30 of the Most Rapidly Disappearing Occupations

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Historical picture of switchboard operators.
Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

Every two years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics updates its data to predict job growth in specific occupations. While everyone is, of course, dying to know which occupations will provide the best career prospects in the coming years, the government also shines a light on the dying breeds.

Based on the latest BLS projections, which span 2016-2026, here are 30 careers you might not want to chase. While many are obvious casualties of modern technology, there are also some surprising occupations on the decline.

30. Engine and other machine assemblers

Engine assembly
Alexander Chizhenok / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 38,000
Projected jobs in 2026: 31,500
Projected decline from 2016-2026: -17.2 percent

All joking about Machine Overlords aside, there is no doubt that robots and computers will replace people in many jobs. Engine and other machine assemblers are some of those on the endangered species list as their work is increasingly done by automated systems.

29. Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

Businessman and woman in office
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 685,300
Projected jobs in 2026: 566,200
Projected decline: -17.4 percent

Doesn’t every executive need a secretary? Apparently not, since executive secretary jobs are expected to decline 17.4 percent between 2016 and 2026. Managers are taking over their jobs, and many secretaries may assist multiple people within an organization nowadays, rather than be dedicated to a single executive. Both factors mean fewer executive secretaries will be needed in the coming years.

28. Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging and systems assemblers

aapsky / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 41,800
Projected jobs in 2026: 34,500
Projected decline: -17.4 percent

Like engine and machine assemblers, aircraft systems assemblers will see their work taken over by machines and automated systems.

27. Textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators and tenders

OilliOOilliO / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 11,300
Projected jobs in 2026: 9,200
Projected decline: -18.1 percent

A lot of U.S. textile jobs moved overseas through economic globalization. But automation will continue to eat away at jobs in this industry. Only about 9,200 people will have jobs as textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators in 2026.

26. Photographic process workers and processing machine operators

Bilanol / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 26,900
Projected jobs in 2026: 22,000
Projected decline: -18.1 percent

It might surprise you to learn nearly 27,000 people were employed in this occupation in 2016. After all, film photography has long since gone the way of the dinosaurs. However, people are still taking digital photos that need to be edited and printed. While the job survives, its days are likely numbered as digital storage and home printing options advance.

25. Legal secretaries

PhuShutter / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 194,700
Projected jobs in 2026: 157,500
Projected decline: -19.1 percent

Legal secretaries, like executive secretaries, are seeing their job opportunities decline. Most often, their work is being completed by paralegals or legal assistants instead.

24. Forging machine setters, operators and tenders, metal and plastic

Factory machine operator
ALPA PROD / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 19,200
Projected jobs in 2026: 15,500
Projected decline: -19.2 percent

These workers are responsible for setting up machines that form plastic or metal parts, but technology and robots are slowly putting them out of a job.

23. Milling and planing machine setters, operators and tenders, metal and plastic

Metal worker at milling machine
OtmarW / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 17,600
Projected jobs in 2026: 14,200
Projected decline: -19.3 percent

Actually, jobs for all metal and plastic workers are on the decline, including those who work with milling and planing machines. And, of course, robots and computerized machinery are to blame.

22. Textile knitting and weaving machine setters, operators and tenders

Mehmet Emin Akyel / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 22,200
Projected jobs in 2026: 17,900
Projected decline: -19.3 percent

Workers who set up, operate and monitor machines that knit, weave or loop textiles may find their job opportunities are running out as automation takes over.

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

DuxX / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 12,300
Projected jobs in 2026: 9,900
Projected decline: -19.5 percent

About 12,300 people held jobs in 2016 setting up or operating machines to drill or bore holes in metal or plastic pieces. However, that number is expected drop nearly 20 percent by 2026.

20. Prepress technicians and workers

Pre press worker
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 34,600
Projected jobs in 2026: 27,700
Projected decline: -19.9 percent

Prepress technicians are those who format images or proof text before it is printed. It’s an occupation on the decline with changes in technology likely to be at least partly to blame.

19. Switchboard operators, including answering service

Historical picture of switchboard operators.
Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 93,200
Projected jobs in 2026: 74,700
Projected decline: -19.9 percent

It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear switchboard operator jobs are disappearing. However, can you believe that even though we have texts, emails and voicemail today, 93,200 people still made a living as an operator or answering service representative in 2016? Well, not for long. Jobs for this occupation are expected to drop nearly 20 percent by 2026.

18. Timing device assemblers and adjusters

PRESSLAB / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 800
Projected jobs in 2026: 600
Projected decline: -20.1 percent

This is the smallest occupation on the list in terms of numbers. Only 800 people were recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as being timing device assemblers and adjusters in 2016. These workers adjust and calibrate digital clocks and similar devices, but it looks like their job is about to run out of time.

17. Grinding and polishing workers, hand

Worker sanding acrylic countertop
Stanislav71 / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 26,600
Projected jobs in 2026: 21,100
Projected decline: -20.5 percent

Many employers won’t need to hire people to grind, sand and polish items by hand when they could just set up a machine to do the work instead.

16. Coil winders, tapers and finishers

Stoyan Yotov / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 14,100
Projected jobs in 2026: 11,200
Projected decline: -20.7 percent

Yes, some people spend all day winding up coils of material used in electronic products. However, there will be 20 percent fewer of them in 2026 if the government estimates are right.

15. Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers

Electronics assembly.
Paolo Bona / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 218,900
Projected jobs in 2026: 173,300
Projected decline: -20.8 percent

Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers aren’t necessarily being replaced by robots, but they may find they are now working side-by-side with a machine. Using automated systems as well as human assemblers to put together electronic parts can improve efficiency. But the more efficient workers are, the fewer a company needs of them to get the job done.

14. Postmasters and mail superintendents

USPS mail truck
Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 14,200
Projected jobs in 2026: 11,200
Projected decline: -20.9 percent

Can you believe your local postmaster is part of a dying breed? Well, we’re sure the job isn’t going away entirely, but as the postal system becomes automated and moves to more centralized services, the number of administrators is expected to decline.

13. Data entry keyers

Man typing on laptop
By GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 203,800
Projected jobs in 2026: 160,600
Projected decline: -21.2 percent

While there will be still be about 160,600 jobs for data entry workers in 2026, that will be a decline of more than 21 percent from 2016.

12. Electromechanical equipment assemblers

Milkovasa / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 45,700
Projected jobs in 2026: 35,900
Projected decline: -21.4 percent

Vending machines are one example of electromechanical equipment, and the need for their assemblers is expected to drop 21.4 percent from 2016-2026.

11. Mine shuttle car operators

Petroos / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 1,500
Projected jobs in 2026: 1,200
Projected decline: -21.9 percent

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t speculate on why jobs for mine shuttle car operators are disappearing, but the shift away from coal to cleaner energy sources is surely one factor.

10. Telephone operators

LEDOMSTOCK / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 9,100
Projected jobs in 2026: 7,000
Projected decline: -22.6 percent

Here’s another job you might have thought had already disappeared. However, automated systems haven’t wiped out telephone operator jobs — at least not yet. There were 9,100 working in this occupation in 2016, and there are expected to be 7,000 in the field by 2026.

9. Computer operators

Computer work
FutroZen / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 51,500
Projected jobs in 2026: 39,700
Projected decline: -22.8 percent

The number of computer operators needed to monitor computer systems, enter commands and respond to error messages is expected to drop nearly 23 percent by 2026.

8. Pourers and casters, metal

Sonate / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 8,400
Projected jobs in 2026: 6,500
Projected decline: -23.4 percent

Technology can now do the job of many pourers and casters, workers who regulate the flow of molten metal.

7. Foundry mold and coremakers

MegaMidas / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 12,500
Projected jobs in 2026: 9,500
Projected decline: -24 percent

This is another job within the larger category of plastic and metal machine workers. Foundry mold and coremakers create molds or cores to be used in the creation of metal castings. Nearly a quarter of these jobs will disappear by 2026.

6. Electronic equipment installers and repairers, motor vehicles

UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 12,100
Projected jobs in 2026: 9,000
Projected decline: -25.6 percent

Job growth for most electronic equipment installer and repairer positions will be flat in the coming years. However, there will be steep decline in the need for professionals to work on the sound, entertainment and navigation systems in cars, trucks and vans. That’s because manufacturers are stepping up their game and installing higher quality systems that need fewer repairs later.

5. Watch repairers

Rudenkois / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 1,800
Projected jobs in 2026: 1,200
Projected decline: -29.7 percent

We’ve all got smartphones, so who needs a watch nowadays? Some people apparently do, and there were about 1,800 people in 2016 who repaired those watches when they broke. That number is expected to drop nearly 30 percent in the coming years.

4. Word processors and typists

Elena Frund / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 74,900
Projected jobs in 2026: 50,100
Projected decline: -33.1 percent

Companies used to have rooms full of typists, but those days are long gone. Still, nearly 75,000 people were employed in 2016 to type forms, reports and letters on computers or word processors. About a third of those may be out of a job by 2026.

3. Parking enforcement workers

paul rushton / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 9,400
Projected jobs in 2026: 6,100
Projected decline: -35.3 percent

Someday, your grandchildren might listen to “Lovely Rita” by the Beatles and wonder what on earth a meter maid was. That’s because parking enforcement workers have another of those jobs that’s on the chopping block. Cities can use apps and other technology to collect money and monitor parked cars today.

2. Respiratory therapy technicians

Respiratory therapist
Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 10,800
Projected jobs in 2026: 4,700
Projected decline: -56.3 percent

This entry on the list can be a bit startling. After all, aren’t health care jobs supposed to be exploding right now? Well, jobs for respiratory therapists — those professionals who address breathing issues — are expected to increase 23 percent from 2016-2026. However, they apparently won’t need technicians to assist them, as those jobs are projected to plummet 56.3 percent in that same time period.

1. Locomotive firers

Train worker on locomotive
esherez / Shutterstock.com

Jobs in 2016: 1,200
Projected jobs in 2026: 300
Projected decline: -78.6 percent

And what is the fastest disappearing job in the country? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s that of a locomotive firer. These workers are part of a train crew and monitor railroad tracks for obstacles or other safety hazards. There will only be about 300 locomotive firers left in the country in 2026. Computer systems, conductors or engineers will do their work instead.

What jobs do you think will surface as these opportunities fade? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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