10 industries with the highest business survival rates

Published 10:30 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2023


10 industries with the highest business survival rates

Top banking executives and economists are sounding the alarm: The U.S. and global economies are likely headed for a recession in 2023.

More than 1 million private companies opened between March 2021 and March 2022. But how many will survive if a recession hits? And which industries have the highest likelihood of success? Though the labor market conditions continued to improve, economists say it would be highly unusual for the U.S. job market to remain unscathed in a recession.

Using 22 years of Bureau of Labor Statistics historical data, Growthink identified the 10 industries with the highest business survival rates. About 19% of private companies founded in March 2000 were still operational by March 2022. Survival rates for all of the top 10 industries surpassed that average. Growthink determined the number of surviving companies in each industry and how many jobs the industry creates.

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Keep reading to find out if you’re in an industry likely to survive a recession—and survive long-term..

A manufacturing factory.


#10. Manufacturing

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 20.7%
– Total surviving establishments: 5,086
– Total employment of survivors: 212,449 (42 employees per establishment, on average)

The manufacturing industry includes jobs associated with creating new products from raw materials or assembling components to create a new product. Workers in warehouses, factories, plants, and mills are part of the manufacturing industry. The level of education required for a career in manufacturing varies widely from one position to the next. Though machines have automated many manufacturing jobs with the advance of technology, companies will always need employees on the assembly lines to ensure smooth operations.

A doctor visiting a patient at home.


#9. Health care and social assistance

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 20.8%
– Total surviving establishments: 17,483
– Total employment of survivors: 345,809 (20 employees per establishment, on average)

This type of business includes employees of companies that provide health care, food assistance, social services, vocational rehabilitation, and child care. This industry includes hospitals, physician’s offices, medical laboratories, youth and family centers, hospice care, and elderly care homes.

Many positions in this industry are staffed by trained medical professionals with at least some higher education requirements. This is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. job market, employing more than 18 million workers. Four in 5 health care positions are held by women.

This industry may require nontraditional work hours and expose employees to stress, patient violence, and potentially dangerous medical conditions.

A teacher checking in on a student.


#8. Educational services

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 21.6%
– Total surviving establishments: 1,378
– Total employment of survivors: 39,648 (29 employees per establishment, on average)

The United States is grappling with a nationwide shortage of educators. Declining college enrollment in teaching programs means the demand for employees in this sector will continue to grow. Many factors are to blame for the current staff shortage in the education industry. The politicization of curriculum, frustrations over standardized testing, soaring class sizes, low pay, and limited resources top the list of complaints by workers in the education industry.

The positive news is salaries in education are slowly rising across the country. Salaries in education vary widely depending on the position and level of experience but range from under $30,000 to over $100,000 annually.

Some of the most in-demand positions in this industry include teaching assistants, school administrators, K-12 school teachers, occupational therapists, and interpreters.

A businessperson doing calculations for an invoice.


#6. Finance and insurance (tie)

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 21.7%
– Total surviving establishments: 8,598
– Total employment of survivors: 156,531 (18 employees per establishment, on average)

This business sector includes companies and positions involved in financial transactions or insurance services. Workers in these companies include financial managers, personal financial advisors, insurance sales agents, customer service representatives, and tellers. On average, employees in this industry work 43.4 hours weekly.

It’s one of the three highest-paying industry subsectors in the country, with an average salary of $96,211. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 6.31 million people were employed in this industry in May 2021, and the numbers continue to grow yearly.

A real estate agent showing a family a home.


#6. Real estate and rental and leasing (tie)

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 21.7%
– Total surviving establishments: 5,508
– Total employment of survivors: 46,097 (8 employees per establishment, on average)

This business sector includes companies that rent, lease, and facilitate purchasing and selling tangible assets like homes or commercial properties.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the prevalence of working from home, many Americans wanted larger homes with a lower cost of living. In attempts to socially distance in the search for the perfect home, virtual home viewings and real-estate closings saw a sharp rise during the pandemic.

