Stacker compiled a list of the most common jobs in Michigan 150 years ago using data transcribed from the 1870 US Census.
MICHIGAN—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 followed 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 Michigan from 150 years ago using data from the US Census Bureau. By transcribing the Table XXVII from the 1870 decennial census, a 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 Michigan—or explore the data on your own.
1. Farmers and Planters
Michigan employment: 121,558
National employment: 2,977,711 (#1)
2. Agricultural Laborers
Michigan employment: 64,885
National employment: 2,885,996 (#2)
3. Domestic Servants
Michigan employment: 49,005
National employment: 975,734 (#4)
Michigan employment: 36,034
National employment: 1,031,666 (#3)
5. Carpenters and Joiners
Michigan employment: 14,693
National employment: 344,596 (#5)
6. Saw-mill Operatives
Michigan employment: 10,356
National employment: 47,298 (#25)
7. Clerks in stores
Michigan employment: 5,561
National employment: 222,504 (#6)
Michigan employment: 4,730
National employment: 141,774 (#11)
Michigan employment: 4,708
National employment: 126,822 (#12)
10. Boot and shoe makers
Michigan employment: 3,605
National employment: 171,127 (#7)
Michigan employment: 3,426
National employment: 152,107 (#10)
12. Railroad Employees
Michigan employment: 3,257
National employment: 154,027 (#9)
13. Brick and Stone Masons
Michigan employment: 3,196
National employment: 89,710 (#17)
14. Tailors, Tailoresses, and Seamstresses
Michigan employment: 3,121
National employment: 161,820 (#8)
15. Draymen, Hackmen, Teamsters
Michigan employment: 2,939
National employment: 120,756 (#13)
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