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Endangered Professions: 25 Declining Jobs

Out of Luck


The economy may be growing again, but some industries will only continue to erode in the next decade due to changes in technologyand demand, and in some cases, more foreign competition. The U.S. Bureau of Labor (BLS) recently released their predictions for how the work force will look in 2018. Here are the industries that are expected to eliminate the most positions from now through 2018. In some cases, this cut represents just a small percentage of the total number of jobs available in that industry. However, many of the industries on this list are cutting anywhere from a quarter to a third of all available positions. So if you see your job on this list, perhaps it may be time for a career change. However, if any of these jobs do interest you despite their bad outlook, one thing to keep in mind is that none of them require any advanced degrees, just varying amounts of on-the-job training.

Photo Credit: slushpup

#25: Lathe and Turning Machine Tool Setters, Operators


Turns out there are still people who make things in this country, cutting and shaping metals and plastics with these old but faithful machines. The main reason this job will be declining in the next decade is due to a gradual switch to computer-controlled machines. Oh, and did we mention robots? That’s right, companies will start to rely more on robots to do the tasks that people once did in order to cut costs and be more competitive. So these tool setters will gradually be phased out and switched with computer programmers who understand how to run the new technology.

Number of jobs in 2008: 56,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 41,000

Total jobs lost: 15,000 (or 26.7 percent)

Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

#24: Mail Clerks and Mail Machine Operators


These employees are not postal workers and do not have a delivery route, but they do make sure the mail runs smoothly at their companies by sorting and routing incoming and outgoing mail and packages. Still, as new technologies emerge and the mail becomes more digitized, there will be less of a need for them. Just imagine: there may come a day where people actually can’t work their way up from the mail room because there just isn’t one.

Number of jobs in 2008: 141,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 125,000

Total jobs lost: 17,000 (or 11.8 percent)

Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

#23: Switchboard Operators


Back in the day, if you had too many dropped calls, you’d probably blame your switchboard operator instead of companies like AT&T. Nowadays this profession is shrinking fast, and there’s a long list of reasons why. More people are using cell phones and those that still use landlines rely more on Internet phone directories to help them connect with people. Finally, while there will probably always be a need for some operators, the job will increasingly be outsourced to people overseas.

Number of jobs in 2008: 155,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 138,000

Total jobs lost: 17,000 (or 10.9 percent)

Photo Credit: farm4.static.flickr.com

#22: Inspectors, Testers, Samplers, Sorters and Weighers


The BLS also refers to these professionals as quality-control inspectors. Put simply, these are the people who make sure that the products you buy are safe and well tested. According to the BLS, the big factor in this decline is that special inspectors are being replaced both by machines that automatically inspect goods and by assembly workers who monitor the safety of goods as its made on the line.

Number of jobs in 2008: 465,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 448,000

Total jobs lost: 17,000 (or 3.6 percent)

Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

#21: Data Entry Keyers


Let’s just call them the ultimate list makers. Their job is to enter important information like medical records and membership lists into their company’s computer system. Apparently, companies are getting more comfortable getting rid of the middle man and letting employees enter in their own information. Who woulda thunk it? They trust us!

Number of jobs in 2008: 284,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 267,000

Total jobs lost: 17,000 (or 6.1 percent)

Photo Credit: farm1.static.flickr.com

#20: Miscellaneous Agricultural Workers


Apparently these guys are too cool to be called farmers, but not good enough to escape the downsizing that will take place in the next decade. These workers are responsible for everything from raising livestock to handling crops and equipment. According to the BLS, there will be some decline in this field mainly because of new technologies that make it easier to get more output from the land with less manpower.

Number of jobs in 2008: 807,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 789,000

Total jobs lost: 18,000 (or 2.3 percent)

Photo Credit: JelleS

#19: Laborers and Freight, Stock, Material Movers


These employees are responsible for transporting products by hand, as well as cleaning construction equipment. There is some hope for people in this field, since there tends to be a quick turnover, allowing for new spots to open. For the most part, new technologies and improved equipment have made it easier for warehouses to eliminate more of these movers.

