Let's say you had a time machine that transported you back in time to January 2008. (It is not a very good time machine.) And let's say that, once you got there, you wanted to find work in the sector that was most likely to boom over the next six years. According to the data, you should have gone into oil. You should not have become a teacher.
A post at The New Republic drew my attention to data from the National Employment Law Project, showing how the job market evolved in the wake of the recession. The NELP's report has its flaws, TNR's Danny Vinik writes, but he pulls out that last admonition clearly. The most job losses — in terms of raw numbers — were from government at all levels. But "of the 627,000 jobs that government shed, 44 percent were from education at the local level." That's a significant drop.
It made me wonder: How did each sector fare from the height of the job market until today? Using the broad industry classifications highlighted by the Federal Reserve, I pulled data from January 2008 to March 2014 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Here's the net change in percentage for each category:
Now, this isn't total jobs, just the change since January 2008. So construction jobs dropped 20 percent; mining and logging (and oil drilling and other things) jobs went up by the same amount. But there are still more construction jobs.
It's particularly interesting to look at how those sectors changed by month, relative to that January 2008 baseline. So we made that, too, with a neat little mouseover tool for you to explore.
A few things to note. First, that big spike in the federal jobs data is the census. It is an outlier. Second, it's interesting to see how the recession caused a huge dip in mining and logging — and that it quickly recovered. And, third, that a number of the sectors ended up below water for the six-year period, including those local government jobs.
So there's your answer. Get in your time machine, and head back to 2008. Then, drive to North Dakota, where you will be working on the featureless, wind-whipped plains for months on end, drilling oil. You said you wanted a job. You didn't say you wanted to enjoy it.