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Recession Risk: Which Sectors are Least Vulnerable?

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Recession Risk: Which Sectors are Least Vulnerable?

Recession Risk: Which Sectors are Least Vulnerable?

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In the context of a potential recession, some sectors may be in better shape than others.

They share several fundamental qualities, including:

  • Less cyclical exposure
  • Lower rate sensitivity
  • Higher cash levels
  • Lower capital expenditures

With this in mind, the above chart looks at the sectors most resilient to recession risk and rising costs, using data from Allianz Trade.

Recession Risk, by Sector

As slower growth and rising rates put pressure on corporate margins and the cost of capital, we can see in the table below that this has impacted some sectors more than others in the last year:

SectorMargin (p.p. change)
🛒 Retail
-0.3
📝 Paper-0.8
🏡 Household Equipment-0.9
🚜 Agrifood-0.9
⛏️ Metals-0.9
🚗 Automotive Manufacturers
-1.1
🏭 Machinery & Equipment-1.1
🧪 Chemicals-1.2
🏥 Pharmaceuticals-1.8
🖥️ Computers & Telecom-2.0
👷 Construction-5.7

*Percentage point changes 2021- 2022.

Generally speaking, the retail sector has been shielded from recession risk and higher prices. In 2023, accelerated consumer spending and a strong labor market has supported retail sales, which have trended higher since 2021. Consumer spending makes up roughly two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

Sectors including chemicals and pharmaceuticals have traditionally been more resistant to market turbulence, but have fared worse than others more recently.

In theory, sectors including construction, metals, and automotives are often rate-sensitive and have high capital expenditures. Yet, what we have seen in the last year is that many of these sectors have been able to withstand margin pressures fairly well in spite of tightening credit conditions as seen in the table above.

What to Watch: Corporate Margins in Perspective

One salient feature of the current market environment is that corporate profit margins have approached historic highs.

Recession Risk: Corporate Margins Near Record Levels

As the above chart shows, after-tax profit margins for non-financial corporations hovered over 14% in 2022, the highest post-WWII. In fact, this trend has been increasing over the past two decades.

According to a recent paper, firms have used their market power to increase prices. As a result, this offset margin pressures, even as sales volume declined.

Overall, we can see that corporate profit margins are higher than pre-pandemic levels. Sectors focused on essential goods to the consumer were able to make price hikes as consumers purchased familiar brands and products.

Adding to stronger margins were demand shocks that stemmed from supply chain disruptions. The auto sector, for example, saw companies raise prices without the fear of diminishing market share. All of these factors have likely built up a buffer to help reduce future recession risk.

Sector Fundamentals Looking Ahead

How are corporate metrics looking in 2023?

In the first quarter of 2023, S&P 500 earnings fell almost 4%. It was the second consecutive quarter of declining earnings for the index. Despite slower growth, the S&P 500 is up roughly 15% from lows seen in October.

Yet according to an April survey from the Bank of America, global fund managers are overwhelmingly bearish, highlighting contradictions in the market.

For health care and utilities sectors, the vast majority of companies in the index are beating revenue estimates in 2023. Over the last 30 years, these defensive sectors have also tended to outperform other sectors during a downturn, along with consumer staples. Investors seek them out due to their strong balance sheets and profitability during market stress.

S&P 500 SectorPercent of Companies With Revenues Above Estimates (Q1 2023)
Health Care90%
Utilities88%
Consumer Discretionary81%
Real Estate
81%
Information Technology78%
Industrials78%
Consumer Staples74%
Energy70%
Financials65%
Communication Services58%
Materials31%

Source: Factset

Cyclical sectors, such as financials and industrials tend to perform worse. We can see this today with turmoil in the banking system, as bank stocks remain sensitive to interest rate hikes. Making matters worse, the spillover from rising rates may still take time to materialize.

Defensive sectors like health care, staples, and utilities could be less vulnerable to recession risk. Lower correlation to economic cycles, lower rate-sensitivity, higher cash buffers, and lower capital expenditures are all key factors that support their resilience.

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Markets

Mapped: The Industry Hiring the Most People In Every Country

The restaurant industry has the most vacancies in the U.S., followed by non-profit organizations.

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Mapped: The Industry Hiring the Most People In Every Country

Job searching can be challenging, especially when you are located in a region where your skills may not be in high demand.

This map illustrates which industry is hiring the most people in every country, based on LinkedIn job listings searched by Resume.io. This analysis only considers countries with 300 or more job listings and data is as of August 2023.

