Special Report

10 Disappearing Middle Class Jobs

10. Couriers and messengers
> Projected employment change, 2012-2022:
: -11.1%
> 2012 employment: 98,200
> 2012 median annual wage: $25,440

Couriers and messengers pick up and deliver messages, documents, packages, and other items between offices either within an establishment or to other businesses. Couriers generally travel by foot, bicycle or a motorized vehicle such as motorcycle, automobile, or public transit. Couriers and messengers typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. The number of courier and messenger jobs, many of which have been replaced by the increasing use of email, is expected to decline by almost 11,000 through 2022, a drop of slightly more than 11% from current levels.

9. Switchboard operators, including answering service
> Projected employment change, 2012-2022:
: -13.2%
> 2012 employment: 131,000
> 2012 median annual wage: $25,370

Entry-level switchboard operators generally require a high school diploma or equivalent and undergo on-the-job training. The job itself entails operating business telephone systems equipment or switchboards to pass on external and internal calls. Some operators also provide information to callers and take messages. They are often the first point of contact a customer or vendor has with a business and thus provide the critical first impression of a company. The number of jobs is expected to decline 17,300 through 2022. The vast majority of the decline is likely the result of an increasing use of direct extensions and automated answering systems.

8. Reservation agents and travel clerks
> Projected employment change, 2012-2022:
: -14.0%
> 2012 employment: 139,100
> 2012 median annual wage: $32,400

Reservation and transportation ticket agents and ticket clerks are the direct contact between travelers and carriers, such as airlines, railroads and buses. Their role is to place ticket orders, and sometimes assist travelers with checking baggage. Carriers are now encouraging passengers to do these tasks themselves online. Unlike travel agents who also offer advice on destinations and help plan itineraries, ticket agents and clerks only make and confirm reservations for transportation or lodging and sell transportation tickets. These jobs require a high school diploma or equivalent. Newly hired agents and clerks also generally receive on-the-job training.