Special Report

The 10 Dying (and 10 Thriving) U.S. Industries

185665781As businesses continue to innovate and new technologies continue to be developed and rolled-out, new opportunities to grow emerge. At the same time, what can constitute an opportunity for one industry may be a threat to another.

U.S. businesses are very different today than they were even as recently as 10 years ago. A number of manufacturing industries are no longer as dominant as they once were, with large portions of production moving overseas or the product simply becoming obsolete. Other traditionally strong industries have also changed dramatically as digital and online technologies have continued to proliferate.

Click here to see the 10 dying U.S. industries

Click here to see the 10 thriving U.S. industries

At the same time, other industries have had meteoric growth. Using data from market research company IBISWorld, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed U.S. industries to find the fastest growing — and the fastest shrinking — industries over the past five years. Solar power revenues grew more than those of any other U.S. industry between 2009 and 2014. During that same time, recordable media manufacturing’s revenues were the fastest shrinking of any American industry.

Despite being relatively new, some of the fastest growing industries are products and services that are familiar to nearly all American households today. These include the smartphone application makers industry, which has benefitted from the increasing use to mobile devices. Social networks have also been one of the fastest growing industries, with millions of Americans now using Facebook, Twitter, and a number of other social networks on a daily basis.

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On the other side of the equation, many of the fastest shrinking industries were once hallmarks of American life but have been displaced by new technologies. The in-store video and game rental industry is perhaps the most poignant case, as stores such as Blockbuster were unable to keep up with competitors such as Netflix. Recordable media manufacturers, which make CDs and DVDs, and database and directory publishers, which make phone books, have been under pressure from devices such as smartphones. Such mobile devices allow users to play their favorite music and find a phone number with just the push of a button.

In some cases, fast-growing industries are still just nascent players in an otherwise massive industry. For instance, peer-to-peer lending is growing rapidly, but it still represents just a drop in the bucket compared to traditional consumer lending. Further, solar energy production — the fastest growing industry over the last five years — remains a very small source of energy compared to coal, natural gas, and petroleum.

Another important trend for shrinking industries is outsourcing. Both boy’s and men’s apparel and computers can be manufactured at a lower cost using cheaper labor abroad. At the same time, the U.S. now leads the world in a number of fast-growing industries. For example, the growth of smartphone application development has allowed many Americans to build their own businesses through innovative apps.

To identify the fastest growing (and fastest shrinking) U.S. industries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from IBISWorld on annualized revenue growth rates by industry from 2009 through 2014. In addition, IBISWorld provided annual revenue statistics as well as four-year revenue growth estimates for the period of 2014 through 2018.

These are the fastest growing (and fastest shrinking) U.S. industries.

The Fastest Shrinking Industries

10. Online Mortgage Brokers

The online mortgage brokerage industry was hit hard in the aftermath of the housing crisis, as revenues declined at an annualized rate of 8.7% between 2009 and 2014. The slump in housing starts has presented a problem for the industry, as new homes drive the level of new mortgage loans. IBISWorld forecasts that a pickup in housing starts should allow the industry to grow revenues by nearly 16% a year over the next four years. However, a potential drag could be refinancing activity, which may slow down if interest rates rise in the coming years.

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9. Database & Directory Publishing

While the database and directory publishing industry includes both online and print publications, mainly yellow and white pages, the dramatic decline in print media and the emergence of search engines have contributed substantially to the industry’s revenue slump. According to IBISWorld, the sale of advertising space accounts for nearly 63% of the industry’s revenues, and online advertising has not made up for the lost revenues from printed directories. The industry’s revenue fell by an annualized rate of 9.0% from 2009 to less than $11.4 billion this year.

8. Body Armor Manufacturing

The United States military is the body armor manufacturing industry’s most important client. Following the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and the continued withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, demand for body armor has continued to fall. Industry revenue fell by an annualized rate of 9.5% between 2009 and this year. The decline is expected to taper off somewhat, however, to an annualized rate of 2.7%. The slightly slower decline is due in large part to increasing demand among local police forces for body armor.