The Top Job Postings in America, Canada, the UK, and Australia

The restaurant industry had the most vacancies in the U.S., accounting for 7.9% of all job ads. It was followed by non-profit organizations with 5.6%, and motor vehicle manufacturing with 4.4%:

U.S. Industry by Job Ads% of Job Ads
Restaurants7.86%
Non-profit Organizations5.59%
Motor Vehicle Manufacturing4.41%
Software Development4.28%
Hospitality4.07%
Wellness and Fitness Services3.78%
Financial Services3.76%
Transportation, Logistics, Supply Chain, Storage3.61%
Internet Publishing3.59%
Defense and Space Manufacturing3.53%

According to the study, the trend in restaurant hiring is indicative of America’s return to eating out after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, hospitals and health care were Canada’s biggest potential employers, with almost 15% of all job ads. Retail came in second with 12.4%, followed by staffing and recruitment with 6.8%:

Canadian Industry by Job Ads% of Job Ads
Hospitals and Health Care14.82%
Retail12.45%
Staffing and Recruiting6.85%
Human Resources Services4.61%
IT Services and IT Consulting3.86%
Technology, Information and Internet3.75%
Financial Services3.53%
Manufacturing3.16%
Internet Publishing2.85%
Construction2.61%

In the UK, the construction industry had the most wanted ads with 9.2%. Britain’s construction industry has faced ongoing worker shortages, exacerbated by Brexit, which has prevented EU citizens from working in the UK without visas:

UK Industry by Job Ads% of Job Ads
Construction9.22%
Industrial Machinery Manufacturing6.03%
Education Administration Programs5.78%
Financial Services4.88%
Non-profit Organizations4.69%
Civil Engineering3.99%
Motor Vehicle Manufacturing3.62%
Accounting3.45%
Advertising Services3.43%
Hospitality3.36%

Just three sectors accounted for over 30% of the jobs available in Australia. Government administration was the sector hiring the most people (11.60%), followed by staffing and recruiting (10.8%) and hospitals and health care (10.2%):

Australian Industry by Job Ads% of Job Ads
Government Administration11.60%
Staffing and Recruiting10.81%
Hospitals and Health Care10.20%
Retail6.85%
IT Services and IT Consulting5.55%
Financial Services3.06%
Construction3.01%
Education Administration Programs2.68%
Human Resources Services2.54%
Software Development2.24%

Industry Hiring In Every Country by Job Ads in 2023

Across all countries, two sectors posted the most wanted ads in the most countries (28), staffing and recruiting and IT services and IT consulting. Healthcare and retail industries also appear among those in high demand.

