The most recession-proof job sectors

Construction workerRachel Wait investigates which sectors have been hit the hardest by the recession and which have been the most resilient...

Over the past couple of years, I think it's fair to say that the job market has been more than a little unstable. After all, most of us know of someone (if not ourselves) who has been made redundant or struggled to get a job lately.

Of course, certain sectors have been hit worse than others. So in this article, I'm going to take a look at which industries have come out of the recession still fighting, and which have suffered the most.

The facts
Over 90% of the UK workforce is paid via Bacs Direct Credit. In total, Bacs Direct Credit is used for paying four million wages every week and nearly 25 million salaries a month.

So, using this information, the table below highlights the percentage changes in Bacs payroll payments per sector between August 2007 and August 2010.


Aug-07 to Aug-08

Percentage change

Aug-08 to Aug-09

Percentage change

Aug-09 to Aug-10

Percentage change

Aug-07 to Aug-10

Percentage change

Agriculture, hunting, forestry





Mining & quarrying










Electricity, gas and water supply










Wholesale and retail trade





Hotels & restaurants





Transport, storage and communication





Financial Intermediation





Real estate, renting & business activities





Public administration & defence










Health & social work





Other community, social & personal services





Source: BACS

At first glance, this data might look a little complicated. But if we focus on the last column, which shows how payroll payments have fluctuated over the past three years, you'll be able to see which industries have held up fairly well during the recession, and which have been hit the hardest.

For example, the data suggests that the agricultural industry has been fairly recession-proof. Over the past three years, there's been a small rise of almost 2.5% in salary payment volumes.

The mining sector also appears to have remained fairly resilient, with a rise of almost 8% in salary payment volumes since 2007. That said, these increases have slowed over the past couple of years.

Other fairly stable industries include the health and social work sector as well as the education sector, with these industries witnessing increases in salary payment volumes.

In comparison, it would seem that the construction industry has suffered particularly badly, with the number of Bacs salary payments falling by nearly 25% over the three year period.
Similarly, the transport, storage and communication sector witnessed a fall in salary payments of nearly 20%. And, as most of us know, this corresponds with reports that transport and construction projects suffered during the recession.

If you're in the manufacturing industry, you're also likely to have been hit hard by the recession, after payroll volumes dropped by nearly 15% during the past three years.

Meanwhile, the hospitality sector (hotels and restaurants) also appears to have struggled during the recession, with Bacs payroll payments falling by 7.5%. This is likely to be illustrative of the down-turn in the travel and entertainment industries seen during the recession.

Recession-proof your job
Okay, so technically, we're not in a recession any longer. However, times are still tough in the job market, so if you're concerned about high levels of redundancy - particularly if you're in an industry that has suffered - what can you do to ensure your job is secure?

Well, firstly, it might be an idea to consider a career change! After all, if you're in one of the sectors above which has proved to be anything but resilient, this might be the best way forward. But if that's not practical, here are five top tips to help protect your career:

#1 Be indispensible
This is the time to ensure you stand out from the crowd (in other words, your colleagues).

Arrive at the office on time and show you're eager to work. Make yourself the one person in the office your manager would hate to lose.

Work efficiently and get yourself noticed by taking an active interest in all office issues and make constructive suggestions during meetings – if you've thought of a new way to generate revenues, or cut costs, make sure you speak up.

Jump at any chance to take on more work and responsibility – providing you think you can realistically cope with the increased workload of course.

#2 Be positive
Similarly, if you have a habit of grumbling about your workload or letting off the odd sigh here and there, stop! Make it known that you enjoy your job and you're happy to be in the office.

Your boss is far less likely to let go of someone who brings a positive attitude to the office than someone who continually brings down morale.

#3 Get networking
It's always a good idea to build up a professional network as you never know when a decent opportunity might rear its head.

You can easily start this in your own office by building relationships with people in your department as well as those in other departments. You can then expand this by attending networking functions to get your face known outside the company you work for.

It may also be worth getting in touch with former bosses and colleagues to find out whether there are any job opportunities out there. After all, it's always good to know there's something to fall back on should you lose your job.

#4 Update your CV
When times are uncertain, it's really important to ensure your CV is up to date. That way, if you were to be made redundant, you won't need to waste time sorting it out and you can start applying for jobs immediately.

So make sure you're prepared and give your CV a good polish.

#5 Update your skills
It's also a good idea to ensure your skills are up to scratch. Sign up for some courses to ensure you're up to speed with the latest technology and computer programmes. That way, it will be a lot harder for your company to get rid of you and replace you with someone who already has the required training.

Not only that, but if you did lose your job, having the necessary skills is also likely to put you in a stronger position when applying for jobs. Don't forget to ask your employer if there's a training budget you can take advantage of.

Of course, you could also think about expanding your career path and moving into something a little different. Learndirect offers a range of online courses, with some only taking a few hours, and this may help you to take your career in a new direction - perhaps one that is a little more stable.

Learndirect's courses start from just £17.50, while Vision2Learn (funded by the Learning and Skills Council) offers free online courses on a variety of subjects.

This data includes monthly salaries and weekly wages. Some industry sectors may have the propensity to pay a greater number of monthly salaries or weekly wages than others and therefore the data cannot be directly compared sector by sector.

The dataset includes 14 of the 17 SIC classifications. The remaining three: Fishing; Private Households; Extra – Territorial Organisations and Bodies, are not included.

Not every type of business or public organisation has a SIC classification. Therefore, the total number of organisations included in this dataset will not represent the total number of organisations operating in the UK.

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