There are over 3 million active real estate agents and over 106,000 active real estate brokerage firms in the United States. The average salary of workers in this industry was $54,330 in 2021, an increase from $43,330 in 2020.

A member of a hotel's staff bringing fresh linens into a room.


#5. Accommodation and food services

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 23.9%
– Total surviving establishments: 10,957
– Total employment of survivors: 279,795 (26 employees per establishment, on average)

Workers in this industry provide food and lodging for immediate consumption by consumers. They include people employed at hotels, motels, fast-food restaurants, casinos, RV parks, dining establishments, catering services, bed and breakfasts, and more.

As the U.S. economy has grown over the last five years, so has the accommodation and food services industry. When Americans have disposable income, the frequency with which they travel and dine out rises. Many restaurants and hotels struggled to find employees during the pandemic, resulting in higher wages and sign-on bonuses for many workers.

The market size of this sector was forecast to reach $1.41 trillion in 2022, up from $1.05 trillion in 2021.

A pharmacist helping an elderly person.


#4. Retail trade

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 27.0%
– Total surviving establishments: 21,562
– Total employment of survivors: 483,930 (22 employees per establishment, on average)

Retail is the final step of the supply chain in distributing merchandise to the general public; this includes traditional brick-and-mortar stores, direct sales, and the ever-expanding e-commerce market.

Retail sales have steadily increased in the United States since 2009. In 2019, there were 442,597 brick-and-mortar retail stores and 2.1 million e-commerce retailers in the United States. A few job titles in the retail sector include pharmacist, warehouse manager, web designer, head butcher, stockroom worker, and customer service representative.

Wages vary widely depending on the position, but as of May 2021, the median hourly pay for a retail sales position was $14.

A forestry worker moving logs with a crane.


#3. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 27.2%
– Total surviving establishments: 1,573
– Total employment of survivors: 34,965 (22 employees per establishment, on average)

This sector includes workers who grow crops, raise animals, harvest timber, and catch fish, whether from a farm or controlled setting or in the wild. Many jobs in this industry require on-site training versus time spent in a classroom. In fact, about 1 in 4 workers in this industry do not have a high school diploma. Self-employed positions, like farming and fishing, account for almost 40% of the workforce in this sector. And more than 3 in 4 companies in this sector employ fewer than 10 workers.

An electric worker taking notes on a clipboard.


#2. Utilities

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 33.3%
– Total surviving establishments: 290
– Total employment of survivors: 8,799 (30 employees per establishment, on average)

The utility sector includes companies that provide basic everyday needs like water, garbage collection, electricity, and natural gas. Utilities are always in demand, so the industry doesn’t typically suffer during a recession. More than 4 in 5 of the United State’s energy infrastructure is owned by private companies, which are typically heavily regulated by government agencies.

Many positions in this industry require a college degree or advanced technical education. Many of the highest-paid positions in this industry are in various engineering roles. Global demand for renewable and sustainable energy continues to create new positions within the utility industry.

An accountant completing calculations.


#1. Management of companies and enterprises

– Survival rate since founding in March 2000: 35.3%
– Total surviving establishments: 915
– Total employment of survivors: 52,787 (58 employees per establishment, on average)

The sector with the most businesses that have lasted since 2000 is one that consists of establishments that run other companies that they own or are under contract to manage. Unlike industries categorized by their field of work such as manufacturing or leisure, the management of companies and enterprises industry is one that the Bureau of Labor Statistics differentiates because of their role—this sector manages other enterprises and may not only have a single-store or single-location business within any one field. This is noteworthy because this factors into the typical size of these management companies: This sector accounts for the largest employment rates per company. There are an average of 57.7 employees per surviving business in this industry compared to 12.4 employees at a construction company or 8.4 employees at a real estate company.

As of May 2021, there were 2.3 million people employed in these businesses, in jobs like financial managers, accountants, auditors, bookkeepers, chief executives, and lawyers. The highest-paid positions in this industry are in securities commodities and financial services sales. The industry is projected to have a job growth of 5.4% over 10 years.

This story originally appeared on Growthink and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.