The New Jersey workforce hasn’t changed that drastically over the past 150 years.

While the technology and tools to make that job more efficient and productive have been introduced over those 150 years, the core jobs as they were in New Jersey in 1870 haven’t changed.

Stacker has compiled information from the 1870 U.S. Census to look at the most common jobs in New Jersey.

Look at the most common jobs here in New Jersey.

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LOOK: Most common jobs 150 years ago in New Jersey

Stacker compiled a list of the most common jobs in New Jersey 150 years ago using data transcribed from the 1870 U.S. Census.

Gallery Credit: Stacker

New Jersey was known for its infrastructure growth.

With the proximity to New York City and Philadelphia, the building of Newark, Jersey City, Camden, and Paterson, laborers were needed and subsequently, that was the most common job here in New Jersey. Over 39,000 were employed as laborers back in 1870. Nationally, laborers ranked as the third most common job.

Today the need for construction and iron workers remains with more tear downs and rebuilds and the expansion of urban New Jersey. We are the most densely populated state, and we need to build structures for housing and provide structures to service our community.

Land was the American Dream

Not surprisingly here in the United States in 1870, 47% of the population were farmers. Also not surprising was the fact that farming here in New Jersey was the 2nd most common job in 1870.

The American dream for an immigrant coming into the United States was to own a piece of land and reap the benefits. Land was a form of stock in the future, it was widely used as a currency for many who came to this country and for those who endured hardship and pain to a better place to prosper.


The need for farming is still so prevalent. The equipment and technology of farming may have changed drastically over the last 150 years but the need for produce, livestock, and horticulture remains. Similar obstacles still face today’s farmers including weather, soil contamination, and selling off the land for development.

Agricultural Laborers were the second most common job in the United States and the 3rd most common job here in New Jersey. Can’t farm without help. The same could be said today.

Hired help

In 1870, domestic servants were the 4th most common job in both the United States and here in New Jersey. The class system was different back in 1870, there was a very narrow middle class. You were either very well off or you were a laborer. The well-off used many domestic servants, cooks, maids, butlers, nannies, and others to provide services to their homes.

While we still use those services today, we certainly don’t call them servants but getting help cleaning the house and watching the children are very common today, especially for those with busy schedules.

Coming in as the 5th most common job in both the U.S. and here in New Jersey in 1870 was carpenter and joiner. This job piggybacks the builders. Carpenters were a necessity to help build New Jersey’s infrastructure, the same holds today. Carpenters are needed to frame your home, build your deck, build your furniture, and provide some great services. It is a skill that remains prevalent today.

The top 5 most common jobs in New Jersey today

Retail salespeople come in at number one as the most common job here in New Jersey in 2022 with over 104,000 people ringing up our products,

Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material movers come in as the second most common job here in New Jersey in 2022. No surprise, laborers are needed to continue to build New Jersey.


Home healthcare and personal care aides come in as the third most common job here in New Jersey. The healthcare business here in New Jersey and nationwide has exploded. More care and attention are needed and are now available to our sick, elderly, and invalids.

Packers and packaging by hand comes in as the fourth most common job here in New Jersey. Amazon, UPS, and others have distribution centers here in New Jersey, it’s no wonder. In 2022 an amazing 84,000 people were employed in this field.


Coming in as the fifth most common job in New Jersey is cashier. This one surprised me a little bit but with the explosion of retail, it makes sense.

I was pleasantly surprised about the correlation between the job in 1870 and how useful it is today. While you won’t see any IT, social media, or gaming development jobs listed in 1870, you will see the core jobs that helped build our great state.

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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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