Employment Archives

November 30, 2007

The Second Oldest Profession?

0711oldestprofession.jpgWhile doing some recent fact checking, I came across a quote attributed to Ronald Reagan:
"It's been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."

It seemed to be a favorite quip for Reagan, who said some version of it on several occasions since at least 1974 when he was governor of California. But I also found other politicians, including President Jimmy Carter, saying it. Curious about how long the joke had been around, I did a search through some newspaper archives for the phrase "second oldest profession." It seems that writers had been placing various jobs in that dubious position for years, but politics wasn't one of them.

    Nominees for the Second Oldest Profession
  • Actors - "Hobnobbing in Hollywood with Grace Kingsley" Los Angeles Times, Nov 23, 1932
  • Casino Gambling - "Mont Blanc of Monte Carlo; Count Corti Tells the Story of the Principality of Chance" The Washington Post, Mar 17, 1935
  • Con Men - "Berliners, Who Fell for Hitler, Still Victims of 'Con' Men" The Washington Post, Mar 15, 1952
  • Counterfeiting - "Counterfeiting in America Started With Fake Wampum" Los Angeles Times, Apr 18, 1968
  • Gigolos - "Exit the Gigolo! His Taking Ways Remove Glamour; Paris 'Tribe' Vanishing; Too Light Fingered" Chicago Daily Tribune, Mar 5, 1932
  • Glassmaking - "Lenox Unveils Modern Glassmaking Facility With Old Techniques" Wall Street Journal, Nov 20, 1970
  • Interpreters - "Meet the Second Oldest Profession" The Washington Post, Sep 1, 1964
  • Journalism - a novel by Robert Sylvester, published 1950
  • Moving Companies - "New Holding Company on the Move" Los Angeles Times, Feb 12, 1969
  • Pharmacists - "The Second Oldest Profession" Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct 10, 1959 (mentioned again in the New York Times, Nov 17, 1963)
  • Pick Pocketing - "Bookkeepers Pen Death of Pickpockets" Chicago Daily Tribune, Aug 25, 1958
  • Pimpery - "The Bookshelf; 'Pimpery'" The Chicago Defender, Apr 18, 1931
  • Piracy - "Prominent in a Remarkable Exhibition of Pirate Lore in the Grolier Club of New York" The Washington Post, Nov 21, 1915.
  • Press Agents - "R. Maney [Dick Maney], Man and Legend" New York Times, Feb 23, 1941
  • Prostitutes (Confusing, yes. According to Yale anthropologist Ralph Linton in The Tree of Culture, Medicine Men were the first professionals.)
  • Spying - "British Premier Backs U.S. in Spy Incident" Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1960
  • Quackery aka Fake Medicine - "Quick-Buck Quacks Are Prospering More Than Ever" The Washington Post, Oct 7, 1961

As for politics, interestingly, no results turned up earlier than the 1970s and The Consent of the Governed, and Other Deceits (1971), written by New York Times political analyst Arthur Krock, has a chapter titled "The Second Oldest Profession."

Street walkers, etched by B. Smith, from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog

November 6, 2007

If I can make it there...

0711artsindustry.jpgWant to work in the movie business? Move to Los Angeles.

Want to work in theater, dance, music, or publishing? Move to New York.

That might not be surprising advice, but a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics backs it up with numbers. "During the first quarter of 2006, 1 out of every 4 jobs (25.8 percent) associated with the creative arts industries in the country was located in either New York or Los Angeles," according to the report.

So what qualifies as a creative arts industry? The authors defined 27 industries as having "activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have the potential for wealth and job creation through generation and exploitation of intellectual property." They then compared employment and wage data for those 27 "cultural output industries" in New York and LA for the earliest and most recent figures, the first quarters of 1990 and 2006.

Jobs dominated by Los Angeles in 2006 % of jobs nationwide Avg. monthly jobs % of wages nationwide
Motion picture and video production 58.7% 113,173 72.9%
Motion picture and video distribution 24.4 2,074 47.9
Teleproduction and other postproduction services 46.1 7,297 51.2
Other motion picture and postproduction 41.2 1,555 70.6
Agents and managers for public figures 27.7 4,890 38.8
Independent managers for public figures 21.4 10,170 53.0
Jobs dominated by New York in 2006 % of jobs nationwide Avg. monthly jobs % of wages nationwide
News syndicates 26.0% 2,907 42.7%
Dance companies 26.8 2,287 43.5
Periodical publishing 19.6 27,910 42.7
Record production 24.0 622 60.0
Integrated record production and distribution 27.3 1,015 70.0

Over the 17-year period, the movie production industry in LA has grown 111.3 percent while jobs in theater companies and dinner theaters plummeted from 14,042 jobs on average to 1,466.

