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Jobs projected to shrink the most in the next decade

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U.S. Air Force photo // Tech. Sgt. Shanda L. De Anda

Jobs projected to shrink the most in the next decade

With a presidential election on the horizon in 2020, the health of the American economy is a major concern on voters’ minds—particularly the job market and the prospects of finding employment.

For some Americans, who work in services like finance, technology, and engineering, jobs may feel plentiful. But for other Americans, the picture is different. Jobs that were once abundant, like those in manufacturing, or in telephone or computer operation, have declined significantly in recent years, or are set to do so in the future.

Several trends and social changes are responsible for these declines. One of the most prominent is automation. Whereas skilled labor with significant training and specialization were required in order to build and maintain different kinds of machines, in recent years, machines for machines have been replacing these jobs at a steady rate, and show no signs of abating.

The same holds true on factory floors, where manufacturing jobs used to offer a solid footing into the middle class for many Americans; now, such jobs like textile and garment production are outsourced to robots and machines.

Another key job killer in recent years? The digital revolution. The forces of technological advances have hurt workers in a range of other industries, such as postal workers. From the managers of post office stations to mail carriers themselves, email and other digital communication avenues have caused the amount of mail in the postal system to plummet, leading to job cuts.

Stacker compiled a list of 30 jobs expected to shrink the most by 2028, using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections data. The jobs are ranked by the 2018–2028 projected employment percent change, and ties are broken by the overall projected 2028 employment. Any occupations from BLS that included “all other” in the name were excluded from the list, because these occupations are groups of similar jobs and are not accurate representations of growth for any one job or field.

Click through to see which jobs are projected to shrink the most in the next decade.

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Pixabay

#30. Textile knitting and weaving-machine setters, operators, and tenders

- Projected employment change: -4,200 (-18.9% change)
- 2018 employment: 22,100
- Projected 2028 employment: 17,900
- Predicted annual job openings: 1,800

Textile knitting and weaving isn’t a skill that’s going out of demand, per se. It’s simply that machines are able to do what only human textile knitters and weavers could do before. There has actually been a boom in textile plants in the U.S. in recent years, but the catch is that the plants are largely devoid of people, and humming instead with machines.

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Les Chatfield // Flickr

#29. Grinding and polishing workers, hand

- Projected employment change: -5,900 (-19.2% change)
- 2018 employment: 30,700
- Projected 2028 employment: 24,800
- Predicted annual job openings: 2,600

It’s not that people don’t want their brass, silver, and gold to be polished and gleaming any longer. It’s simply that getting the job done used to be possible only by human hands, and now, surfaces can gleam thanks to an array of machines.

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SeventyFour // Shutterstock

#28. Timing-device assemblers and adjusters

- Projected employment change: -200 (-19.3% change)
- 2018 employment: 800
- Projected 2028 employment: 600
- Predicted annual job openings: 100

Jobs for assemblers of clocks and watches are expected to decline in the coming decade. This isn’t due so much to automation as it is for demand—digital devices like iPhones have removed the need for clocks and watches for many people, and even in the luxury watch market, sales are cooling.

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Pixabay

#27. Textile-bleaching and dyeing-machine operators and tenders

- Projected employment change: -1,900 (-19.4% change)
- 2018 employment: 9,700
- Projected 2028 employment: 7,900
- Predicted annual job openings: 1,000

Of all the manufacturing categories to be hit hard in recent years, apparel has been hit the hardest. Textile bleaching and dyeing is a subset of this category, which saw a 12.8% decrease between 2011 and 2016 alone.

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Michael Washburn // www.dla.mil

#26. Forging machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

- Projected employment change: -3,600 (-19.5% change)
- 2018 employment: 18,600
- Projected 2028 employment: 15,000
- Predicted annual job openings: 1,200

These skilled workers set up and maintain machines that work with metal and plastic. The irony is that the operators of machines have a high chance of being replaced by them, as automation looks likely to reduce the jobs available in the field.

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Undrey // Shutterstock

#25. Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

- Projected employment change: -123,000 (-19.8% change)
- 2018 employment: 622,500
- Projected 2028 employment: 499,400
- Predicted annual job openings: 50,500

Executive assistants used to have tasks related to scheduling reminders, maintaining calendars, and taking voice messages. But the advent of smartphones has taken away the need for many of these tasks, which may be one reason executive assistants are one of the jobs most likely to shrink in the next decade.

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Donald Lee Pardue // Flickr

#24. Postal service mail carriers

- Projected employment change: -65,100 (-19.8% change)
- 2018 employment: 328,700
- Projected 2028 employment: 263,700
- Predicted annual job openings: 15,500

Mail carriers used to be a ubiquitous staple of American neighborhoods. But with email largely replacing snail mail, routes have been cut significantly in the past few decades, which means fewer postal workers are needed today than ever.