7. Men’s & Boys’ Apparel Manufacturing

Men’s and boys’ apparel manufacturing has been on the decline for some time, largely due to outsourcing to low-cost nations overseas. The industry’s expected revenue of a little more than $1.1 billion this year is about half the 2009 revenue, a 12.5% annualized decrease. The number of Americans employed in apparel manufacturing more broadly has also fallen steadily for over a decade. There were nearly 300,000 employees at the beginning of 2004, versus less than 150,000 at the same time this year.

6. DVD, Game & Video Rental

In-store video and game rental has been a declining industry for years. Perhaps no better example of this exists than Blockbuster, which at one time had more than 9,000 stores, according to MarketWatch. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010, was acquired by DISH in 2011, and last year closed its remaining 300 stores. With the emergence of online streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, and HBO GO, in-store rental industry revenues fell at an annualized rate of more than 14% from 2009 through 2014, a decline that is only likely to accelerate in the coming years, according to IBISWorld.

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5. Data Recovery Services

Data recovery services may be made obsolete by cloud storage. The industry declined at an annualized rate of 15.5% from 2009 through 2014, as companies could increasingly store their data in cloud-based systems from Amazon, Rackspace, Google, and others. Such cloud services also helped shift the responsibility for data protection and recovery away from the individual companies to the storage companies. IBISWorld notes that “as options for data recovery and data loss prevention or backup have expanded over the past five years, demand for industry services has declined.” Companies such as VMWare and Amazon Web Services now tout cloud-based disaster recovery services that protect against a loss of data.

4. Tank and Armored Vehicles Manufacturing

The tank and armored vehicle manufacturing industry is more reliant on government contracts than other industries. U.S. budget cuts to armored vehicle production, as part of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, partly explain the recent revenue declines in the industry. While revenues fell at an annualized rate of 16.3% between 2009 and this year, IBISWorld projects annual declines of just 0.7% over the next four years. The more modest expected rate is due in part to growing demand from foreign governments.

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3. Wind Turbine Installation

Revenue in the wind turbine installation industry fell at an annualized rate of 16.4% in the five years through 2014, and it is projected by IBISWorld to slump by an annualized 7.3% over the next four years. One problem is that production ramped up prior to the expiration of a federal tax credit for wind production. The International Energy Administration projected in its Renewable Energy Medium Term Market Report that growth in new global wind generation capacity would gradually slow each year through 2020.

2. Computer Manufacturing

The U.S. computer manufacturing industry has struggled with increased competition from abroad, as foreign companies benefit from less expensive labor. Further, global PC sales have declined in recent years, as many consumers have opted for smartphones and tablets instead. PC sales, however, may have found a bottom, as market research firms Gartner and IDC both reported better than expected shipments in the third quarter of the year. Both also reported that hyperscale data centers that provide cloud services were purchasing large amounts of servers, included in the industry. Still, the outlook for U.S. computer makers is hardly favorable, with IBISWorld forecasting a 5.2% decrease in revenues per year over the next four years.

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1. Recordable Media Manufacturing

Recordable Media Manufacturing was the fastest falling U.S. industry tracked by IBISWorld, with an annualized 18.4% decline between 2009 and 2014. The rise of digital media and online streaming services can explain the growth of many thriving U.S. industries. The trend can also explain the drop in demand for recordable media products such as discs and tapes. However, the recordable media manufacturing industry does not include circuit board-based storage, MP3 players, flash drives, or hard disk. The increased use of these digital storage devices has directly contributed to the industry’s decline. Industry revenues fell by an annualized rate of 18.4% since 2009 to less than $2 billion this year.

The Fastest Growing Industries

10. Fraud Detection Software Developers

Annualized revenue growth for the fraud detection software developers industry was more than 30% between 2009 and this year, the 10th fastest in the U.S. IBISWorld expects the industry to report 2014 revenues of $817.2 million. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were more than 1 million fraud complaints last year, costing Americans more than $1.6 billion. In addition, numerous high-profile data breaches in recent years have likely increased the demand for fraud detection programs.