Number of jobs in 2008: 2,317,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 2,299,000

Total jobs lost: 18,000 (or .8 percent)

Photo Credit: Kalabird

#18: Machinists


Machinists, who make the metal parts that go in many different things, may have shot themselves in the foot. According to the BLS, the average machinist has become much more productive in recent years, making it easier for companies to consolidate the number of employees they need. On top of this, there is rising competition elsewhere in the world to produce the same goods.

Number of jobs in 2008: 422,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 402,000

Total jobs lost: 19,000 (or 4.6 percent)

Photo Credit: army.mil

#17: Computer Operators


Apparently not all computer jobs are safe bets this decade. Computer operators are responsible for making sure the computer hardware works safely and efficiently. But these days, there is plenty of affordable software that can do just as good a job monitoring the computer’s functions. Bummer.

Number of jobs in 2008: 110,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 90,000

Total jobs lost: 21,000 (or 18.6 percent)

Photo Credit: totalAldo

#16: Paper Goods Machine Setters, Operators, Tenders


Forget Dunder Mifflin. These guys are responsible for wrapping and banding paper and pretty much anything else that a group of human beings can do to paper. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t run on paper any more (at least not as much).

Number of jobs in 2008: 103,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 81,000

Total jobs lost: 22,000 (or 21.5 percent)

Photo Credit: gregoryjameswalsh

#15: Information and Record Clerks


Ever heard of the Internet? Well, for better or worse, it is gradually undermining the need for any and all clerical positions, including this one.

Number of jobs in 2008: 227,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 200,000

Total jobs lost: 27,000 (or 11.8 percent)

Photo Credit: JasonRogersFotographie

#14: News Vendors, Street Vendors and Door-to-Door Salesmen


This one hits pretty close to home. Imagine a world where you aren’t bothered daily by people hawking goods in your face. Hmm... on second thought, I like this development. As it turns out, there is less of a need to desperately sell goods in the flesh when you can just market the same junk to people online.

Number of jobs in 2008: 182,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 155,000

Total jobs lost: 27,000 (or 14.8 percent)

Photo Credit: tallkev

#13: Machine Feeders and Offbearers


Their job is pretty self-explanatory: these employees literally insert and remove items from machines to speed up the production line. If this job sounds routine, it is, and not surprisingly, will be gradually phased out by more automation.

Number of jobs in 2008: 141,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 110,000

Total jobs lost: 31,000 (or 22.2 percent)

Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

#12: Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers


Have you ever used a computer or flown on a plane? Well, chances are, one of these equipment assemblers had a hand in building the parts that these devices run on. New technologies have made it easier than ever to build these items quickly and efficiently, but unfortunately, these same technologies have also decreased the need for actual assemblers.

Number of jobs in 2008: 213,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 182,000

Total jobs lost: 31,000 (or 14.7 percent)

Photo Credit: ctitze

#11: Cutting, Punch and Press Machine Setters, Operators


This may sound more like a combination move on a martial arts video game than the title of a job. But these workers are the ones who control and monitor the machines that produce household items like toasters. So what’s causing the decline? If you guessed robots, you are right. Many factories are phasing out real employees and relying more on computers and robots to control these machines. To make matters worse, we have started to lean more heavily on foreign countries to manufacture these items for us.

Number of jobs in 2008: 237,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 204,000

Total jobs lost: 33,000 (or 14.1 percent)

Photo Credit: healthserviceglasses

#10: Packers and Packagers


In the long story of how the product you purchase in a store goes from being a raw material to being in your living room, packers and packagers play a relatively minor role. Their job is to place the item in a container to be shipped off to the store (or in a shopping bag if they work in the store that sells it). Some are also responsible for labeling the boxes and making sure the item has no obvious defects. But some of these warehouse jobs will be outsourced in the coming years and new technologies will further streamline the chain of production. Still, there will probably be a need for people to bag items in grocery stores and malls around the country for many years to come (or at least as long as we remain too lazy to do it ourselves.)

Number of jobs in 2008: 759,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 725,000

Total jobs lost: 34,000 (or 4.5 percent)

Photo Credit: Tracy Hunter

#9: Office and Administrative Support Workers


These workers may keep the office running smoothly, but in the future, more of their tasks will get handed over to machines. So if you’re interested in working in an office in this capacity, consider working your way up to a supervisor position. There will be less of a need for workers to work and more of a need for supervisors to manage the office flow.

