15 Jobs That Are Most Vulnerable to a Recession

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Sideview of a Frustrated Senior Woman Sitting At Her Desk with Her Hands Covering Her Face, Elbows on the Desk, in Front of a Desktop Computer, As Seen Through a Glass Window

Vulnerable Vocations

Recessions can be stressful for any wage earner, but some jobs are far more vulnerable than others during times of economic crisis. The next slowdown is predicted to be right around the corner, with a 98% chance of a global recession. Big Tech companies like Google and Meta have already started laying off workers, while chipmaker Intel may be reducing its workforce in a sizable way. Though employees in many industries are vulnerable, jobs in several distinct sectors are at greatest risk of loss or dramatic reduction during a recession.

Related: 50 Ways to Prepare for a Recession

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Big Tech Workers

With a recession looming, even tech giants like Microsoft, Meta, and Google have started feeling the heat. Microsoft has laid off 1,800 staffers and slowed hiring, while Meta has frozen hiring and informed employees that for the first time in its history, it's cutting jobs. Now semiconductor-maker Intel may be planning to reduce its workforce by 20%, driven by a stagnant PC market and to help cut costs. More than 22,000 employees could be on the chopping block, according to Bloomberg, which detailed how factors stemming from a rapid economic decline coupled with a disappointing financial forecast in July led to the decision to cut jobs.

Related: The Most Satisfying Jobs That Also Pay Well

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Anything That Can Be Automated

The next recession will coincide with the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, putting at risk any jobs that a computer or robot can do faster and better. "If companies can use cheaper software and robotics that gets the job done faster and more accurately, it would undoubtedly affect people’s job security," says Yaniv Masjedi, chief marketing officer at business communications firm Nextiva.

The most vulnerable jobs are in manufacturing, secretarial, inventory management, and food service, Masjedi says. "Since these are highly repetitive, automation can replace such a workforce with robots that can mimic the movements with 99% accuracy, reducing the risk of failures and error tremendously."

Related: 45 Jobs That'll Soon Be Lost to Automation 

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Hospitality and Tourism Jobs

The hospitality and tourism industry will be "slow to recover or may never recover," says Jodi L. Standke, CEO of business-consulting firm Talon Performance Group. Even with pandemic limitations lifted, in recessions not related to pandemics, these industries are often hit first and worst because they rely on discretionary income, which is tight or nonexistent for many during difficult economic times.

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Arts and Entertainment Jobs

The arts and entertainment industry was slammed by the COVID-19 crisis simply because people weren't able to go to the theater or movies in many places, and, even with restrictions lifted they’re not going back in the same numbers. Like tourism and travel, arts and entertainment expenditures require discretionary income. It’s an easy and obvious choice for the chopping block when financial belts are being tightened.

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Legal Assistant

Legal assistant positions could be headed for extinction or something close to it, Talon's Standke says, an outcome attributable to technology that allows lawyers to perform many of the legal assistant’s traditional duties on their own. Instead of disappearing altogether, a hybrid position might emerge, Standke says. "The legal administrative assistant may morph into a legal assistant/paralegal role with lawyers and paraprofessionals doing more with technology and for themselves."

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Leisure Industry Jobs

This industry, which includes businesses focused on recreation, entertainment, sports, and tourism, will continue to take a hard hit, says Andrew Roderick, CEO of creditrepaircompanies.com. "Of industries that are most at risk … leisure and hospitality industries have seen the largest immediate impact as a result of restrictions on large gatherings of people," Roderick says. "Leisure and hospitality industries are also expected to face continued headwinds, and as they employ the most workers of vulnerable industries, potential layoffs will affect the most people."

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Retail Jobs

The writing has long been on the wall for the retail industry, with sacred cows like Sears and Toy R Us falling victim to the unstoppable tide of online shopping. The pandemic shutdown only accelerated the inevitable. "With the rise of e-commerce sites and only-online retailers, physical stores will soon be a window," says Laura Jimenez, an executive at B2B software provider Traffic Truffle.

On the bright side, Jimenez believes that while many retail positions will disappear, the people who fill those jobs might simply be repurposed for online positions. "Retailers must think of a strategy to keep their workers in the online purchasing process," Jimenez notes. "Positions at the store may disappear, but retailers do need to take better care of their online purchase process, so new positions might appear here."

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Human Resources Positions

As jobs in traditional industries like retail disappear, the professionals who vet, hire, onboard, manage, and maintain those workers become vulnerable themselves. "HR professionals have been the other losers of this battle," Jimenez says. "Millions of professionals from this industry have been left behind as many companies have closed their hiring processes to reduce costs. HR professionals may not disappear 100%, but a large portion of them will be reduced at maximum."

Related: No Experience? No Problem With These Work-From-Home Jobs

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Restaurant Workers

When economic times are tough, dining out is one the first luxuries to go for most households, making these service jobs among the most vulnerable during any recession. As many as 13.4 million jobs are considered vulnerable in this industry, according to a McKinsey report "Restaurants are closing all over the country because of varying dine-in restrictions," says Alan Borch, CEO of Dotcom Dollar. "While many have ramped up their food-delivery offerings, this might not be sustainable financially."

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Casino Workers

Though lottery sales are generally recession-proof, casinos are frequently among the hardest hit during a recession. Add to that the rise of gambling digitization and automation, and a near-future recession might be an economic tsunami for casino workers. Also, the fallout from the pandemic continues to be felt in the casino industry. "Due to safety distance regulations, casinos, which are usually in closed spaces, started decreasing the number of people in their facilities and turned toward digitalization," says Eduardo Litonjua, founder of Passive Income Tree. "Soon, we will see fewer casino workers, as everything will be digitized."

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Cosmetologists, Stylists, and Barbers

Though hygiene products are consumer staples, beauty services are discretionary and people tend to wait longer between trips to the salon or barber during times of economic uncertainty. In the face of a pandemic, this kind of up-close, hands-on work was especially vulnerable. "Beauty salons and barbers help us look good, but in a recession, people will take care of their (own) appearance in order to save money," says Max Edwards, founder of economic/lifestyle site Chances to Live the Millennial's Lifestyle.

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During recessions, people are more likely to do their own taxes and manage their own money until the storm clouds clear — but it’s not just individuals who stop hiring accountants during difficult economic times. "There will also be less demand for accountants if businesses are failing and eventually shut down," Edwards says. Though the true scale of the carnage is yet to be seen, it’s certain that hundreds of thousands of businesses closed permanently in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown, and the accountants who served them could go down with the ship.

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Warehousing Jobs

Warehousing jobs have long been vulnerable to the rise of automation and, according to the IBIS report, that dynamic may only get worse in the face of a recession. With manufacturing activity expected to decline, warehousing jobs — connected directly to the fate of the manufacturing sector — are likely to dry up even faster.

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Transportation Jobs

A decline in the manufacturing, warehousing, and mining/energy sectors is expected to impact the number of jobs in the trucking industry, which plays a critical role in the supply chain for those industries. But he biggest hits in transportation are anticipated to be suffered by those who work in the industries that have already been hardest hit by the coronavirus — the cruise industry, scenic and sightseeing transportation, and the biggest of them all, the airline industry.

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Real Estate Jobs

Finally, there’s real estate, an industry that is expected to take heat from downturns on both the residential and commercial sides. Sales of homes and condos are expected to slump as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, while the demand for retail and office space could be affected by reduced need for commercial space with fewer customers visiting stores and employers reducing the number of workers.