INDIANAPOLIS — With Americans leaving their jobs in record numbers in 2021, the job market is a hot topic for many people. People interested in getting away from careers impacted by COVID-19 drove what has been dubbed the “Great Resignation.”

Historically, the United States has seen times of volatility in the job market as the nation changed its economic focus. Stacker reports that during the mid-to-late 1900s, the U.S. economy and job market were characterized by periods of rapid growth followed by panics or depressions. This uncertain economy produced a volatile job market.

We took a look at the most common jobs in Indiana from the 1870 census to see what jobs were the most common then. We compared that with related industries now to see how the job market has changed in the last 150 years.

#10. Boot and shoe makers

Manufacturing industry

  • Indiana 1870 employment – 4,299
  • National 1870 employment – 171,127
  • National 2020 employment – 8,890

If there is one thing that is true across time, people like their shoes. While in the 1870s people may not have had $585 Yeezy shoes, there were shoes for every budget.

This was the 7th most common job in the United States in 1870, with one history website saying a typical shop in Virginia having up to 20 shoemakers working at a time.

The 1800s brought a lot of industrialization to the shoemaking process, with machines for many steps in the process being invented. Around this time, however, supply chain issues caused bottlenecks in the production line. It wasn’t until the 1890s that the process of mechanization was largely complete.

Now, this is more of a cottage industry, with fewer than 9,000 people nationwide earning a living as shoe and leather workers.

#9. Teachers

Professional and Personal Services industry

  • Indiana 1870 employment – 5,018
  • National 1870 employment – 126,822
  • Indiana 2020 employment – 79,120
  • National 2020 employment – 4,931,021

The demand for teachers has grown over the last 150 years. In 1870, about half of the nation’s children didn’t get any formal education. The economic realities at the time kept many children working in mines, factories, or on the farm.

At the time, teaching was the 12th most common job in the United States. Now, elementary and middle school teacher is the 5th most common job in the United States. However, school districts nationwide are facing a teacher shortage that has led some schools to call in anyone willing to help keep the schools’ doors open.

#8. Blacksmiths

Manufacturing industry

  • Indiana 1870 employment – 6,121
  • National 1870 employment – 141,774
  • Indiana 2021 employment – 1,310
  • National 2020 employment – 16,555

In the 1800s, blacksmiths were a feature in almost every village, town and city. A paper published in the National Bureau of Economic Research shows they provided a range of products from axes and wheels to services like repairs and horse-shoeing. This made blacksmiths the 11th most common job in the United States.

However, as industrialization increased, the blacksmith trade decreased. By 2020, the National Bureau of Labor Statistics said the use of labor-saving machinery is one of the most important factors influencing employment for metal and plastic machine workers. Overall employment for this industry is projected to decline 2 percent from 2020 to 2030.

#7. Clerks in stores

Trade industry

  • Indiana 1870 employment – 6,205
  • National 1879 employment – 222,504
  • Indiana 2021 employment – 81,130
  • National 2020 employment – 1,653,315

In the 1800s, the function of general stores was important. People living in the area had no other source of supply of importance, other than peddlers. This made store clerks the 6th most common job in the united states.

Now, despite the growth in online retail sales, Census data shows the retail workforce continues to have a substantial presence in the U.S. labor force. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says while online sales are expected to continue to increase, brick-and-mortar retail stores are expected to increase their emphasis on customer service and ask their staff to do more.

#6. Employees of railroad companies (not clerks)

Transportation industry

Taken from the the English Illustrated Magazine 1892
  • Indiana 1870 employment – 7,377
  • National 1879 employment – 154,027
  • Indiana 2021 employment – 58,240
  • National 2020 employment – 72,218

In the early 1870’s, railroad construction in the United States increased dramatically. Between 1871 and 1900, 170,000 miles were added to the nation’s railroad system. This demand for railroad employees made the job the 9th most common job in the United States.

Now, with an increase in shipping goods through multiple transportation modes, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the demand for some railroad workers may increase. Overall, employment of railroad workers is expected to grow 5 percent from 2020 to 2030.

#5. Carpenters and joiners

Manufacturing industry

  • Indiana 1870 employment – 14,179
  • National 1879 employment – 344,596
  • Indiana 2021 employment – 20,320
  • National 2020 employment – 916,721

In the 1800s, most carpenters worked under the artisan system. They would turn wooden goods finishing out by hand or frame buildings. In 1870, there weren’t any carpenter’s unions. It was the fifth most common job in the united states.

With new home construction growing, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates employment of carpenters will grow 2 percent from 2020 to 2030. However, the increasing popularity of modular and prefabricated components and homes is reducing the need for carpenters to build and install them onsite.

#4. Domestic servants

Professional and Personal Services Industry

  • Indiana 1870 employment – 22,942
  • National 1879 employment – 975,734
  • Indiana 2021 employment – 12,460
  • National 2020 employment – 722,454

Economic growth in the latter half of the 19th century made domestic servants a sought-after position. It was the 4th most common job in the U.S. in 1870.

These workers usually lived with the employing family, performing household tasks such as laundry, ironing, cooking, cleaning, and serving in exchange for payment along with room and board. While this position isn’t seen in the same capacity now, the serving industry as maids is expected to grow 11 percent between 2020 and 2030.

#3. Laborers

Professional and Personal Services Industry

  • Indiana 1870 employment – 34,954
  • National 1879 employment – 1,031,666
  • Indiana 2021 employment – 113,200
  • National 2020 employment – 2,674,048

The U.S. population tripled between 1860 and 1910, along with the industrial workforce. This brought an increased demand for laborers and brought in many immigrants to support it. This made laborers the 3rd most common job in the united states.

Now, the broad definition of laborer is split between many positions, all expected to grow to support consumer demand in a variety of industries.

#2. Agricultural laborers

Agricultural Industry

  • Indiana 1870 employment – 83,949
  • National 1879 employment – 2,885,996
  • Indiana 2021 employment – 2,920
  • National 2020 employment – 346,810

The agricultural industry in the 19th century was labor-intensive and seasonal. This made opportunities for people to get a job working on a farm during the planting or harvest season. This made farm laborers the 2nd most common job in the U.S.

Now, despite the increased demand for crops and other agricultural products, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says employment growth is limited as agricultural establishments continue to use technology to increase productivity. Small farms may continue to create opportunities for these workers.

#1. Farmers and planters

Agricultural Industry

  • Indiana 1870 employment – 181.895
  • National 1879 employment – 2,977,711
  • Indiana 2021 employment – 80
  • National 2020 employment: 462,848

Even in 1870, farmers were forced to succeed as entrepreneurs or risk losing their farms. During this time period, farming became increasingly commercialized. It remained the most common job in the United States.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says over the past several decades, increased crop production efficiency has resulted in fewer, but larger farms. This means fewer farmers are needed to produce the same agricultural output. Despite steady demand, many small farms still operate with slim profit margins and are vulnerable to poor market conditions. Now, farmers are the 72nd most common job in the united states.