Recently on OutOfYourRut I’ve been writing a series of posts centered on employment alternatives–self-employment, side businesses and soft employment (part-time, temporary or contract work). The purpose in discussing these alternatives is based on my belief that the weak employment environment we now find ourselves in may not be temporary, and longterm changes need to be implemented in order for us to survive in a job market that may look very different from what we’ve know for most of our lives.
( Photo by Phil Campbell )
Though the evidence is all around us, I stumbled upon a recent article that addresses the longer term job outlook more directly.
In 9 Careers on the Way Out (Yahoo Finance, January 29, 2010) Stephanie Powers provides a list of careers that are gradually disappearing and provides detailed reasons driving the eliminations, which I’ve summarized below.
- Bank Tellers: ATM’s and online banking.
- File Clerks: Computerization and environmental conservation are eliminating paper files.
- Telephone Operators: In a word–voicemail! But email and texting are also exacting a toll.
- Data Entry Clerks: “The ability to integrate systems and make various systems exchange date automatically also reduced the need to for a person to translate or manipulate data.”
- Mail Clerks: Bar codes and email.
- Photo Processors: Digital photography and self-service kiosks.
- Travel Agents: We can book our own trips on the internet.
- Watch Salesperson: Cell phones make great watches, and you can make and receive calls on them too.
- Video Store Clerk: Online movie viewing and cable companies with user-selected movies.
That’s a pretty substantial list, but just off the top of my head, I can easily add a few more:
Tax Preparers: While there will always be a need for preparers for complex income tax returns, for most taxpayers a user friendly $30 tax software package is becoming increasingly preferable to paying a $300 fee for third party tax preparation.
Customer Service: Technology has enabled an increasing number of these jobs to be moved offshore to lower wage countries.
Manufacturing Jobs: This is a trend that began at least four decades ago, and shows no sign of reversing. Robotics, offshoring of factories, and NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) policies are the chief culprits here.
MORTGAGE WORKERS! Being a refugee from this industry has put me in a position to know. The industry has always been cyclical, but there’s something close to a concensus that it isn’t coming back to anything close to where it was a few years ago. Apart from the housing bust and mortgage meltdown, regulators and advocacy groups have long taken aim at “yield spread premium” or YSP, and viewed it as a form of illegitimate profit. And their efforts have succeeded in creating a patchwork quilt of state and federal predatory lending laws that are squeezing the profit out of the business. (YSP is back-end compensation paid to mortgage brokers and originators in exchange for slightly higher rates, but it’s also the reason why borrowers no longer need to pay points up front.) Take the profit out of any business, and the business will wither and die. The mortgage industry will survive in some stripped down form, but it will likely do so with far fewer sales people and independent brokers, both of whom have traditionally represented a large share of the industry’s employment base.
Admittedly, some of these jobs have traditionally been lower paying, and because of that some might argue that their disappearance won’t have a material affect on the rest of the job market. However, what these jobs do accomplish is providing employment at the lower end the job market, and cronic unemployment in that sector will reduce the market for goods and sevices accross the board, affecting even higher paying job classes. Meanwhile manufacturing and mortgage employment have been the foundation of middle class life in millions of households and are going the same way. Am I sounding a false alarm or is something bigger playing out than we like to think?
Can you think of any other career fields disappearing from the employment scene? Since individually we can’t solve the nations employment problems, what steps can we take to prepare ourselves to survive and hopefully prosper in the transition?