What are the best jobs in a recession? That depends on what you goals are. Mostly they are the same jobs as at any other time. If you are working to make the most money you can, they are high-paying jobs. If you are working to train yourself for a future business, they are the jobs that accomplish that for you.
Let’s assume though, that the question refers to the best jobs in a recession based on the security or the likelihood that there will not be layoffs. In that case, look to the industries that both maintain their sales during a recession and those that actually benefit from it. The former would be retailers of cheap necessities, like WalMart. Their sales have not changed significantly with the downturn in the economy. Others in this category include any discount stores that primarily sell necessities, as well as most utility companies (we still light our houses). Within this category you might still want to look for those jobs that offer opportunities for advancement.
Companies that do better during a recession interestingly include movie theaters – at least during bad recessions. Sales are up at most theaters around the country. The jobs available at them are fairly secure then, although these too are low-paying, so you might again look for the companies that have advancement opportunities. Law offices specializing in bankruptcy law also do better during tough times, as do repossession companies. I can tell you from experience that you better enjoy the thrill of doing auto repossessions, because the pay is not usually that good.
Of course a job can be lost during good or bad times, so perhaps a better approach to always having income coming in is to have job skills that enable you to work in any economic climate. These are what I call survival jobs. They are primarily in those industries with high turnover, so that if you have the skills you only have to wait a bit for a position to open up.
For example, virtually all restaurant jobs have high turnover. Even as restaurants are going out of business, others are hiring dishwashers. If you have experience waiting tables you can not only find a job in a matter of weeks almost anywhere in the country at any time in the business cycle, but you can also pay the bills with such a job. Unlike dishwashers, wait staff usually can make decent wages because of the tips. If you have experience in high-end places, you’ll have even more options, and the possibility of making truly decent pay.
Bartending and serving drinks in bars and pubs is another great survival job. Once you have the experience on your resume, you once again have the ability to get a job almost anywhere. Here in our little Colorado town dishwashers get $7.50 per hour, but a bartender at the local pub can make double that or more. A friend just moved out of state to work at a Margaritaville, and tells me that $200 per night in tips alone is not that rare.
The Job You Have
Perhaps the best jobs in a recession are those that people already have and like. To hold onto what you got, don’t be a complainer, do a decent job, make sure your boss knows you’re doing a good job, and talk to those in human resources to see what part of the company is most secure, so you can transfer into that division. Also keep in mind that having a job does not prevent you from preparing your resume and looking for better opportunities.