Special Report

The Easiest (and Hardest) Jobs to Keep

4. Graders and sorters, agricultural products
> Unemployment rate, 2014: 17.9%
> Median annual pay, 2012: $19,150
> Employment change, 2012-2022: -2.0%

Graders and sorters of agricultural products, examine unprocessed food and other agricultural products to grade, sort and classify them by certain characteristics. Although employment projections for 2022 are not meaningfully linked to 2014 unemployment rates among occupations, graders and sorters had low prospects by both measures. While the majority of occupations are expected to grow at least modestly, the grading and sorting profession will shrink by 2%, according to BLS projections. As with the majority of professions with poor job security, agricultural product sorters are also paid relatively low wages. The median income among workers in the profession was less than $20,000 in 2012, among the lower incomes of any profession.

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3. Helpers, construction trades
> Unemployment rate, 2014: 20.2%
> Median annual pay, 2012: $26,570
> Employment change, 2012-2022: 30.6%

More than one in five experienced helpers and workers in construction trades were unemployed last year, the third highest unemployment rate among all occupations. However, the profession is expected to grow by nearly 31% by 2022, one of the highest growth rates reviewed. The optimism is due in part to the country’s aging infrastructure, which will need to be repaired, according to the BLS. Such construction workers still received relatively low wages. A typical laborer in the profession earned $26,570 in 2012, one of the lowest incomes reviewed. Construction employment is likely more closely tied to economic conditions than other professions. Housing projects, for example, fell dramatically during the mortgage crisis. Construction trades in many areas across the country are still recovering.

2. Telemarketers
> Unemployment rate, 2014: 21.8%
> Median annual pay, 2012: $22,330
> Employment change, 2012-2022: 7.7%

As is the case with several other professions with low job security, telemarketers typically work under intense pressure. Earnings in the profession are usually closely tied to job performance in the form of commissions and sales incentives. Job pressure may partly explain the poor perception many Americans have of telemarketers. When asked to rate honest and ethical standards among workers in a range of professions, people had some of the worst opinions of telemarketers, according to a Gallup poll. Telemarketers also earn relatively low wages, with a median income of $22,330 in 2012, one of the lowest incomes reviewed.

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1. Actors
> Unemployment rate, 2014: 32.7%
> Median annual pay, 2012: N/A
> Employment change, 2012-2022: 4.1%

With the rise in digital devices usage in recent years, the consumption of performing arts media, and the demand for actors, are on the rise. Yet, there are still far more actors than are needed. Nearly one-third of professional actors were unemployed in 2013, by far the highest rate among all occupations reviewed. Many actors receive qualification through education, while others succeed without any formal training. As the skills and knowledge necessary for a particular role often vary widely between jobs, actors usually continue to train and hone their skills over the entire course of their careers. Lifelong learning is perhaps more important for actors than for those in other professions, because one acting job will not necessarily lead to another. The low job security in the acting profession further explains the remarkably high unemployment rate among professional actors.