Number of jobs in 2008: 307,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 271,000

Total jobs lost: 36,000 (or 11.6 percent)

Photo Credit: stevendepolo

#8: First-Line Supervisors, Production Managers and Operating Workers


These managers and supervisors make sure that warehouse workers are productive and don’t slack off. However, improvements in production technology are reducing the need for workers and supervisors, and many of the duties are also being outsourced.

Number of jobs in 2008: 681,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 646,000

Total jobs lost: 36,000 (or 5.2 percent)

Photo Credit: gregor_y

#7: Telemarketers


I can already hear a few of you muttering good riddance as you read this. After all, who among us appreciates being badgered by telemarketers when we get home? This job is basically the equivalent of being a professional prank caller, except these guys get paid for it. Not surprisingly, though, more of this demand is being met by the Internet. Plus many of these jobs are being outsourced to places like India. Even if the phones get quieter in the next decade, it will probably be replaced by the new annoyance of getting increased sam.

Number of jobs in 2008: 342,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 304,000

Total jobs lost: 38,000 (or 11.1 percent)

Photo Credit: mateoutah

#6: Shipping, Receiving and Traffic Clerks


These clerks catalogue all items shipped and received within their company. Unfortunately, these days all it takes to do that is a computer and a scanner. So fewer clerks are needed to do the same amount of work.

Number of jobs in 2008: 751,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 701,000

Total jobs lost: 49,000 (or 6.6 percent)

Photo Credit: gawd

#5: File Clerks


It seems that anything with the name “clerk” the job title is pretty screwed. As we mentioned earlier, there is less of a need for clerical jobs mainly because more and more files are being stored online and on computers. So the market for file clerks will shrink by nearly a quarter in the next decade.

Number of jobs in 2008: 212,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 163,000

Total jobs lost: 50,000 (or 23.4 percent)

Photo Credit: lh3.ggpht.com

#4: Postal Service Mail Sorters and Processors


These are the workers who read your dirty letters. Okay, maybe not, but they are responsible for preparing your mail to be delivered. That’s pretty important, right? Apparently, not so much. Post offices will start relying on automated equipment to do this work for them, and according to the BLS, many companies are actually “presorting” their mail before sending it. Nice job, office workers. By thinking ahead you’re taking peoples’ jobs.

Number of jobs in 2008: 180,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 125,000

Total jobs lost: 55,000 (or 30.3 percent)

Photo Credit: geocam20000

#3: Order Clerks


What did we tell you about clerks? Actually, these clerks are very useful. They are the ones who process your shipping orders and sometimes even handle your complaints. But once again, companies have decided to lean on machines to do the work instead. We’re starting to wonder if there be any real people working in the next decade?

Number of jobs in 2008: 246,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 182,000

Total jobs lost: 64,000 (or 26.1 percent)

Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

#2: Sewing Machine Operators


Overall, the employment prospects for textile, apparel and furnishing workers will be one of the hardest hit in the next few years, and within that, sewing machine operators will be the worst off. The number of people working at this job will shrink by a third by 2018, largely because the machines themselves will be mostly automated in the future. The other big factor in this decline is that we are importing more of our goods from abroad.

Number of jobs in 2008: 212,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 141,000

Total jobs lost: 72,000 (or 33.7 percent)

Photo Credit: reegmo

#1: Farmers and Ranchers


Nearly 80,000 farmers and ranchers will either be out of work or in a different profession as we approach the close of next decade. The world of farming is very cut throat, and in the next few years, many smaller farms will be absorbed by larger entities. Ultimately, the goal will be to produce the most with the least workers. So if you currently work as a farmer, or if it’s always been your dream to become one, the trick, according to the BLS, is to find a niche market and establish lasting relationships with your customers. The BLS notes that some of the farmers with the best prospects don’t work on huge farms or for big corporations, but instead sell a unique organic or horticultural good that their customers want badly.

Number of jobs in 2008: 986,000

Projected number of jobs in 2018: 907,000

Total jobs lost: 79,000 (or 8.0 percent)

For a list of the 25 fastest growing jobs, check out our coverage here.

Photo Credit: gbaku

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