CountryIndustry
🇦🇱 AlbaniaInternet Publishing
🇩🇿 AlgeriaBanking
🇦🇴 AngolaHuman Resources Services
🇦🇷 ArgentinaHuman Resources Services
🇦🇲 ArmeniaSoftware Development
🇦🇺 AustraliaGovernment Administration
🇦🇹 AustriaRetail
🇦🇿 AzerbaijanBanking
🇧🇭 BahrainStaffing and Recruiting
🇧🇩 BangladeshSoftware Development
🇧🇪 BelgiumStaffing and Recruiting
🇧🇴 BoliviaHuman Resources Services
🇧🇦 Bosnia and HerzegovinaSoftware Development
🇧🇷 BrazilTechnology, Information and Internet
🇧🇬 BulgariaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇰🇭 CambodiaHospitality
🇨🇦 CanadaHospitals and Health Care
🇰🇾 Cayman IslandsIT Services and IT Consulting
🇹🇩 ChadStaffing and Recruiting
🇯🇪 Channel Islands (Jersey)Financial Services
🇨🇱 ChileHuman Resources Services
🇨🇳 ChinaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇨🇴 ColombiaHuman Resources Services
🇨🇩 Congo (Democratic Republic of the)Hospitality
🇨🇷 Costa RicaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇭🇷 CroatiaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇨🇾 CyprusTechnology, Information and Internet
🇨🇿 Czech RepublicStaffing and Recruiting
🇩🇰 DenmarkRetail
🇩🇴 Dominican RepublicInsurance
🇪🇨 EcuadorIT Services and IT Consulting
🇪🇬 EgyptTechnology, Information and Internet
🇸🇻 El SalvadorHuman Resources Services
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EnglandStaffing and Recruiting
🇪🇪 EstoniaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇪🇹 EthiopiaSoftware Development
🇫🇮 FinlandIT Services and IT Consulting
🇫🇷 FranceStaffing and Recruiting
🇬🇫 French GuianaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇬🇪 GeorgiaStaffing and Recruiting
🇩🇪 GermanyStaffing and Recruiting
🇬🇭 GhanaHigher Education
🇬🇷 GreeceTechnology, Information and Internet
🇬🇵 GuadeloupeTechnology, Information and Internet
🇬🇹 GuatemalaHuman Resources Services
🇭🇹 HaitiStaffing and Recruiting
🇭🇳 HondurasIT Services and IT Consulting
🇭🇰 Hong Kong (SAR)Financial Services
🇭🇺 HungaryIT Services and IT Consulting
🇮🇸 IcelandHigher Education
🇮🇳 IndiaStaffing and Recruiting
🇮🇩 IndonesiaHospitality
🇮🇶 IraqDefense and Space Manufacturing
🇬🇧 Ireland (Northern)Staffing and Recruiting
🇮🇪 Ireland (Republic of)Staffing and Recruiting
🇮🇲 Isle of ManHuman Resources Services
🇮🇱 IsraelSoftware Development
🇮🇹 ItalyRetail
🇯🇲 JamaicaStaffing and Recruiting
🇯🇵 JapanIT Services and IT Consulting
🇯🇴 JordanTechnology, Information and Internet
🇰🇿 KazakhstanIT Services and IT Consulting
🇰🇪 KenyaSoftware Development
🇰🇼 KuwaitDefense and Space Manufacturing
🇰🇬 KyrgyzstanIT Services and IT Consulting
🇱🇻 LatviaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇱🇧 LebanonTechnology, Information and Internet
🇱🇮 LiechtensteinStaffing and Recruiting
🇱🇹 LithuaniaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇱🇺 LuxembourgStaffing and Recruiting
🇲🇴 MacaoHuman Resources Services
🇲🇰 Macedonia (North)Technology, Information and Internet
🇲🇾 MalaysiaFinancial Services
🇲🇹 MaltaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇲🇶 MartiniqueTechnology, Information and Internet
🇲🇺 MauritiusFinancial Services
🇲🇽 MexicoIT Services and IT Consulting
🇲🇩 MoldovaInternet Publishing
🇲🇨 MonacoStaffing and Recruiting
🇲🇦 MoroccoIT Services and IT Consulting
🇲🇲 MyanmarStaffing and Recruiting
🇳🇵 NepalSoftware Development
🇳🇱 NetherlandsStaffing and Recruiting
🇳🇿 New ZealandStaffing and Recruiting
🇳🇮 NicaraguaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇳🇬 NigeriaHuman Resources Services
🇳🇴 NorwayStaffing and Recruiting
🇴🇲 OmanStaffing and Recruiting
🇵🇰 PakistanSoftware Development
🇵🇦 PanamaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇵🇬 Papua New GuineaStaffing and Recruiting
🇵🇾 ParaguayTelecommunications
🇵🇪 PeruHuman Resources Services
🇵🇭 PhilippinesIT Services and IT Consulting
🇵🇱 PolandIT Services and IT Consulting
🇵🇹 PortugalIT Services and IT Consulting
🇵🇷 Puerto RicoRetail
🇶🇦 QatarStaffing and Recruiting
🇷🇪 ReunionBusiness Consulting and Services
🇷🇴 RomaniaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇷🇺 RussiaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇸🇭 Saint HelenaSoftware Development
🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaStaffing and Recruiting
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ScotlandStaffing and Recruiting
🇸🇳 SenegalStaffing and Recruiting
🇷🇸 SerbiaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇸🇬 SingaporeStaffing and Recruiting
🇸🇰 SlovakiaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇸🇮 SloveniaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇿🇦 South AfricaStaffing and Recruiting
🇰🇷 South KoreaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇪🇸 SpainIT Services and IT Consulting
🇱🇰 Sri LankaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇸🇪 SwedenGovernment Administration
🇨🇭 SwitzerlandInternet Publishing
🇹🇼 TaiwanSoftware Development
🇹🇭 ThailandSoftware Development
🇹🇳 TunisiaSoftware Development
🇹🇷 TurkeySoftware Development
🇻🇮 U.S. Virgin IslandsIT Services and IT Consulting
🇺🇬 UgandaEducation Administration Programs
🇺🇦 UkraineSoftware Development
🇦🇪 United Arab EmiratesTransportation, Logistics, Supply Chain and Storage
🇬🇧 United KingdomConstruction
🇺🇸 United States of AmericaRestaurants
🇺🇾 UruguaySoftware Development
🇻🇪 VenezuelaConsumer Services
🇻🇳 VietnamSoftware Development
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 WalesConstruction

Which countries or industries stand out the most to you?

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