Decades of Change in Business




Times have changed quite a bit since the turn of the 20th century, especially in terms of the top fields of business. From the industrial revolution to the technological revolution, going over the number one professions over time gives us an idea of how much the workforce has evolved to keep up with modern tech and maybe forecast what is on the horizon.


Top Business Fields From the 1900s Onward


From secretaries and salesman to software developers and occupational therapists, working America continues to grow and evolve with technology. Part of its ever-changing state also stems from the inevitable economic inflation. 


The average pay rate during the early 1900s was about $10.06 per week, according to the United States' Census of Manufacturers: 1905. This translates to about $40.24 per month, which would amount to around $482.88 as the average annual salary. Keep in mind, however, that retail prices were also quite different. At this time, the average price per pound of fresh beef was about $0.14, according to the Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor: July 1905. During the early 1900s, some of the most popular jobs within the Steel, Oil & Gas, as well as the Mining industries, according to Forbes


As manufacturing increased and revolutionary technology such as radios, aircrafts, as well as the auto industry began to crown their head, the United States economy skyrocketed, earning the 1920s their title of "the roaring 20's". By the time 1930 rolled around, 60% of families in America owned a radio, according to the Geneva Historical Society.


As Reference highlights, the industrial revolution left manufacturing jobs in high-demand, especially in the electrical or automotive industry. While men went to work in factories, on farms, as doctors, lawyers, as well as bankers, women fulfilled positions as teachers, nurses, and librarians. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reported the average annual income in 1920 across all industries was $3,269.40 - quite a jump from the previous decade. 

If you are interested in seeing what job you may have held during the roaring '20s, Entrepreneur released an infographic that may give you some playful insight. 


Due to the economic catastrophe brought on by the stock market crash of 1929, working became more of a dream than a reality for more Americans. However, the United State Census Bureau did release a 527-page document of all occupations during that time period in alphabetical order.  For those who did work - farmers, secretaries, skilled laborers, as well as doctors, the average annual income was $4,887.01, according to the IRS. After the minimum wage law was enacted in 1938, the United States Department of Labor required workers to receive at least $0.25 an hour.


Although minimum wage laws varied from state to state, the United States Department of Labor still required workers to receive around $0.30 per hour. As men went off to fight WWII, women began to fill their shoes at factories, leaving a shortage of teachers and nurses. Rosie Riveter served as the iconic face of this workforce revolution, according to HISTORY, and would later go on to become associated with the feminist movement.  The average rent per state varied greatly, as seen by this chart released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The average rent ranged anywhere from ranging from $11 in Mississippi to $45 in the District of Columbia, and $39 in New York.


As men returned from the war, they sought to return to their positions in the manufacturing and agricultural fields, pushing some women back to their original jobs as secretaries and teachers. In fact, in a comparison of women in the workforce during the 1950s during 2010s, THE WEEK found the most commonly held positions remained the same: women generally worked (and still did, at the time) as secretaries, bank tellers, as well as teachers. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average family had an annual income of $3,300 in 1950. More specifically, the average man earned about $4,700, while the average woman earned $3,000 annually. The United States Department of Labor required workers were paid at least $0.75 per hour in 1950. The average rent ranged anywhere from $25 in Alabama to $49 in Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Census Bureau


According to Reference, men often held jobs as pilots, doctors, as well as lawyers, while women remained teachers, nurses, and secretaries. Many young girl and boys dreamed of racing cars or modeling. 

However, during this time period, women started to express interest in careers that were traditionally held by their male counterparts. While women were allowed to receive college educations, they had a tough time landing positions as doctors and lawyers following graduation. 


Average wages varied from state to state. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Mississippi ranked the lowest with the average family bringing home about $2,884. Alaska, however, was ranked the highest with an average household income of $7,305. In 1961, the United States Department of Labor required workers were paid at least $1.15 per hour. 

The average rent ranged anywhere from $43 in Mississippi to $126 in Alaska, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


Reported by an economist with the Bureau of Labor, white collar jobs saw the biggest influx of workers. With the technological revolution budding jobs in the space exploration industry, computer industry, as well as the video game industry with the invention of Atari, there was a sharp increase within the engineering field. Although Emily Seamone of Women, Work, and Life reports that women were still viewed as homemakers, the feminist movement opened quite a few doors for women, encouraging them to get a formal education and even continue working while pregnant.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average family income was $9,870. In 1970, the United States Department of Labor required workers were paid at least $1.45 per hour. 

The average rent ranged anywhere from $69 in Alabama to $141 in Nevada, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


Ah, a time of big hair, neon colors, and consumerism. According to the SSC, the most common jobs among men were management positions, trucking, as well as janitorial positions. 3.8 million men were employed as managers. Women, on the other hand, were secretaries, teachers, and bookkeepers. 3.9 million women were employed as secretaries. 

Throughout the decade, the United States Department of Commerce reports the average annual household income was $23,620. In 1980, the United States Department of Labor required workers were paid at least $3.10 per hour. The average rent ranged anywhere from $180 in Mississippi to $311 in Hawaii, according to the U.S. Census Bureau


The agricultural and fishing services fields saw the most amount of growth in the 1990s followed by the retail and financial industries, according to Indiana Business Review. Careers within the engineering and business industries were also sought after, however, they required education beyond high school, according to Orlando Sentinel.  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and published on Statista, the average household income rose to $54,621. The United States Department of Labor required workers were paid at least $3.80 per hour. The average rent ranged anywhere from $311 in Montana to $650 in Hawaii, according to the U.S. Census Bureau


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 33.6 percent of workers who were at least 16 years of age most commonly worked within management and other related professional occupations. 27.6 percent were employed in offices, working as salesmen and saleswomen. The agricultural, farming and fishing fields saw a sharp decline. 

The graph provided by Statista based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau depicts the average annual household income wasn't much of a jump from the 1990s, leveling out at about $59,938. In 2007, the United States Department of Labor required workers were paid at least $5.85 per hour. The average rent ranged anywhere from $401 in West Virginia to $779 in Hawaii, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


With another technological revolution on our hands, careers continue to emerge within the IT industry. Many men and women work as software engineers, video game developers, graphic artists, social media marketers, as well as content writers. Of course, there are still plenty of doctors, lawyers, and secretaries.

Freelancing has also taken off this decade. As a byproduct of the internet allowing you to work from virtually anywhere in the world and even create your own job, an infographic released by the Freelancers Union and Upwork depicts that 57.3 million people worked as Freelancers in 2017. 


Despite the dawn of smartphones, social media, and other technological feats, the average annual income actually decreased in 2010, with the average household earning $55,520 per year, according to Statista and the U.S. Census Bureau. The economy has recovered a bit since then, with the average family earning an annual income of $61,372. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the minimum hourly wage in 2010 was $7.25. As of 2018, the federal minimum wage remains $7.25, according to paycor


The workforce has evolved alongside technology and society throughout the turn of both centuries. Going from the average annual household income of $482.88 brought home by miners in the 1900s to the average annual household income of $61,372 brought home by software engineers in the 2010s.


Now we are in the 2020s and the arrival of Covid-19 has shaken the roots of the U.S. and global economy. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.