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Most common jobs in America 100 years ago

  • #40. Lumberman, raftsmen, and woodchoppers

    - Total employment in 1920: 205,315

    Gone are the days of scores of outdoorsmen heading out into the forest to chop wood. However, the demand for items like paper and lumber is still high, so this industry is not fading away any time soon. High-tech equipment expedites the time needed to break down wood for various uses, but many of those machines still need operators.

  • #39. Shoe factories, semiskilled operatives

    - Total employment in 1920: 206,225

    A century ago, a majority of shoes were made to serve multiple purposes—running shoes, for example, weren’t a luxury to be found. While there are significantly more types of shoes being produced, that doesn’t lead to many more Americans working in shoe factories. Many shoes that are worn in the U.S. are produced overseas.

  • #38. Plumbers and gas and steam fitters

    - Total employment in 1920: 206,718

    In 2019, there are more than 500,000 plumbers in the U.S. The plumbing market size accounts for almost $110 billion, making this a thriving industry that has survived recent changes. With America growing with new cities and bigger buildings, plumbing has consequently benefitted from all the new construction.

  • #37. Electricians

    - Total employment in 1920: 212,964

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there were 715,400 electrician jobs in 2018, more than three times the amount in 1920. This profession, which earns an average of over $55,000 per year, remains a solid blue-collar option, as work is always available in abundance.

  • #36. Barbers, hairdressers, and manicurists

    - Total employment in 1920: 216,211

    The number of barbers, hairdressers, and manicurists employed in 1920 is somewhat astonishing, considering there are only about 20,000 barbers alone in America in 2019. Manicurists (and pedicurists) close the gap with over 156,000 registered employees. Despite the presence of high-end salons and spas, these occupations remain relatively low-paying. 

  • #35. Blacksmiths, forgemen, and hammermen

    - Total employment in 1920: 221,421

    The idea of a blacksmith is more obsolete today, but many workers still perform similar tasks. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers make up about 425,000 jobs in the U.S., working more so with metals than iron to construct many of the products that blacksmiths created a century ago.

  • #34. Housekeepers and stewards

    - Total employment in 1920: 221,612

    The number of maids and housekeepers has quadrupled over the past 100 years, according to the BLS. Many housekeepers are part-time or freelance workers. Apps like TaskRabbit make it easy for anyone with spare time to pick up work cleaning spaces—while a large number of housekeepers and stewards in the early 20th century were full-time employees.

  • #33. Soldiers, sailors and marines

    - Total employment in 1920: 225,503

    In June 2019, there were 1,177,731 active military personnel, with almost 780,000 reserves. After World War I and over the past century, the American armed forces have multiplied in strength and have been deployed worldwide.

  • #32. Waiters

    - Total employment in 1920: 228,985

    The BLS reports there are 2,634,600 waiters and waitresses employed in 2019, more than 10 times the amount in 1920. Dining out is an American pastime for those with disposable income, increasing the need for waiters and waitresses.

  • #31. Manufacturers and officials

    - Total employment in 1920: 231,615

    Manufacturers covered a wide range of definitions in the 1920s, including apprentices or clothing factory employees, as well as steel mill and iron manufacturers. While apprenticeships aren’t as relevant in 2019, manufacturing across a varied scope of industries remains a prominent American industry.

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