This Debates and Controversies contribution introduces the notion of an employment portfolio to explore how economies create combinations of employment. It is not simply the number of jobs but the factor share distributed to labour and the sectoral mix and composition that matter. Three case studies of employment portfolio (Australia, California and the UK) are used to show how previous attempts at structural reform failed to deliver sustainable employment, even though economies need to offer a portfolio of jobs as a hedge against an uncertain future. The article argues that new ideas and non-standard policies are required to help create employment of sufficient quality and quantity in the current difficult conditions. © The Author(s) 2013.