5 Occupations Disappearing Fast

Postal workerThe Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its employment projections for 2010-2020. Some fields are expected to add jobs like crazy, like anything to do with health care, while others face a daunting shrinkage.

Technology is the biggest villain here: More things can now be done with fewer hands, and some jobs can be automated entirely. From sending mail to tilling the soil, new gadgets have upped our productivity, but at the expense of hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

So if you're choosing your career track, approach these occupational groups with caution:

Occupations Losing The Most Jobs
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5 Occupations Disappearing Fast

5. Something That Can Be Done More Simply With a Computer

Many people have, tragically, had to watch as their specialized skill sets became easily automatized. Switchboard operators and file clerks used to be essential to almost every business operation. But internet directories, communication technologies and digital storage means that their work can now be done with a few easy clicks. In 2020, there's expected to be 33,000 fewer switchboard operators than in 2010: a 23 percent decline. And 9,000 fewer file clerks: a 5 percent drop.

Office machine operators who handle equipment other than computers, like photocopiers, are going away too, losing an expected 7,000 jobs. That's a 16 percent decline. There will also be 8,000 fewer prepress technicians by the end of the decade, a 16 percent slump. Their job is meticulous: correcting and organizing text and images by hand onto a thin metal printing plate. But with improvements in printing software (and the advent of Photoshop), most prepress technicians will soon be doing that handiwork on a keyboard.

4. Using A Computer To Perform Basic Tasks

In past years, you could get a job if you were able to use a computer to do basic things -- because most people had no clue how to use a computer to do anything. But now they do. Computer operators will lose 7,400 jobs between 2010 and 2020 (a 9 percent drop), word processors and typists will lose 13,000 jobs (a 12 percent drop), and data entry operators will lose 16,000 jobs (a 7 percent drop).

3. The Garment Industry

When Joel Joseph co-founded the nonprofit Made in the USA Foundation in 1989, 50 percent of the country's clothes were made domestically. That figure, he says, is now 5 percent. Elizabeth Cline, the author of the forthcoming book, "Overdressed: Why Cheap Fashion Is a Bad Deal," places it at 2 percent. The domestic garment industry is on the decline, and the numbers prove it. There will be 7,000 fewer textile and garment pressers and 42,000 fewer sewing machine operators in 2020 compared to 2010 -- a drop of 12 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

2. Working On A Farm

It's been happening for hundreds of years; new technologies mean we can produce more food with less manpower. There will be an 8 percent drop in farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers between 2010 and 2020. Because this is such a large sector, that translates into 96,000 jobs. Following them into  oblivion will be 19,000 miscellaneous agricultural jobs, a drop of 4 percent.

1. Anything To Do With The Postal Service

Last week, the U.S. Postal Service posted a $3.3 billion loss for the most recent quarter. It was only the latest in a series of catastrophes that may leave one of the few industries actually given mention in our Constitution out of cash by October. The postmaster has proposed shuttering as many as 3,700 post offices and slashing Saturday delivery.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that between 2010 and 2020, the number of mail sorters and clerks will be cut almost in half -- a loss of 69,000 and 32,000 jobs, respectively. There will also be 38,000 fewer letter carriers on the streets, a decline of 12 percent.

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