Last week, we wrote about the fastest-growing jobs for this decade. It is just as important to be aware of the fastest-declining occupations.
Fortunately, the US Department of Labor publishes a list of the most rapidly declining occupations. This list demonstrates that, whether we are production workers or highly trained technical specialists, our jobs can be rendered obsolete. The ten highest scoring “losers” on their list are shown below.
|Employment change, percent, 2019-29||Median annual wage, 2020(1)|
|Word processors and typists||-36.4||$41,050|
|Parking enforcement workers||-36.2||$42,070|
|Nuclear power reactor operators||-35.7||$104,040|
|Watch and clock repairers||-32.3||$45,290|
|Cutters and trimmers, hand||-29.9||$31,630|
|Data entry keyers||-24.6||$34,440|
|Electronic equipment installers and repairers, motor vehicles||-23.2||$39,570|
|Switchboard operators, including answering service||-22.5||$31,430|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Statistics Program, Employment Projections
Advances in technology largely account for the projected declines. Everyday experiences suggest the reasons jobs such as word processors, data entry key operators, telephone operators, switchboard operators, clock and watch repairers, and travel agents are declining. A little more discussion will help us understand why jobs including nuclear reactor operators, motor vehicle electronics installers, cutters and trimmers, and parking enforcement agents are on the “endangered” list, too.
- Word Processors and Typists: Word-processors and typists are at the top of the list because we type and process our own words. Those of us that don’t like to type, or don’t type for whatever reason can dictate to smartphone or use inexpensive software on computer.
- Parking Enforcement Workers: Intuitively, we’d expect an increase in demand for parking enforcers. After all, many municipalities are desperate for revenue. The reason this job category will decline instead, according to the AZ-Central blog, is that the function can be automated.
- Commercial Nuclear Power Reactor Operators: The demand for workers that operate nuclear reactors at commercial power plants is expected to decline because American companies are shutting down nuclear reactors used for generating electricity. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as of November 2019, there were 23 shut down commercial nuclear power reactors at 19 sites in various stages of decommissioning. Public resistance to commercial nuclear power operations, and the advent of utility-scale renewable energy projects, such as Vineyard Wind could contribute to this decline.
- Watch and Clock Repairers: The BLS also anticipates a drop in excess of 32% for watch and clock repairers. Digital clocks seem to be built into nearly every gadget, so some of us probably don’t use a free-standing clock or watch.
- Cutters and trimmers: Cutter and trimmer jobs are disappearing because workers will be replaced as machines for the job become more precise and efficient, according to AZ-Central blog.
- Telephone Operators: The next job category on the list—telephone operators—needs little explanation. When was the last time you made an “operator-assisted” telephone call? We use search engines and automated assistants such as Siri and Alexa to get phone numbers, and even dial them. A credit card number can be entered into an automated system, too.
- Travel Agents: It’s relatively simple to book our own travel. Airline tickets are easy to book via smartphone or from a computer. Personally, I have even booked more detailed arrangements, such as cruises, online without speaking with a travel agent.
- Data Entry Operators: The business world runs on an incessant flow of data and analysis so one may wonder why data entry workers are on the “endangered” list. The reason is we enter the data ourselves. We don’t have to go to a store counter to place an order—we enter the order ourselves online, for example.
- Motor Vehicle Electronics Installers: A category that seems a bit more puzzling is the decline of motor vehicle electronics installers and repairers. One would expect this category to increase as motor vehicles have more built-in computers. According to the AZ-Central blog, installers and repairers are not needed because the audio and navigation equipment they usually install is being replaced by smartphones.
- Switchboard Operators: Large hospitals and schools still seem to have switchboards. For the most part, these functions have been automated elsewhere.
The bottom line is that technological change can render jobs at any level obsolete. Even sophisticated six-figure jobs can be eliminated by changes in technology. The reasons for job losses are less important to job seekers, though, than the need to prepare for change.
Act now to avoid potential job loss in the coming years.
You do not have to immediately leave a job that is in one of the most rapidly declining occupations. Even the most rapidly declining job categories are expected to lose about 36% of its jobs, so your job may not disappear.
Nonetheless, it pays to be prepared. Evaluate your skills to establish options should your current role become obsolete. Watch for emerging occupations and emerging companies where your knowledge, skills, and abilities could be useful.
Don’t panic if you are in a “dying” occupation. Plan your next move now..