Some Jobs Going Way of Dodo Bird

Consider transferrable skills, retraining as some jobs cease to exist

By Kathy Gurchiek Aug 8, 2014
  • Mail Carrier - Median Salary: $53,100. Hiring outlook: -28 percent.
  • Farmer - Median Salary: $69,300. Hiring Outlook: -19 percent.
  • Meter Reader - Median Salary: $36,410. Hiring Outlook: -19 percent.
  • Newspaper Reporter - Median Salary: $37,090. Hiring Outlook: -13 percent.
  • Travel Agent - Median Salary: $34,600. Hiring Outlook: -12 percent.
  • Lumberjack - Median Salary: $24,340. Hiring Outlook: -9 percent.
  • Flight Attendant - Median Salary: $37,240. Hiring Outlook: -7 percent.
  • Drill-Press Operator - Median Salary: $32,950. Hiring Outlook: -6 percent.
  • Printing Worker - Median Salary: $34,100. Hiring Outlook: -5 percent.
  • Tax Examiner and Collector - Median Salary: $50,440. Hiring outlook: -4 percent.

Farmer, lumberjack, flight attendant and utilities meter reader are among the 10 jobs most likely to disappear by 2022, joining the ranks of switchboard operator and stagecoach driver, according to CareerCast’s Most Endangered Jobs of 2014 report.

Eight of the 10 most endangered jobs—from a list of 200 in the U.S. that CareerCast reviewed—rank 146th or worse for hiring outlook. Check out the slideshow below to see the top 10 endangered jobs, then read on about the implications to HR.

These 10 jobs are “not good career paths to target,” said Tony Lee, CareerCast publisher. Fewer people will occupy some of these jobs in the next eight years, while other jobs on the list simply will cease to exist.“We’re advising focusing on STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] jobs and skills for at least the next 20 years,” Lee said.

CareerCast used four core criteria to rank jobs to compile its list—environment, including factors like physical demand; income; outlook; and stress. Much of its data, it said, came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), other government agencies, trade associations and private survey firms.

Most of the jobs on the list are going the way of the dodo bird because they are casualties of technology that:

*Allows more work to be accomplished with fewer resources, such as with farming.
*Automates jobs such as meter reading.
*Changes how a product is produced and consumed, such as news and correspondence.

Mail carriers top the endangered list, according to CareerCast, mirroring the BLS’s dire outlook. There were 491,600 mail carrier jobs in 2012; the BLS projects 139,100 fewer such jobs in 2022, a decrease of 28 percent.

Farm jobs also will take a major hit. While technology has reduced the number of workers needed on a farm, the number of farms overall is dropping.

“We need the same amount of crops from the farm, but they’re being farmed by corporations” that buy up smaller farms, Lee explained. “The majority [of farmers] do not own their own farms.”

Four of the jobs expected to become obsolete—lumberjack, newspaper reporter, mail carrier and printing operator—are tied directly to the declining use of paper, Lee noted. As more people read books, magazines and newspapers on mobile devices, the drop in demand for wood pulp for products such as newsprint lessens the need for lumberjacks and drill-press operators.

Technology also provides people access to previously inaccessible information, allowing travelers to book their own flights instead of relying on travel agents. Meanwhile, flight attendant jobs are declining as airlines consolidate flights, requiring fewer attendants. Additionally, flight attendants are working beyond traditional retirement age.

“The average age of the flight attendant has risen,” Lee pointed out.

Workopolis, Canada’s largest online job site, predicted in 2013 that taxi dispatchers and toll booth operators would be among occupations that will be obsolete in 10 years, as consumers resort to apps to find cabs and automation eliminates the need for human toll booth operators. Its findings come from tracking titles most frequently posted on its portal in 2013. 

A list compiled by HR software provider CIPHR singled out a few of the same jobs as CareerCast—travel agent, postal worker—likely to become extinct in 10 years. However, others on its list, such as video rental clerk, did not make CareerCast’s ranking because those positions, Lee said, are “almost all gone already.”

Implication for Workers, HR

While the shrinking job market for the positions on CareerCast’s list has less of an impact on those with many years in their field—the mail carrier of 25 years likely will continue working for the U.S. Postal Service until retirement, Lee said—there are repercussions for future employees and young workers in these fields.

For example, while software is tolling the death knell for tax examiner/collector jobs, teachers could guide someone with an aptitude for math toward becoming an auditor, which Lee said has “strong growth potential.”

And HR will need to focus on identifying “solid, transferrable skills” among its young employees in these dying careers, he said. A drill-press operator, for example, “would not take dramatic retraining to learn other factory jobs,” he pointed out.

Additionally, employers should consider providing the training for the jobs they want to fill, he suggested.

“If they’re willing to invest in their workforce … [they’ll] end up reaping the benefits in the long run,” he said.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.


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