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9. Telehealth Services

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines telehealth services as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care,” as well as education and administration. Since 2009, the industry’s revenues grew at an annualized rate of 30.7% to more than $320 million this year. Telehealth companies are expected to grow at annualized rate of nearly 52% through 2018, one of the most optimistic projections of any industry reviewed. In addition to making health services more accessible, telehealth programs are often preferred by patients who are otherwise unwilling or unable to visit a doctor.

8. Internet Radio Broadcasting

For many Americans, the Internet has become more accessible than traditional forms of broadcasting. The dramatic increase in smartphone use also means the Internet can now be accessed from almost anywhere. At one time, for example, car radios were a common source of news and entertainment. Today, near-ubiquitous smartphone use in vehicles has led car manufacturers to reconsider vehicle design to incorporate phones. According to Nielsen, legal U.S. audio streaming grew 32% in 2013.

7. Social Networking Sites

Social networking giants Facebook and Twitter are both among the highest profile technology companies in the world. Both have a massive user base: Facebook has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users as of its most recent quarter, and Twitter reported 284 million monthly active users in its most recent quarter. It wasn’t too long ago that Facebook and Twitter were small startups. Although the industry has already exhibited tremendous growth, IBISWorld expects growth to remain strong. Just this August, a relatively new social media company, Snapchat, was valued at $10 billion, based on an investment by venture capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

6. Smartphone App Developers

Like in many other growing industries, the production costs of mobile app development are very low, spurring high growth rates. The industry’s revenue grew by at an annualized rate of nearly 50% from 2009 to 2014, reaching $9.7 billion this year. Mobile apps are particularly popular in the United States, which leads the world as a source of smartphone app revenue according to International Data Corporation (IDC). Not only has the mobile app developer industry grown dramatically in recent years, but the industry also has low barriers to entry. Arguably, anyone with a computer and Internet access can potentially develop a successful smartphone application.

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5. Cider Production

The hard cider production industry grew at an annualized rate of more than 50% in the five years through 2014. Still, cider production remains a relatively small industry, with $293 million in revenues as of 2014. By contrast, craft beer is a roughly $4 billion industry, according to IBISWorld, while major breweries overall are far larger still. Thanks to fast growth, cider’s resurgence has captured the attention of big brewers, such as MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, which have themselves recently launched cider brands to attract drinkers.

4. Peer-to-Peer Lending Platforms

Peer-to-peer lending platforms revenues grew at an annualized rate of nearly 60% from 2009 through 2014. While growth is expected to slow somewhat, it should remain strong in the years to come, according to IBISWorld. Most recently, one of the major players in the growing industry, Lending Club, successfully completed the industry’s first initial public offering. However, the peer-to-peer name itself is something of a misnomer, with institutional investors offering a large portion of the loans provided. Recently, Wall Street has begun securitizing peer-to-peer loans, creating a secondary market for institutional clients.

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3. Social Network Game Development

Social network site users do not just interact with others online. They also view advertising, navigate to other online spaces, and play games. Social network games have a remarkably high user base, which has been estimated in the hundreds of millions of people on a monthly basis in recent years. The social network games industry brought in more than $7.9 billion this year, according to IBISWorld. According to online statistics provider Statista, social gaming ads accounted for 7.4% of all ad revenue for social networks.

2. Crowdsourcing Service Providers

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new workforce model that connects employers with temporary workers through an online network. Crowdsourcing service providers increased revenue at an annualized rate of 62.6% since 2009 to a total of nearly $543 billion this year. Like a majority of growing industries, the popularity of the crowdsource model is tied to the now near-ubiquity of the Internet. According to IBISWorld, crowdsourced temp employees typically work online and on a project-to-project basis.

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1. Solar Power

Solar has grown exponentially in recent years, with an annualized growth rate of 70% between 2009 and 2014 — faster revenue growth than that of any other industry. A dramatic drop in the cost of solar photovoltaic systems — panels that convert sunlight into electricity — has encouraged utility companies to dramatically increase installations in recent years. In the first half of 2014, power plants added more capacity from solar power than from any other energy source except for natural gas, according to the Energy Information Administration. Photovoltaic installations rose 41% year-over-year in the third quarter of 2014, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The International Energy Agency reported in September that solar could, with the right policy actions and technological improvements, become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.

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