9 Dying Occupations -- Thanks To Technology

technology making some jobs obsoleteBy Michael B. Sauter

Since textile workers in England were replaced by mechanized looms in the 19th century new technologies have been continuously taking the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of laborers. In the 20th century -- the age of machinery, robotics, and computers -- the United States has seen the loss of millions of factory jobs. Now, in the era of the Internet and further automation, a new generation of full-time workers is on the verge of losing their positions to technology. 24/7 Wall Street used information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the jobs that will lose the largest percentage of their current positions over the next decade.

Many jobs are in industries where technological advancement has already caused major reductions in the workforce. Now, further contraction is expected in those same industries as workers who were trained to oversee the machines are themselves replaced by new machines and software that manage the old machines. For example, more than 50,000 postal workers formerly assigned to oversee the mail sorting machines will lose their jobs as newer automated machines are implemented.

In addition, some of the world's newest industries, including semiconductors and computers, are already replacing major sections of employees because of further improvements. The components of semiconductors are now too small for humans to process, and automatic software updates for computer systems, both in the office and the factory, can now be done automatically, or from a central location.

Not just technology is causing job losses. Changing trends in personal preferences and business practices are also affecting people's livelihoods. Less people wear watches and use film-loaded cameras, and so hundreds of repair-persons in both fields will lose their jobs due to lack of demand. In some cases, these industries are essentially dying, losing 30 to 40 percent of their workforces in the process. The Postal Service and the publishing industry are being killed by the Internet. Soon, they will lose hundreds of thousands of additional jobs as they continue to shrink.

9. Watch Repairers
  • Decline by 2018: -13.84%
  • 2008 Employment: 3,200
  • Median Annual Income: $37,180

Watch repairers, or horologists, build and repair wrist and pocket watches. There were just 3,200 horologists in the entire country last year. By 2018, that number will drop by an additional 400, or 13.84 percent. According to the BLS' Occupation Outlook Handbook: "Employment of watch repairers is expected to decline rapidly. The high cost of repairs will compel many consumers to replace their watches rather than have them fixed."

8. Paperhangers
  • Decline by 2018: -14.48%
  • 2008 Employment: 7,400
  • Median Annual Income: $37,600

Paperhangers primarily install, repair or replace wallpaper in homes, but they also work on billboards and signs. There were 7,400 paperhangers in 2008. By 2018, that number will decline 15 percent to 6,300. Like painters, paperhangers usually run their own businesses, often after first apprenticing with an expert. Paperhanger positions, according to the BLS, "should decline rapidly as many homeowners take advantage of easy application materials and resort to cheaper alternatives, such as painting." The BLS warns that hangers should expect "long periods of unemployment" as a result of reduced demand.

7. Camera and Photographic Equipment Repairers
  • Decline by 2018: -15.4%
  • 2008 Employment: 4,600
  • Median Annual Income: $37,180

As the digital camera continues its takeover of the photography industry, and film is increasingly a novelty, the livelihoods of camera repairers will be threatened. According to the BLS, "Employment is expected to drop more than 15 percent." While these individuals increasingly work with digital cameras as well, the bureau states that "technological improvements mean that most consumers prefer to replace broken cameras with newer models, even at the high end, saving on the high cost of repair." While the BLS adds that there are some opportunities for individuals working at warranty repair centers, this will not be enough to offset a net decline of nearly 700 jobs by 2018.

6. Computer Operators
  • Decline by 2018: -18.1%
  • 2008 Employment: 110,000
  • Median Annual Income: $36,390

Computer operators work across a variety of businesses, in offices and factories. They are responsible for the regular upkeep of the computer systems at their business, updating software, maintaining logs, keeping them virus-free. It may be difficult to imagine that a job with the word computer in its title is also in danger of becoming outdated, but that is increasingly the case. The BLS states that "advances in technology are making many of the duties performed by these workers obsolete. The expanding use of software that automates computer operations gives companies the option of making systems more efficient, but greatly reduces the need for operators." As operators lose their jobs, software designers and manufacturers are becoming some of the fastest-growing jobs in the country. These are the people developing the software that will replace operators.

5. Desktop Publishers
  • Decline by 2018: -22.54%
  • 2008 Employment: 26,400
  • Median Annual Income: $36,610

There may be no industry that has shown greater signs of decline in the past decade than the publishing industry. Desktop publishers are responsible for preparing material for physical printing. While some work for companies not in the publishing industry, the majority are either employed by newspapers and magazines or publishing houses. In addition, desktop publishers are reportedly losing positions in others industries, as well, because more general employees are being trained with the basic tools to do their own publishing when necessary. In addition, the BLS reports, "increased computer-processing capacity and the widespread availability of more elaborate desktop publishing software will make it easier and more affordable for non-printing professionals to use."

4. Drilling Machine Operators and Tenders
  • Decline by 2018: -26.87%
  • 2008 Employment: 33,000
  • Median Annual Income: $33,130

Millions of factory jobs have been lost or moved overseas in the past few decades as the result of improvements in technology. No factory-based position is expected to decline more in the next 10 years than those that work with drilling and boring machines. Operators of these machines usually spend the day on the assembly line, overseeing the process of these machines, and making sure that there are no malfunctions. According to the BLS, "Many firms are adopting new technologies, such as computer-controlled machine tools and robots in order to improve quality, lower production costs and remain competitive. The switch to computer-controlled machinery requires the employment of computer control programmers and operators instead of machine setters, operators and tenders."

