A Panoply of Fading Jobs

Lamplighter, elevator operator, coal miner, buggy whip maker. These and other jobs have vanished or been sharply curtailed over the years. Things change – be it from technology advancing, an influx of cheap labor due to globalization, shifting immigration patterns or even just a change in consumer tastes.

While many industries and jobs seemed doomed to the dust bins of history, many of us remain stuck in denial when we should be looking forward to automation and robots taking the reins from humans.

Businesses come and go. A very small number tend to survive through the generations, and it’s unlikely even some of the biggest names in business today will make it to the next century. Things change, and economies evolve. There’s not much you can do about it. And when that happens, the jobs change, too.

Employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics related to job growth and decline helps to pinpoint a handful of jobs that are rapidly shrinking – and which might be almost completely gone within the next decade. Information from a report compiled by Lottoland aided in the process.

While these jobs probably always will exist in some fashion, their roles are quickly diminishing. They might not be fields you want to try to break into. Here’s take a quick look at some jobs on the endangered-species list.

Drivers. The world will always have drivers of some sort, and we’ll probably still be driving in 10 years. But the writing is on the wall, and a lot of resources are dedicated to handing over the wheel to automation. Self-driving cars are only a few years away, and when the switch happens, it’s not just our personal vehicles that will be autonomous. It’s Uber vehicles, long-haul 18-wheelers, public buses and more.

Farmers. Not all farmers will disappear within 10 years, but as we’ve seen over the past couple of generations, their role will diminish. At one time, most Americans were farmers. Now, there are only 2 million across the country. And it’s a shrinking field. Technology is making it easier for fewer people to produce more yield, and it’s likely that indoor farms and even lab-grown meats will start increasing in popularity. The new batch of farmers might resemble scientists and biologists more than anything.

Postal workers. The number of postal workers is dwindling for many reasons. Private companies, such as UPS and FedEx, are taking on some of the burden. But technology is the main culprit. As the mail system’s facilities become more automated and technologically capable, fewer people are going to be needed to run them. Postal workers have been pegged as America’s fastest-disappearing job.

Broadcasters. In an age when Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite have been replaced by Wolf Blitzer and Brian Williams, many people have already labeled broadcast journalism as dead. This is another industry that won’t disappear completely. But it is shrinking, meaning the few positions that are out there will become even more competitive. And generally, broadcast reporting is a hard job that pays relatively little and requires long hours.

Jewelers. The shrinking of the American jewelry industry is mostly due to globalization. There will always be local jewelers, but most jewelry manufacturing has moved overseas to contain costs. According to the statistics bureau, there aren’t even that many jewelers left in the U.S. – around 40,000 as of 2014. And that number is set to drop by 11% by 2024.

Fishermen. Professional fishermen face threats to their jobs on all fronts. The technology is clearly getting better, meaning fewer people are required to run an operation. But imports of seafood and farm-raised fish are becoming more popular and cheaper. There’s also the issue of overfishing to take into consideration and the fact that climate change is having a big effect on marine life and stocks of available fish.

Printers and publishers. Publishing and printing, at least in the old-fashioned sense, is an endangered industry. Technology has brought it to the digital realm, and we’ve seen the aftermath in declining newspaper readership and the rise of e-books. We’ll always publish books and periodicals, but the folks who have been trained in the old ways of producing them are likely to find themselves out of a job in the near future.

Cashiers. It’s clear to anyone who has been in a grocery store or big box chain recently that the days of the cashier are numbered. Cashiers are being replaced with self-checkout kiosks. Amazon is taking this a step further by experimenting with stores that don’t have checkout lines at all. It might take longer than a decade for the majority of cashiers to disappear, but they’re on the list.

Delivery. We’ve already looked at jobs such as drivers and postal workers. Both of those jobs aim at one primary function: delivering things. But we think that adding “delivery” as its own category is justified. Millions of people deliver things professionally – be it pizzas, newspapers or even people. And once again, the clock is ticking on these jobs, potentially leaving tens of millions out of work.

Travel agents. If you’re a fan of travel sites, such as Kayak, Priceline, or Hotwire, you’re slowly killing a long-established industry: travel agencies. Depending on your age, it’s entirely possible you never used a travel agent. At one time, these people were indispensable. These days, you can easily find a flight, hotel and car all from your phone – which is the main reason travel agents jobs are headed for extinction.

Dispatchers. We touched on drivers and delivery, but what about the people who tell those people where to go? They, too, are in trouble. We traditionally call these people dispatchers, and their jobs are in serious jeopardy. The main reason why is due to automation like many other imperiled jobs. Computers can route resources where they’re needed as well as (if not better than) any human.

Telemarketers. There was a time when you didn’t want to answer your phone because you thought it might be a telemarketer. They still exist, but fewer of them are flesh-and-blood humans. You might be familiar with robocalls. These days, these robot callers are replacing telemarketers. They are able to make more calls in less time, all while eliminating the need for employers to pay people to do it.

Social media professionals. Social media has wormed its way into every facet of our lives. Think of it this way: If it happened and you didn’t post it on Instagram, did it happen at all? With the advent of social media has come social media experts and managers. These jobs might exist in the future in some form. But social media isn’t going anywhere, and it might be akin to being a “television expert” or something similar in coming years. As the LottoLand report says, the skills associated with these jobs will become more commonplace than specialized.

Manufacturing workers. Manufacturing is declining at a rapid pace. It’s been happening for a while. This is one of the biggest issues facing the American economy. We simply don’t have or need armies of manufacturing workers like we used to. Factories have been automated, and many other manufacturing jobs have been relocated to countries where labor is cheaper. These jobs aren’t coming back, and they will, in all likelihood, continue to disappear.