
|9||Continuing care retirement communities||12.3%||0.32%||2.41%||15.53|
|10||Process and logistics consulting services||2.18%||9.76%||6.91%||14.91|
|11||Offices of all other health practitioners||8.37%||0.69%||4.51%||12.84|
|12||Offices of physicians, except mental health||3.35%||1.50%||7.48%||9.870|
|14||Grains and field beans||7.27%||0.97%||1.30%||9.73|
|15||Residential property managers||2.50%||2.69%||6.92%||9.53|
Are there any industries that have handled the Great Recession and COVID-19 recession well?
As you can see from the previous two sections, there’s not a lot of overlap in regards to industries performing better in both recessions. However, if we look solely at employment growth as a measure of success, there are some similarities.
Industries with positive employment growth during both the COVID-19 recession and the Great Recession
|Sector||Industry||Great Recession – from January 2008 to January 2010||COVID-19 — from January 2020 to September 2020|
|Manufacturing||Small arms, ammunition and other ordnance and accessories||1.67%||5.76%|
|Manufacturing||Guided missiles, space vehicles and parts||0.92%||1.25%|
|Wholesale trade||Grains and field beans||7.27%||1.21%|
|Retail trade||Children’s and infants’ clothing stores||3.95%||35.51%|
|Retail trade||All other general merchandise stores||2.29%||2.79%|
|Information||Internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals.||11.30%||2.20%|
|Finance and insurance||Miscellaneous intermediation||2.46%||7.96%|
|Finance and insurance||Investment advice||0.28%||1.28%|
|Finance and insurance||Direct life and health insurance carriers||2.41%||0.54%|
|Finance and insurance||Direct life insurance carriers||5.37%||1.69%|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||Other technical consulting services||8.35%||0.75%|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||Research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences||1.69%||1.63%|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||Research and development in biotechnology, except nanobiotechnology||0.15%||4.58%|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||Research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences, except nanotechnology and biotechnology||2.31%||0.11%|
|Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services||Remediation services||2.66%||0.43%|
|Health care and social assistance||Offices of mental health practitioners||6.87%||1.89%|
|Health care and social assistance||Kidney dialysis centers||6.13%||0.23%|
|Health care and social assistance||Freestanding emergency medical centers||10.82%||0.06%|
|Health care and social assistance||Community food services||1.06%||2.43%|
|Accommodation and food services||All other traveler accommodation and rooming and boarding houses||3.83%||5.31%|
|Federal government||Federal hospitals||12.65%||0.97%|
|Federal government||Department of defense||9.30%||2.71%|
|Federal government||Other federal government||10.14%||19.12%|
Keeping your business funded during COVID-19
At the time of writing, there are no additional stimulus plans. But there are other ways you might be able to keep your business afloat, especially in the face of a new wave of lockdowns.
While you shouldn’t take out a loan if you can’t afford to pay it back — or don’t know if you’ll be able to pay it back — it can sometimes be a necessity to stay afloat. Since the Paycheck Protection Program has ended, you may want to look into an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
If your business doesn’t qualify for a disaster loan or you don’t want to wait for funds to come in, you may want to look into an online lender. A connection service like Lendio may help you get in contact with a provider that can help your business get financing.
To do determine which businesses were most recession-proof, we looked at the percentage change in:
- The number of people employed in each industry — worth a maximum of 50 points
- The average number of weekly hours — worth a maximum of 15 points
- The average weekly earnings — worth a maximum of 35 points
for each industry from January 2020 to September 2020 (the most recent month with complete data) for the COVID-19 recession and from January 2008 to January 2010 for the Great Recession, to determine which businesses were least impacted, or grew, during each recession. Industries with the highest point total were considered the most recession-proof.
We looked only at industries that had the positive growth in the number of people employed in each industry and in average weekly earnings. We also excluded Federal/Government businesses.
Employment data was sourced from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Industry classifications for the CES and equivalent NAICS codes can be found from the BLS. Descriptions of each industry were sourced from the NAICS Association.
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