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Future Jobs 2020: The fastest shrinking careers in the U.S.

In the 1950s, the post office offered great opportunity for work. In 2012, it's become the fastest-shrinking job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

See your job future with Marketplace's all-new Future Jobs-O-Matic, updated with career forecasts and salary information for hundreds of careers.

The postal service was once a great opportunity for people with limited education to achieve middle class status. Wages are typically good and there’s on-the-job training. But look ahead to the year 2020 and the story changes drastically.

Looking ahead to the year 2020, postal service workers top the list of fastest-shrinking carees, according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics featured in Marketplace's new Future Jobs-O-Matic career forecasting tool.

Here are the top 10 from that list:

1. Postal Service Worker
The postal service continues to be hit with massive job loss. Employment is projected to decrease by 138,600 jobs from 2010 to 2020. That's 26 percent -- more than any other field, making postal service workers the fastest shrinking occupation in the U.S.,

The postal service industry is facing serious layoffs because of recent deep declines in mail volume. The U.S. Postal Service posted a $5.1 billion loss for 2011. Fewer people mail letters thanks to the rise of email and the Internet. More people pay bills online, too. And the automation of tasks like mail-sorting is also reducing employment.

Jobs for mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators are expected to fall by 49 percent and employment for mail clerks will fall 48 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"USPS needs financial and related relief from Congress asap, and to be able to restructure itself to the size necessary to handle its dramatically reduced workload," said Arthur B. Sackler, who coordinates coordinates the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service.

As Marketplace reported earlier this year, one of the side effects of this will be on employment for ethnic minorities, for whom the postal service has traditionally been a gateway into the workforce and the middle class.

The median annual pay for postal service workers was $53,090 in 2010. Competition will be hot.

2. Semiconductor Processor
If your trade is making microchips, there could be tough times ahead. This field is projected to decline 18 percent from 2010 to 2020. For one thing, robots are doing more of the work, which manufacturers prefer because the rooms have to be kept extremely clean. Also, the semiconductor industry is expected to contract as factories move overseas where they’re cheaper to operate. Chip design, on the other hand, will remain in the U.S.

3. Desktop Publisher
These workers use computers to design layouts for publications such as newspapers, books, advertisements and brochures. These jobs are expected to decline 15 percent from 2010 to 2020. One reason is that more employees in other areas, like web designers and copy editors, are taking on desktop publishing task. Also, the publishing industry in general is in decline, so many jobs in that industry will disappear.

4. Floral Designer
No rosy outlook here. Floral designer employment is expected to decline 9 percent overall as more people opt to buy loose cut flowers from grocery stores rather than elaborate designs from florist shops. Employment of floral designers in florist shops is supposed to drop 29 percent and increase 8 percent in grocery stores.

5. Farmer
Farming is a tough gig, especially now that farming land, equipment, seed and chemicals are becoming too expensive for many people just starting out. The industry is consolidating. The well-capitalized farmers and corporations who are able to acquire the land and technology are producing more with fewer workers. However, beginning farmers may succeed if they find a niche market in which they have direct contact with your customers. Horticulture and organic food are both growth areas.

6. Reporter
In case you haven’t heard, news organizations aren’t doing very well right now. Readership for newspapers and viewership for many TV news programs are declining. That means opportunities for journalists are shrinking as well. The rise in demand for news online may offset some of the job loss, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, budding reporters may want to consider small local publications and television and radio stations outside the major metropolitan areas.

7. Fishing Worker
This can be a strenuous and hazardous career, and not that many young people want to get into it. Most of the job opportunities will come as more and more people jump ship. Commercial fishing employment is projected to fall 6 percent from 2010 to 2020. Employment in this industry is facing pressure from many directions including regulations, automation of fishing processors, imports and competition from farm-raised fish.

8. Millwright
Folks in this field install, repair and move machinery in places like factories, power plants and construction sites. Employment is expected to drop 5 percent from 2010 to 2020. Sure, businesses need millwrights to install and maintain machinery. The problem is, manufacturing businesses aren’t buying that much new equipment. However, there should be some opportunities as older workers retire.

9. Jeweler
Hard to call this a golden opportunity. Most jewelry manufacturing is now done overseas, meaning limited opportunities for low-skilled workers. Skilled workers looking to do design or repair should have better luck. Customized and boutique jewelry is in demand, but it’s hard for jewelers to become established, according to BLS. Employment in this sector is expected to fall 5 percent from 2010 to 2020.

10. Printing Worker
Remember how the publishing industry isn’t doing too hot? The people who print things like newspapers, magazines and books are looking at a 4 percent drop in employment this decade. More publication is moving online, decreasing print volume. Automation is a factor, too.


Explore more career forecasts with Marketplace's all-new Future Jobs-O-Matic, updated with 2020 career forecasts and salary information for hundreds of jobs.

About the author

Ryan Faughnder is a web contributor for Marketplace. Most recently, he was a business reporting intern for the Los Angeles Times and a senior editor at Neon Tommy.

See your job future with Marketplace's all-new Future Jobs-O-Matic, updated with career forecasts and salary information for hundreds of careers.

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I think for any industry at all, it should have been anticipated that their headquarters or manufacturing factories will move overseas eventually because of the cost factor. Whether it is semiconductor, jewellery, furniture and others. What usually remains behind is the group of front-line teams like retail, customer service and human resource. Therefore, before you apply for jobs, take into consideration these few factors first.

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