The nation’s unemployment rate, which started the year at 4% in January, dipped even lower later this year and is hovering at 3.7% as of July 2019. The future continues to look bright for those working as wind turbine technicians, physical therapists and nurse practitioners, as the renewable energy sector expands and more aging Americans need help with maintaining their health.
However, while they’re not quite extinct yet, there are certain industries that are headed for the endangered list. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that postal clerks, tellers and other occupations whose work is being outsourced or taken over by technology will have far fewer jobs by 2026.
Parking Enforcement Workers
These workers generally keep to an assigned public parking lot or a radius of city streets, looking for parking violators and illegally parked vehicles to issue tickets. In Los Angeles alone, parking enforcement workers issue approximately 2.5 million citations every year. They sometimes patrol on foot but oftentimes are assigned a vehicle for use.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 3,300
New technology makes it easier than ever to pay for parking. Some pilot projects are employing smart meters that allow drivers to check how much time is left on a meter from anywhere using a smartphone and authorize mobile payments to add additional minutes. Some prognosticators also believe parking enforcement workers will be able to detect procrastinating parkers and issue tickets electronically — meaning that fewer meter readers might be needed.
These folks develop and process photos from film or digital media. If they’re well-versed, photo processors might edit negatives and prints as well.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 4,900
In 2017, Manny Almeida, president of Fujifilm’s imaging division in North America, told Time that camera film sales logged only 2% of the market’s 2003 peak of 960 million rolls. Numbers like that could be a sign you’re at a dead-end job. Although film sales are making somewhat of a comeback, that resurgence is being driven largely by professional photographers.
What’s more, even digital camera sales are on the decline, since a growing number of everyday shutterbugs are satisfied with smartphone shots, leaving less work for those who develop and process photos.
Prepress Technicians and Workers
When a designer or client submits text and images, a prepress technician takes over. He is in charge of formatting and proofing the work so that the finished pages can be printed. The job includes digital and photo typesetting, and sometimes involves producing printing plates.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 6,900
Desktop publishing and digital printing software has increasingly allowed writers and editors to take over former prepress duties on their own. And, plummeting print circulations for newspapers and magazines are likely reducing the ranks of prepress workers.
Metal and Plastic Workers
This is a broad group and includes all sorts of workers who help produce metals and plastics. These workers set up, operate and maintain machines that drill and bore, mill and plane, and forge. This group also includes pourers and casters of metal.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 68,500
Metal and plastic workers face foreign competition — especially from China, the world’s largest steel producer — and displacement by computer-controlled machines that are taking over tasks for many types of production employees. These factors have slashed employment in the domestic steel industry for decades.
It’s also worth noting many specific jobs in the plastic- and metal-making sector only require a high school diploma or equivalent as well as a fairly short stint of on-the-job training, making the entry barrier for these jobs low — and finding a replacement relatively easy if new hires don’t cut it.
Telephone and Switchboard Operators
It might sound like something out of an old movie, but these workers are certainly still around. They might no longer manually insert cords into jacks on a giant board, but they still provide information by accessing directories and relay incoming, outgoing and interoffice phone calls.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 20,500
A 2016 survey from the National Center for Health Statistics showed that over half of American homes don’t have a landline telephone. Small businesses are increasingly following suit, cutting the cord in favor of wireless communication services. As a result, this occupational group is growing obsolete thanks to smartphones and more modern modes of communication.
Cashiers interact with customers and process payments for goods and services. They primarily work behind the counter or at a checkout stand in grocery stores, gas stations, drugstores and other places that sell general merchandise.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 30,600
Advances in technology, such as self-service checkout stands in retail stores and online shopping, will continue to limit the need for cashiers.
Tellers are the people behind the glass at banks who process your transactions. They cash checks, deposit money, collect loan payments and more.
The job typically requires only a high school diploma and about one month of on-the-job training from a senior teller.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 41,800
Employment for tellers is projected to decline by about 8% between 2016 and 2026, with automation technology and online banking continuing to replace more of their traditional job duties.
Postal Service Workers
These employees are on the front lines handling the nation’s mail. Postal employees sort and process mail, and they also operate machines that do similar work. This group includes mail carriers who deliver packages and correspondence to each home.
Fun fact: Billionaire David Geffen started his career as a mailroom clerk in 1964.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 65,300
With nearly 146.4 billion pieces of mail processed and delivered in 2018, you might think business is booming and the future of postal service workers is secure. But as electronic bill pay and email become increasingly popular to save time and postage, it means a decline in postal service jobs.