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Shuvaev // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Postal service clerks

- Projected employment change: -15,000 (-19.8% change)
- 2018 employment: 75,700
- Projected 2028 employment: 60,700
- Predicted annual job openings: 3,700

Postal service clerks were once needed to handle a high volume of outgoing and incoming mail. But the digital revolution has changed all of that, and as demand for postal services has slowed, so too has the demand for workers to keep the post office running.

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Eric Fischer // Flickr

#22. Drilling and boring machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

- Projected employment change: -2,400 (-20.5% change)
- 2018 employment: 11,600
- Projected 2028 employment: 9,200
- Predicted annual job openings: 900

Drilling and boring machine tool setup and maintenance is a skilled profession that is set to contract in the coming decade. The reason? There are now machines and computer programs that can do the same work for only the initial cost of the machine, rather than the recurring cost of labor.

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Pixabay

#21. Milling and planing machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

- Projected employment change: -4,100 (-20.7% change)
- 2018 employment: 19,800
- Projected 2028 employment: 15,700
- Predicted annual job openings: 1,400

Those who set up and maintain equipment for milling and planing are skilled workers who nonetheless will have to deal with a very real threat in the coming decade. A spate of machines and other programs look likely to replicate the same work, making redundant the need for these jobs.

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Tom T // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Prepress technicians and workers

- Projected employment change: -6,200 (-20.8% change)
- 2018 employment: 29,900
- Projected 2028 employment: 23,700
- Predicted annual job openings: 2,700

Prepress technicians help push printed materials like magazines and newspapers out the door. One of the reasons these jobs look set to decline in the coming decade is the decline of print media and newspapers themselves, which some experts have suggested may not even exist in the future.

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Daniel Zedjura // Shutterstock

#19. Legal secretaries

- Projected employment change: -37,600 (-20.9% change)
- 2018 employment: 180,100
- Projected 2028 employment: 142,500
- Predicted annual job openings: 14,300

There simply isn’t the same level of need as there once was for legal secretaries. Automation and technology have made much of their jobs redundant, including filing physical papers.

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Simon Law // Flickr

#18. Pressers, textile, garment, and related materials

- Projected employment change: -8,500 (-21.2% change)
- 2018 employment: 39,900
- Projected 2028 employment: 31,400
- Predicted annual job openings: 3,300

These jobs include those in the dry cleaning industry, and others who tend to various garments. One reason for the decline may be advances in home cleaning technologies, and the recession causing people to think twice before dry cleaning their clothing. Cleaners saw a 5% industry slump in 2006—but the biggest decline came in 2009 when the dry-cleaning industry suffered a 26% decline.

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Inkaroad // Wikimedia Commons

#17. Photographic process workers and processing machine operators

- Projected employment change: -3,600 (-21.3% change)
- 2018 employment: 17,100
- Projected 2028 employment: 13,400
- Predicted annual job openings: 2,000

Photo processing is a skill that has declined in demand in recent years. One reason may be the explosion of smartphone and digital photography, which has reduced the demand for physically printed photos.

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Stoyan Yotov

#16. Coil winders, tapers, and finishers

- Projected employment change: -2,700 (-21.6% change)
- 2018 employment: 12,300
- Projected 2028 employment: 9,700
- Predicted annual job openings: 1,000

Coil winders, tapers, and finishers operate and tend to machines that work on transformers and resisters. Their jobs are in danger of automation, and are thus projected to decline in the coming decade.

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aapsky // Shutterstock

#15. Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers

- Projected employment change: -9,900 (-22.0% change)
- 2018 employment: 45,100
- Projected 2028 employment: 35,200
- Predicted annual job openings: 2,500

Aircraft assembly has been a highly specialized skill for decades. But recently, advances in automation and technology have made it more likely that robots and machines will perform these jobs in the future, reducing the need for human workers.

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EM Karuna // Shutterstock

#14. Data entry keyers

- Projected employment change: -43,400 (-23.2% change)
- 2018 employment: 187,300
- Projected 2028 employment: 143,900
- Predicted annual job openings: 14,800

Data entry may be on the decline, but there’s hope for those who work with data. While manual data entry and checking is not in demand due to automation that can perform the same function, the need for human analysis of large-scale data is only growing.

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Krysja // Shutterstock

#13. Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators

- Projected employment change: -23,700 (-23.8% change)
- 2018 employment: 99,700
- Projected 2028 employment: 76,000
- Predicted annual job openings: 4,900

Postal service workers across the industry have been hit hard by the digital revolution. The decline of physical mail due to email and other digital correspondence has reduced the need for postal service workers across the board.

