Much of the socioeconomic life in the United States occurs in its urban areas. While an urban economy is defined to a large extent by its network of occupational specializations, an examination of this important network is absent from the considerable body of work on the determinants of urban economic performance. Here we develop a structure-based analysis addressing how the network of interdependencies among occupational specializations affects the ease with which urban economies can transform themselves. While most occupational specializations exhibit positive relationships between one another, many exhibit negative ones, and the balance between the two partially explains the productivity of an urban economy. The current set of occupational specializations of an urban economy and its location in the occupation space constrain its future development paths. Important tradeoffs exist between different alternatives for altering an occupational specialization pattern, both at a single occupation and an entire occupational portfolio levels.