These workers are part of teams that are responsible for the assembly of a product — which can mean either the whole thing or a single component. Each member of the team is able to perform all the required tasks in the assembly process, so they can be rotated around as needed.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 145,000
The decline in assembler roles is attributed, in general, to companies becoming more efficient with technology and producing more with fewer workers. There are also robotics that can perform more complex and delicate work compared to a human.
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
This group consists of executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants, legal secretaries and all other secretaries and administrative assistants that don’t fall in the aforementioned categories — except for medical secretaries.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 192,200
According to the BLS, employment of those in the “executive” tier is expected to decline by more than 5% from 2016 to 2026, possibly because secretaries can work cross-departmentally and support multiple managers in an organization.
On a positive note, there is one secretary type that will see job growth between 2016 and 2026: medical secretaries, which aren’t included in these numbers. Medical secretaries will see a 22.5% increase in employment. So, if you want to stay in this field, a shift to the medical industry might help you hold on to your job.
These workers prepare basic items at fast-food establishments with limited menus — think McDonald’s and Burger King. Their duties typically involve operating single-purpose, high-volume cooking equipment.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 27,100
The decline in jobs for fast-food cooks can be attributed to at least two reasons: increasing automation and a national emphasis on healthy dining.
According to Statista, a 2016 survey found that healthfulness was the third-most important factor in terms of how Americans choose what to eat. Price and taste were paramount, but healthy dining ranked above convenience and sustainability.
Correctional Officers and Jailers
This occupational group guards prisoners in rehabilitative or penal institutions, using established procedures and regulations. Correctional officers and jailers might also guard inmates being transported between courtrooms, prisons or other locations.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 34,500
Although the U.S. commands the world’s highest prison population rate, the national incarceration rate for sentenced prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction fell 2.1% from 2016 to 2017, which is actually at its lowest point since 1997, according to a 2019 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These findings could help explain the 7% projected decline in employment for correctional officers and jailers.
Sewing Machine Operators
These operators handle sewing machines in manufacturing facilities, which can stitch together, reinforce and decorate fabric faster than the traditional needle and thread.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 25,700
The clothing manufacturing industry is another arena that’s being revolutionized by automation and technology. For example, the Sewbot, a new T-shirt-sewing robot, is capable of performing numerous production tasks such as quality inspection, sewing seams and adding sleeves. A system of 21 robotic production lines is capable of producing 1.2 million T-shirts per year, which is a 71% increase in production compared to human sewing lines. These numbers could help explain the 16.7% decline in jobs for sewing machine operators.
These tech-savvy individuals write and test code for software programs and computer applications. They take programs designed by software engineers and developers and create “instructions” that computers can follow. The work of computer programmers is needed for these programs and applications to function properly.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 21,300
Computer programming is a job that can be done remotely, so companies sometimes hire workers in different countries where the wages aren’t as high, according to the BLS. In other words, outsourcing contributes to the 7.2% projected decline in computer programming jobs and is a serious concern to anyone looking to break into this industry.
These top dogs operate at the highest level of management and are supported by a team of smaller executives and managers. Chief executives determine the overall direction of their companies under guidelines set by a board of directors or similar body. The average annual salary of a chief executive is approximately $189,600.
Expected Job Loss by 2026: 12,100
The ranks of chief executives are projected to decline by 3.9% between 2016 and 2026. In 2018 alone, the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies has dropped by a steep 25% after hitting a record high in 2017. These women left the companies they helmed due to a variety of reasons, according to Fortune: retirement, other opportunities, etc.
According to Bloomberg data, the number of public companies has also shrunk — approximately 3,600 firms were listed on the U.S. stock exchanges in 2017, which was less than half from 1997 — due to mergers and acquisitions as well as other reasons, though the overall size of the market is bigger.
In general, people aiming for the corner office might find limited space when they reach the top.
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Grace Lin contributed to the reporting for this article.
The specific occupations and occupational groups mentioned in this article are projected by the BLS to lose the most workers between 2016 and 2026. Some job titles are listed individually, while losses for related jobs in the same “minor group” — according to the bureau’s Standard Occupational Classification system — have been combined.
About the Author
Charlene Oldham specializes in education, workplace issues, consumer finance, health and wellness and business personalities. A former business news staff writer for The Dallas Morning News whose varied resume includes a stint with Teach For America, Charlene has written freelance works that have appeared in publications including the Orlando Sentinel, SUCCESS, Organic Gardening and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.