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Larissa Greatwood // www.af.mil

#12. Switchboard operators, including answering service

- Projected employment change: -17,500 (-23.8% change)
- 2018 employment: 73,400
- Projected 2028 employment: 55,900
- Predicted annual job openings: 6,300

Switchboard operators were once in high demand, as people relied on them to connect calls and take messages. But the rise of smartphones has largely reduced the need for these jobs entirely, as people can now easily call and leave messages or send texts to those they are trying to reach.

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Sahan Nuhoglu // Shutterstock

#11. Computer operators

- Projected employment change: -8,900 (-24.1% change)
- 2018 employment: 36,800
- Projected 2028 employment: 28,000
- Predicted annual job openings: 3,100

Computer operators were once specialized technicians who worked on mainframe computers, among other tasks. But the increased simplification of computer technology has reduced the need for some of these jobs.

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Jack Corn // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Mine shuttle car operators

- Projected employment change: -400 (-25.3% change)
- 2018 employment: 1,700
- Projected 2028 employment: 1,300
- Predicted annual job openings: 100

Mine shuttle car operators have seen their job prospects decrease along with those of the mining industry overall. Mines have closed at a rapid rate in recent decades, which has caused economic uncertainty in regions once reliant on the industry.

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Colinhester // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Postmasters and mail superintendents

- Projected employment change: -3,700 (-27.5% change)
- 2018 employment: 13,300
- Projected 2028 employment: 9,600
- Predicted annual job openings: 500

Postmasters once oversaw a vast and bustling network of hubs with physical letters and other items from one neighborhood, city, or country to the next. But the internet has largely decreased the need for such oversight.

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Kzenon // Shutterstock

#8. Cutters and trimmers, hand

- Projected employment change: -3,000 (-28.4% change)
- 2018 employment: 10,700
- Projected 2028 employment: 7,700
- Predicted annual job openings: 800

Hand cutters and trimmers work with carpets and fabrics to trim and maintain them. However, automation has been able to replicate many of these tasks in recent decades, which is one reason the job prospects for this market segment is weak.

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Nan Wylie // www.travis.af.mil

#7. Telephone operators

- Projected employment change: -1,600 (-28.4% change)
- 2018 employment: 5,700
- Projected 2028 employment: 4,100
- Predicted annual job openings: 500

Telephone operators were once responsible for connecting people to others via telephone. But the rise of smartphones has reduced the need, so this job category is projected to continue its contraction.

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Pixabay

#6. Electronic equipment installers and repairers, motor vehicles

- Projected employment change: -3,100 (-28.6% change)
- 2018 employment: 11,000
- Projected 2028 employment: 7,900
- Predicted annual job openings: 800

Technicians who repair car parts and systems are not enjoying their previous job security. The Great Recession that began in 2009 likely put the brakes on consumer spending to make non-essential repairs to their cars in spite of the auto-repair industry in general being recession-resistant—and many believe another recession is looming, which could spell trouble for the industry.

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PointImages // Shutterstock

#5. Watch repairers

- Projected employment change: -900 (-29.6% change)
- 2018 employment: 3,000
- Projected 2028 employment: 2,100
- Predicted annual job openings: 200

Watch repair jobs depend on people having watches to repair. Since smartphones came along, many people have a clock in their pocket at all times, reducing the need for a watch. And even at the high end of the market, luxury watch sales have been cooling in recent years.

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Canva

#4. Word processors and typists

- Projected employment change: -20,400 (-33.8% change)
- 2018 employment: 60,400
- Projected 2028 employment: 40,000
- Predicted annual job openings: 4,100

Typing used to be a specialized skill. The rise of personal computers has changed all of that, as almost every professional is now a skilled typist who considers quick typing a basic necessity of business fluency.

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tommaso79 // Shutterstock

#3. Parking enforcement workers

- Projected employment change: -3,100 (-36.7% change)
- 2018 employment: 8,600
- Projected 2028 employment: 5,400
- Predicted annual job openings: 200

It might sound positive to anyone who has ever gotten a parking ticket, but the expected decline in parking enforcement workers isn’t necessarily good news for anybody. Parking tickets bring in revenue for cities, so even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 20% drop in workers by 2024, robots will still write tickets.

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Army Medicine // Flickr

#2. Respiratory therapy technicians

- Projected employment change: -5,300 (-57.5% change)
- 2018 employment: 9,300
- Projected 2028 employment: 3,900
- Predicted annual job openings: 0

Why might respiratory therapy technicians be facing job losses in forthcoming years? Some industry professionals have suggested the change may be due to the Affordable Care Act, which is moving toward a preventive model of health care, and therefore may negate some of the need to treat preventable illness.

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Parkerdr // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Locomotive firers

- Projected employment change: -400 (-68.3% change)
- 2018 employment: 500
- Projected 2028 employment: 200
- Predicted annual job openings: 0

Locomotive firers work with railways and trains. Fewer Americans haven chosen to travel via train in recent years, as flying has become cheaper and people have opted to travel by other means.

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