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by Vault Careers | January 31, 2011


The Bureau of Labor Statistics has made its projections for the fastest declining industries in the coming years, and a trend is clear: blue collar jobs are disappearing.

This should come as no surprise; foreign competition and increased automation have been edging manufacturing and unskilled jobs out for years. But the recession is speeding up the evolution, and though many hard-hit industries, like finance, will come back, manufacturing and assembly line work might never recover.

In the short term, small upgrades in training or certifications may keep you off the chopping block. Same goes for researching projections for your industry: in the midst of lay offs, many companies are consolidating jobs to headquarters, so knowing where the hot spots are for your line of work may come in handy.

Long term, though, the only way to safeguard your livelihood is to get an education. On-the-job training is far less mutable than a college degree-- and if BLS's list is to be believed, most of it will soon be obsolete.


1. Textile Manufacturing

Jobs Affected:

  • • Sewing machine operators (Employment projected to decrease by 33.66%)
  • • Textile winding, twisting, and drawing out machine setters, operators, and tenders (40.70% projected decrease).

Why: This industry's US output is declining fastest, thanks to combination of increasing productivity (because of better technology), and a mass out-sourcing to China and Central America, where labor is more cheaply obtained that in the US.

Foreign competition will add extra cost-cutting pressure to American plants, which may further curtail hiring.


2. Postal Service

Jobs Affected:

  • • Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators (-30.32%)
  • • Postal service clerks (-18.02%)
  • • Mail clerks and mail machine operators, except postal service (-11.76%)

Why: It's complicated. With globalization and the rise of online shopping, the shipping industry in general is projected to do more business with an increase in package deliveries.

But that increase, for the USPS, will be offset by increasing competition from private companies, electronic mail, and similar alternatives (for example, paying bills over the Internet), and due to that competition, less demand for their more expensive shipping options.

Another factor: increased use of automated sorting and other technological advances, which reduce the need for human labor. The result will be fewer postal service locations, and more automated machines doing the jobs of clerks.


3. Office and Administrative Support

Jobs Affected:

  • • File clerks (-23.36%)
  • • Order clerks (-26.12%)
  • • Office and administrative support workers, all other (-11.64%)
  • • Information and record clerks, all other (-11.79%)
  • • Switchboard operators, including answering service (-10.89%)

Why: Advances in technology, like voice recognition technology and Internet directory assistance services, plus outsourcing, the proliferation of cell phones, and the consolidation of telephone operator jobs into fewer locations will all reduce demand for these workers.

Specifically, electronic files are replacing file clerks, while office and administrative support workers are becoming less necessary with the advent of automated work processes electronically stored calendars and note-taking systems.


4. Machine Operators and Computer Operators:

Jobs Affected:

  • • Machine feeders and offbearers (-22.15%)
  • • Photographic processing machine operators (-24.31%)
  • • Lathe and turning machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic (-26.73%)
  • • Paper goods machine setters, operators, and tenders (-21.54%)
  • • Grinding, lapping, polishing, and buffing machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic (-15.92%)
  • • Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers (-14.66%)
  • • Cutting, punching, and press machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic (-14.05%)
  • • Computer operators: (18.60%)

Why: It's simple: tasks performed by this occupation are increasingly automated.

In the case of computer operation, smaller, more portable, and more powerful units translate to fewer workers required to operate and maintain computers.


5. Sales and Related

Jobs Affected:

  • • Telemarketers (-11.07%)
  • • Door-to-door sales workers, news and street vendors, and related workers (-14.79%)

Why: Organizations are devoting fewer resources to telemarketing as jobs are off-shored, while door to door salespersons have been widely replaced by online shopping options.

Employment specifically related to the print industry, such as newspaper sales, is expected to be negatively affected by the rise of electronic and online publishing for media delivery.

-- Posted by Cathryn Vandewater,


Filed Under: Job Search

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