In New York, there are more jobs in most creative arts fields than in 1990, but they don't pay as well in comparison. While city-wide private wages in New York had tripled between 1990 and 2006, the percent earned by the creative arts dropped from 8 to 5.4.

Nationwide, jobs in most parts of the music industry have dropped but the number of record producers grew from 813 to 2,595. Record producers now make the most money on average out of all of the creative arts listed. Other job sectors that increased greatly are cable and other subscription programming, fine arts schools, independent managers for public figures, internet publishing and broadcasting, motion picture and video production, museums, and promoters with or without facilities.

The economic impact of the creative arts industries: New York and Los Angeles
Via Docuticker

"TriBeca alley during student film shoot" from Flickr by eugene.

September 17, 2007

You're On Your Own, Google-philes...

The World Almanac has a ton of uses, but alas: acing an interview with Google may not be one of them. Or at least, that's the conclusion I come to after reviewing this list of Crazy Questions at Google Job Interviews. Yeah, if you spend any time online at all, you've seen lists like this before. But some of these questions were new to me. Among the highlights:

9. Every man in a village of 100 married couples has cheated on his wife. Every wife in the village instantly knows when a man other than her husband has cheated, but does not know when her own husband has. The village has a law that does not allow for adultery. Any wife who can prove that her husband is unfaithful must kill him that very day. The women of the village would never disobey this law. One day, the queen of the village visits and announces that at least one husband has been unfaithful. What happens? superchicken.jpg

13. Four people need to cross a rickety rope bridge to get back to their camp at night. Unfortunately, they only have one flashlight and it only has enough light left for seventeen minutes. The bridge is too dangerous to cross without a flashlight, and it's only strong enough to support two people at any given time. Each of the campers walks at a different speed. One can cross the bridge in 1 minute, another in 2 minutes, the third in 5 minutes, and the slow poke takes 10 minutes to cross. How do the campers make it across in 17 minutes?

17. You have five pirates, ranked from 5 to 1 in descending order. The top pirate has the right to propose how 100 gold coins should be divided among them. But the others get to vote on his plan, and if fewer than half agree with him, he gets killed. How should he allocate the gold in order to maximize his share but live to enjoy it? (Hint: One pirate ends up with 98 percent of the gold.)

Hmmm... we will (I kid you not) have some new information about notorious pirates and other outlaws in the 2008 Almanac, but I don't think we have room to cover Rules of Booty Distribution. So, yes: you're on your own. But maybe in the 2009 edition...

P.S. When reading these questions, is anyone else reminded of the "Superchicken" team-building exercise from the BBC's The Office (above)?

Link: Crazy Questions at Google Job Interviews (Tihomir Nakov, via Tyler Cowen's excellent Marginal Revolution)

September 7, 2007

Coaching Pays

football.jpg With the commencement of college football season, the Kansas City Star took it upon itself to reveal what probably isn't a shock to anyone who follows college football: college football coaches, even those coaching at public universities, are very, very well compensated for their gridiron grit. The paper compared each state's governor's salary with its highest paid coach, who was most often a football coach. The result: Coaches 49, Governors 1.

And that one point the governors won? It doesn't really count, at least according to the Star:


Gov.: Sarah Palin, $125,000

Highest Paid Coach: Dave Shyiak, Alaska-Anchorage ice hockey, $112,000

(NOTE: There is no college football in Alaska)

Find where your state lies on the coaching payscale at the link below.
(Warning to residents of Florida: Your governor makes less than 5 percent of its two highest paid coaches' salaries. Of course, given how 2006-07 turned out for Florida football and basketball, you probably don't care.)

Governors vs. Coaches

Flickr photo by shortstopeleven

June 6, 2007

Federal Minimum Wage Rates Over Time


Congress recently approved raising the federal minimum wage over the next two years. From the current rate of $5.15 per hour, the federal minimum wage will rise to $5.85 per hour on July 24. It will again rise, to $6.55 an hour, on July 24, 2008, and to $7.25 an hour on July 24, 2009. The last increase came in 1997, when the federal minimum wage was at $4.75 an hour.

