Most common jobs 150 years ago in New York

By | May 7, 2022
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With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact the global economy, the current job market is a hot topic in the news cycle. But while the pandemic itself is, historically, something of an economic aberration, the US economy that we know today has a long and storied history of expansions, recessions, and evolution.

At the time of the American Revolution, most of the job market in the US revolved around agriculture or food acquisition in some way. Many individuals and communities farmed for subsistence, not even growing enough to have an excess to sell for profits. As the fledgling country grew, so did its economy, springing forth during the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s and early 1800s, and inexorably shifting the nation’s economic focus from agrarian efforts to those of manufacturing, trade, and other forms of business. Inventions like the steam engine and cotton gin accelerated production, feeding a booming job market that was met with immigrants eager to find work.

By the mid- to late-1800s, the US economy and job market was characterized by successive periods of rapid growth by panics or depressions. This economic disquiet was caused by stock speculation and oscillating levels of trust in the federal government’s ability to regulate cash flow and support banks. In turn, the uncertain economy produced a volatile job market.

In an effort to capture a snapshot of the US job market’s history, Stacker compiled a list of the most common jobs in New York from 150 years ago using data from the US Census Bureau. By transcribing the previously untranscribed Table XXVII from the 1870 decennial census, a state-level glimpse into the historic job market can be seen. Nationally, farmers and planters were the most common occupation 150 years ago, just one of the many agricultural jobs that made up more than 47% of all employed persons over ten years old.

Continue reading to find out more about the historical job market in your home state or explore the data on your own on our site, GitHub, or

Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#1. Farmers and planters

– New York employment: 232,649
National employment: 2,977,711
— #1 most common job in the US

English Heritage/Heritage Images // Getty Images

#2. Domestic servants

– New York employment: 155,150
National employment: 975,734
— #4 most common job in the US

Alexander Alland, Sr./CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#3. Laborers (not specified)

– New York employment: 139,309
– National employment: 1,031,666
— #3 most common job in the US

Bettmann // Getty Images

#4. Agricultural laborers

– New York employment: 134,562
National employment: 2,885,996
— #2 most common job in the US

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

#5. Carpenters and joiners

– New York employment: 53,046
– National employment: 344,596
— #5 most common job in the US

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#6. Clerks in stores

New York employment: 51,096
National employment: 222,504
— #6 most common job in the US

Lewis W. Hine // Library of Congress

#7. Tailors, tailoresses, and seamstresses

– New York employment: 41,627
– National employment: 161,820
— #8 most common job in the US

Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#8. Milliners, dress and mantua makers

New York employment: 26,540
National employment: 92,084
— #16 most common job in the US

Frances Benjamin Johnston // Library of Congress

#9. Boot and shoe makers

– New York employment: 24,309
– National employment: 171,127
— #7 most common job in the US

Bain News Service // Library of Congress

#10. Draymen, hackmen, teamsters, &c

– New York employment: 22,120
National employment: 120,756
— #13 most common job in the US

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#11. Blacksmiths

– New York employment: 19,291
– National employment: 141,774
— #11 most common job in the US

Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#12. Teachers (not specified)

– New York employment: 18,557
National employment: 126,822
— #12 most common job in the US

SSPL // Getty Images

#13. Employees of railroad companies (not clerks)

– New York employment: 18,454
National employment: 154,027
— #9 most common job in the US

Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Painters and varnishers

– New York employment: 18,082
– National employment: 85,123
— #18 most common job in the US

Carl Mydans // Library of Congress

#15th. Masons, brick and stone

– New York employment: 16,594
National employment: 89,710
-#17 most common job in the US

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