3. Postal Service Mail Sorters, Processors and Processing Machine Operators
  • Decline by 2018: -30.32%
  • Current Employment: 179,900
  • Median Annual Income: $53,080

The Internet has arguably hurt the postal service more than any other business. The drastic reduction in mail delivery has cost thousands of jobs in delivery and caused many post office closures around the country. Now, mail sorting jobs are set to disappear as a new automated system is implemented. Between 2008 and 2018, more than 54,500 jobs, or about 30 percent of current positions, are expected to vanish.

2. Semiconductor Processors
  • Decline by 2018: -31.53%
  • 2008 Employment: 31,600
  • Median Annual Income: $33,130

Surprisingly, the relatively young semiconductor industry is set to shed much of its workforce. Approximately 10,000 jobs, or 31.53 percent of the total workforce, will be gone by 2018. Improvements in technology have made chip components increasingly tiny, essentially invisible to the naked eye. According to the BLS, "Because the components are so small, it is now impossible for humans to handle chips in production, since these chips are so sensitive to dust and other particles. As a result, there has been a decline in semiconductor processor employment for many years, despite a strong domestic industry. As technology advances, the decline in employment is expected to continue."

1. Bleaching and Dyeing Machine Operators and Tenders
  • Decline by 2018: -44.83%
  • 2008 Employment: 16,000
  • Median Annual Income: $22,970

The textile industry will lose more than 100,000 jobs between 2008 and 2018, partly because manufacturers are continuing to move production overseas for cheap labor, and partly because jobs are also being replaced domestically. The jobs that the BLS expects will be hit hardest are those of tending and operating machines that bleach and dye fabrics. "Technological developments, such as computer-aided marking and grading, computer-controlled cutters, semiautomatic sewing and pressing machines, and automated material-handling systems have increased output while reducing the need for some workers in larger firms." More than 7,000 positions, or 44.8 percent of the total workforce, will no longer exist eight years from now.

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Well ask yourself this, if we keep letting technology take over human productivity then how can companies sell products to consumers if everyone will eventually be unemployed? I know for some companies, automation seems like a popular trend, but the more people you layoff due to the improvement of technology will create an economic disparity in all nations.

June 25 2013 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jovin george

when new things are invented old things should give way to new things that's how it goes



October 15 2011 at 2:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The decline in watchmakers is due to the current generation of watchmakers retiring and dying off. Most schools training watchmakers closed when quartz watches came out as it was thought to be the end of mechanical watches. Currently there is a shortage of watchmakers with the demand growing not shrinking. The number of modern luxury watches and vintage watches that still need servicing exceeds the number of qualified repairers.

With only about a dozen watch repair schools left in the country which combined are graduating about 100 students a year, the shortage is going to become more acute. At our school we find we have trouble attracting students because watchmaking is thought to be a dying trade while we have many employers asking for graduates that we do not have. Watch service centers and jewelers are seeking qualified watchmakers. Many watchmakers are also self-employed.
Steve Humphrey, Executive Director, NAWCC School of Horology (www.horology.edu)

October 10 2011 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
turner aidan

I disagree with some of the nine but it is scary to think that this is our world. We have gone too far to the technology side and left our human side behind. We are seeing it every day now... as more and more people are losing their homes and living on the streets. We let technology take over our communities and we need to get them back. Remember the Mom and Pop stores that were on every corner? They need to come back. Remember the days when, if you bought something from China, you quickly removed the sticker or tag? We need to get back to America - to our own people. We need to buy American.. we need to turn off the cell phones and computers and TALK to one another. I am just as guilty as the next person since my job is social media and networking but I miss the "old" days just as much as the next person. Our children and grandchildren do not know the meaning of "conversation"... they can not spell... they don't have to read anymore.... Has anyone thought about what our world is going to look like in 20 years from now? I applaud our President for trying to bring back the American spirit... for showing that even at the White House, growing our own vegetables is the way to go.... that we need to invest in our children.. in their education and future but we need to do in a human way - not all technology. When was the last time your family sat down to a real dinner? When was the last time your family sat together in church or even went to church? When was the last time your family visited the neighbors down the road... maybe took a dessert along? This is the America I grew up in and I truly, truly miss it.

This list will continue to grow until... well, we truly become like the Jetsons! I wish I knew what it was going to take to bring our country back to its roots.

Nancy Anderson, SEO Analyst, www.beyond.com

October 10 2011 at 7:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kyle Alexander

why stop at 9 , how about fighter pilots bit.ly/nbk6bu this is an automated world with more workers than jobs. i shudder to think what the consequence of that small fact will be.

October 10 2011 at 6:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Josel Laj

wake up....PEOPLE...
wake up no one get rich working for other people... learn to make...having one jobs in this economic hard times is a scary thing..learn to make...the most delicious food gourmet.. http://www.j40.in/R1MTyP


October 09 2011 at 3:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Judy Lynn

As long as Americans keep purchasing "JUNK" disposable goods there will be no jobs in America. Years ago a refrigerator, stove, tv, washer, dryer, telephones, pots and pans, brooms, mops, etc. would last forever, today they have to replaced like your changing your under garmets. stop buying that S--T from China, Japan, Indonesia, and all of that cheap crap and purchase smart.

October 08 2011 at 5:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Judy Lynn's comment

your = you're

October 12 2012 at 11:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not so for half of these. Semiconductor Processors, or anything related to that field, are, for the most part, sourced out of the country. That's a good reason. I think this article was created to make us think.

October 08 2011 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is all very true: Until the machinery breaks or the technology fails. And it will.

October 08 2011 at 3:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


October 08 2011 at 1:49 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to frmgrazz's comment

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