I compiled a graph a while ago comparing the historic value of the federal minimum wage in current and constant dollars. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 established minimum wage coverage, but the graph only shows data from 1950 onward for simplicity. In constant dollars, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968; the rate then of $1.60 per hour would be $9.45 per hour in today's dollars.

"Congress Approves Minimum Wage Hike" (Washington Post)
U.S. Dept. of Labor Wage and Hour Division
Minimum Wage Laws in the States (U.S. Dept. of Labor)--Interesting graphic showing how each state's minimum wage rate compares to the federal wage rate.
What Is a Dollar Worth? (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

Note: Graph labels corrected September 13, 2007.

May 24, 2007

20 Leading Occupations of Employed Women

9to5.jpgThe Department of Labor has compiled a list of the 20 most common jobs for employed women in 2006, along with median pay for each occupation and the percentage of people in each job who are women. The most common occupation is secretary or administrative assistant, accounting for one in 20 (3.4 million) employed women. I found that nearly half (43.7%) of all employed women hold one of these 20 jobs, most of which involve office and administrative support (10.9 million), sales and retail (6.5 million), or teaching (4.3 million).

Women in these 20 occupations receive $100 less a week in median earnings than the total for all employed women. Out of the 20, Registered nurses are paid the most on average ($971/week) while cashiers are paid the least ($327/week).

The top ten, and number of women in each occupation:

  1. Secretaries and admin. assistants (3,348,000)
  2. Registered Nurses (2,309,000)
  3. Cashiers (2,291,000)
  4. Elementary and middle school teachers (2,220,000)
  5. Retail salespersons (1,740,000)
  6. Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides (1,694,000)
  7. First-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers (1,436,000)
  8. Waiters and waitresses (1,401,000)
  9. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks (1,364,000)
  10. Customer service representatives (1,349,000)

For a more general overview of employment in the U.S., check out pages 101-109 in the 2007 World Almanac.

20 Leading Occupations of Employed Women

April 11, 2007

Working at the White House

whitehouse.jpg As if it weren't already hard enough to be president of the United States—now former, current, and prospective holders of the nation's highest office have something else to worry about: loose-lipped servants. The Working White House, a Smithsonian exhibition scheduled to be featured around the country as a traveling exhibit in 2008, chronicles the lives of White House employees, in their own words, from 1800 to the present. Some of the reminiscences are mundane, such as a story about First Lady Sarah Polk's inattention to napkin folding. Others are quite attuned to their era: shortly after the Plessy v. Ferguson decision condoned a system of "separate but equal" treatment, the White House servants' dinner tables were realigned on racial lines rather than job function. There's even a story about the lengths employees went to to meet Lyndon Johnson's shower preferences: according to White House employee Howard Arrington, "He wanted [the jets] to hit all parts of his body with the same force. . .Rex Scouten in the usher's office got in the shower to test it out, and it pinned Rex right to the wall."

But my favorite is a story about Pres. Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower's growing addiction to a new "electronic novelty":

According to [Assistant Chief Usher J.B.] West, Ike and Mamie Eisenhower regularly watched the evening news while having their meals on tray-tables. He notes that Mrs. Eisenhower's enjoyment of As the World Turns "initiated the Television Era in the White House."

The Working White House
Workers at the White House Time Line [first-hand accounts]

February 1, 2007

"The World as You've Never Seen it Before"

That's the tag line for Worldmapper, a novel approach to visualizing global data, and a collaborative project of a group of cartographers, social scientists, and other experts at the University of Michigan and the University of Sheffield. From a recent article on The Daily Telegraph website:
"You can say it, you can prove it, you can tabulate it, but it is only when you show it that it hits home," said Prof Danny Dorling, of the University of Sheffield, one of the developers of Worldmapper, a collection of maps — cartograms — that rescale the size of territories in proportion to the value being represented.

On the maps of public health spending, research expenditure and wealth, Africa appears tiny. But in those that show global malaria cases and the deaths due to drought, Africa appears enormous.

You'll find a year's worth of maps on the site, spanning categories from income and housing to pollution and "destruction." Each map is also accompanied by a brief summary of the topic, plus links to labeled territory and population maps, data sheets in Excel or Opendoc formats, and even a downloadable PDF poster showcasing the map and some of its key data points.

