Worried About Your Job? What Sectors Are at Risk
What To Do
It doesn't always come down to occupation, of course.
When times get tight in the public and private sector, layoffs are often dictated by seniority.
"Younger workers and people returning to labor force after an extended absence [including mothers who took time off to raise their kids] are much closer to the forces of the labor market," says Schmitt. "Once you're in a job for a length of time, particularly if it's a big corporation, you're a little more insulated. It's the new people who are right there in the gale force winds and don't have as much protection."
Those who earn the least in our economy are also more vulnerable to economic pressures regardless of whether they lose their job.
"Anyone in the bottom half or third of the wage distribution really gets affected, not just because they are more likely to be laid off but because rising unemployment puts a lot of pressure on the wages and benefits of those who keep their job," says Schmitt.
Such jobs include cooks, janitors, child-care workers, laborers and freight workers, packers, cafeteria workers, cleaners, cashiers and food preparation workers.
When times were good, from 1996 through 2000, low wage service workers held all the bargaining chips, demanding higher pay and better benefits.
These days, the tables have turned.
"Those who lose their jobs are obviously affected, but those who remain will not be getting pay raises and inflation will just keep ticking along [reducing their real income]," says Schmitt, who predicts employers will start shifting the burden of rising healthcare premiums along to employees. "We're already starting to see that happening."
A recent congressional study found that during the 2001 recession, women not only lost jobs disproportionately, but never saw their employment rates recover to their pre-recession peak.
The report shows that the female employment rate in 2008 is about 6 percentage points below where it should be today had the trend line between 1948 and 2000 continued.
"Because women are disproportionately represented in state and local government services, their job losses are likely to grow in the latter part of the recession as state and local governments are forced to implement cut-backs in spending in areas that women are disproportionately employed, such as education and health care," an executive summary of the study notes.
WHAT TO DO?
Of course, just because you're in a vulnerable sector, doesn't mean you're going to lose your job.
The best way to insulate your job against recession is to ensure your boss is well aware of your accomplishments and the expertise you bring to the table.
If the layoff writing is on the wall, however, it's time to get your resume up to date.
"Recognize that you are a free agent," says Challenger. "Sometimes it's better to make a proactive move than a reactive search after you've been laid off. If you feel your risk is going up at your current company, you might consider another position."
(This story has been updated since its original publish date of Sept. 4.)