1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Carpenter
Mark Lennihan  /  AP
Carpenters lost almost 160,000 jobs between 2004 and 2009, a 17 percent drop. These artisans may soon be working in a more niche, high-end field due to an increased interest in prefabricated homes and home additions and mass-produced furniture sold at chains like IKEA and Target.
By
updated 2/4/2011 10:57:32 AM ET 2011-02-04T15:57:32

Economists believe that many of the jobs lost in the “great recession” will be coming back. Construction and high finance positions that were temporarily slashed, for example, are expected to steadily return. Regardless of the economic dip, however, several career paths have been declining for years due to larger structural changes in the economy. These dying occupations are headed for the trash pile.

“The kinds of jobs that are disappearing are the jobs that pay really well (for) relatively unskilled workers,” says Harry Holzer, Ph.D., Georgetown University economist and co-author of "Where Are All The Good Jobs Going." He lists manufacturing jobs as a leading example, saying that well-paid assembly jobs that require modest training and only a high school diploma or less are a thing of the past.

So where did all the good jobs go? “The combination of technological advancement and off-shoring has shrunk these jobs,” says Holzer.

Forbes.com slideshow: top 10 dead or dying career paths

Technology has certainly put postal service mail sorters on the chopping block. After losing almost 57,000 jobs between 2004 and 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a further 30 percent decline in this occupation by 2018.

According to jobs researcher and author of 2011 Career Plan, Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., this occupation has seen some erosion from increased communication via phone, e-mail and cloud computing. Yet the chief reason for the decline, Shatkin says, is that mail sorting has become mostly automated, and robots are replacing people.

Machines are also taking over one of the largest job categories: office and administrative support workers. About 300,000 administrative jobs disappeared in the five years before 2009, and the BLS projects continued contraction throughout the next decade. File clerk positions, for example, are expected to decline 23 percent.

Forbes.com: America’s best and worst job markets

“Word processing, voicemail and the Internet make it easier for skilled professionals to do (clerical work) themselves,” says Holzer. “Employers are under pressure. If they can do this work more efficiently, they will.”

Advanced technology has wiped out many other jobs that will soon conjure only nostalgia. It seems that Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman has become a reality. With the rise of television and Internet marketing, door-to-door sales jobs contracted by 40 percent in the last five years for which data is available, and telemarketer positions declined by 25 percent.

Moreover, the global marketplace has displaced once steady jobs like seamstresses and textile workers. Sewing machine operator jobs fell by 77,000 in five years and the BLS expects another 72,000 jobs lost by 2018 — a 34 percent drop. Meanwhile, occupations like hand sewing, fabric mending and textile knitting have also seen sharp declines in recent years.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Mila Kunis,  Ashton Kutcher welcome baby girl

      Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher welcomed a baby girl Tuesday night, People magazine reported. No name was announced.

    2. 9 things we learned from Brian Williams' Facebook chat
    3. Plaza producer: TODAY's #PinkPower event was 'my best day on the job'
    4. Guess who's most likely to hand out candy, and which kind they've got
    5. Lunch box hero: You've got to see this dad's amazing napkin art

Forbes.com: The top 20 franchises to start

“Sewing is all overseas now,” says Shatkin. “(The U.S.) just can’t compete with low-wage countries.”

In some cases, market and technology changes simply speed up an occupation’s decline once it goes out of fashion, Shatkin says. Stage performers — a category that includes magicians, jugglers, clowns and dancers — suffered a steep five-year decline of 61 percent. Increased interest in movies and home entertainment technologies, including video games, he says, has decreased the demand for live performances.

Among the occupations that saw the steepest declines (culled from BLS data provided by Moody’s Analytics), men and women seemed equally burdened. While mail sorters and carpenters are male-dominated, for example, office workers and sewing machine operators are female-dominated occupations. Nevertheless, experts agree that women have the advantage in the new marketplace.

Forbes.com: The 10 best jobs for 2011

“On average, there has been a shift away from traditionally male-dominated sectors like manufacturing to the service sector,” says Holzer, “and women have made more progress.” He notes that women now receive almost 60 percent of bachelors and masters degrees and dominate the health-care sector, which is one of the fastest growing categories.

Ultimately, for those looking for job stability, “the lesson is to do something that involves human contact,” says Shatkin. He advises that workers seek jobs that are in demand and have to be completed by a person, rather than a machine.

Forbes.com: The 10 worst jobs for 2011  
Forbes.com: The most outrageous job interview mistakes

© 2012 Forbes.com

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Joan Lunden: 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed with breast cancer

    From the moment you hear the words ‘You have breast cancer,’ it’s almost like you’re shot out of a cannon. Here are 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed.

    10/1/2014 10:52:45 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:52:45
  2. Want to help? A guide to breast cancer charities

    In the United States an estimated 296,000 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and almost 40,000 women and 410 men will die of the disease. That's one death every 14 minutes, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

    10/1/2014 10:45:11 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:45:11
  3. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
  1. Nbc News

    9 things we learned from Brian Williams' Facebook chat

    10/2/2014 1:41:28 AM +00:00 2014-10-02T01:41:28
  1. Noel Vasquez / Getty Images Contributor

    Mila Kunis,  Ashton Kutcher welcome baby girl

    10/2/2014 1:24:09 AM +00:00 2014-10-02T01:24:09
  1. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

    Secret Service director resigns amid scandal

    10/1/2014 7:30:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T19:30:52
  1. Texas Ebola patient had contact with kids

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a press conference on Wednesday that “some school-age children” had been identified as having contact with the man diagnosed with the first case of Ebola in the United States. 

    10/1/2014 5:37:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T17:37:52