Choose a topic, and you're bound to find something interesting. I was struck by two maps, which are as good a place to start as any:

map_childlabor.jpgChild Labor (at left): "Nine of the ten territories with the highest proportions of child labourers are in Africa. . . . The map shows that most child labour occurs in African and Southern Asian territories. India has the highest number of child labourers, twice as many as China where the second highest population of child labourers lives."

map_toyimports.jpgToy Imports (at right): "Most imports of toys (US$ net) are to the United States, followed by the United Kingdom. Toys are fun but not necessities. Thus toy imports give an indication of disposable incomes. The lowest imports of toys (US$ net) per person are to territories in Africa and also Tajikistan (in the Middle East)."

Link: Worldmapper

January 2, 2007

Choose Your Own Antarctic Adventure

halley.jpg Happy New Year! Did you make a resolution? Does it involve adventure? More ice? Sunlight for only half the year? Or perhaps you’re ready to finally pursue your dream career as a Molluscan Palaeontologist.

The British Antarctic Survey has a quiz to help determine whether you’re fit for a life on the desert continent. Here’s a sample:

The Supply Ship - RRS Ernest Shackleton is unable to get to your station and re-supply due to heavy sea ice. The variety of food is beginning to run short and although arrangements have been made to get provisions to the station by air, the station compliment is starting to get frustrated with the lack of fresh fruit and meat. The chef is beginning to exhaust his repertoire of usually wonderful meals. What is your reaction likely to be?

My answer, eat the new guy, wasn’t on the list.

Not cut out for the real thing? Webcams!

December 28, 2006

The World at a Glance: Number Ones

1_3.jpgEven though The World Almanac is the best-selling American reference book of all time, there are still people out there who don't quite know what, exactly, you can find in it. So in the 2007 edition, we added a new feature page that summarizes some of the diverse, interesting facts you can find throughout the book, including some surprising facts, milestone birthdays for 2007, and important trends in the U.S. and around the world. For today, however, we'll keep the focus on our "Number Ones" — the biggest, the best, the worst, and the most popular in just a few of the dozens of different subject areas contained in the book.

Most popular car color in the U.S. .......... silver, more than 20% of new cars
Highest-rated U.S. television show, 2005-06 .......... American Idol, Tuesday night
Top-spending U.S. advertiser in 2005 .......... Procter & Gamble, $4.61 bil
Most prescribed class of drug in the U.S. .......... antidepressants, prescribed 81.2 mil times in 2004
Most popular dog breed in U.S. .......... Labrador retriever, 137,867 new dogs registered in 2005
Leading cause of death in U.S. .......... heart disease, 685,089 deaths (28%) in 2003
Nation with the most vacation days per year .......... Italy, average of 42 days per person
Largest world city .......... Tokyo, 2005 population 35.2 mil
Largest army, by active-duty troop strength .......... China, 2.3 million
Nation hosting the most refugees .......... Pakistan, with 1.1 mil in 2005
Most densely populated U.S. state .......... New Jersey, 1,135 persons per sq. mi.
Most sparsely populated nation .......... Mongolia, 4.7 persons per sq. mi.
Nation with most water per capita .......... Iceland, 582,191.8 cubic meters (U.S. has 10,333)
Developed nations with highest federal tax rate .......... Belgium and Germany, 42%
Nation with highest per capita GDP .......... Luxembourg, $55,600
Highest temperature recorded on Earth .......... 136° F in El Azizia, Libya, 9/13/22
Deadliest natural disaster in U.S. .......... Galveston Hurricane, Sept. 8, 1900; up to 12,000 killed
Most career saves (baseball) .......... Trevor Hoffman, 482 through 2006

[P.S.: Know a trivia buff who might love this list? Want to share it with the world? This would be a perfect time to try some of our sharing and social-networking tools. Click "Email this" to send this entry on to a friend, or "Add this" to bookmark or share it with dozens of different online services.]

Related: "Unbreakable" Sports Records

Photo from Leo Reynolds' Flickr stream (CC)

November 27, 2006

Occupations in Colonial America

Today when we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, we can expect answers such as doctor, lawyer, astronaut, or any number of other somewhat predictable occupations. But if you were to ask kids the same thing back in 17th century New England, you would have probably heard them say accipitrary, bloomer, or shrager. What exactly do these people do? Well, your answer can be found on this online list of colonial occupations.

–Vincent Spadafora

About Employment

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Employment category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

Education is the previous category.

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Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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