Special Report

America's Fastest Shrinking Jobs

Alexander Kent, Michael B. Sauter

7. Semiconductor Processors
> 10-year job growth:
-47.3%
> Total employed: 23,580
> Median annual pay: $34,680

Semiconductor processors monitor the production of microchips that are found in nearly all electronic devices. Despite strong and increasing demand for microchips, many workers in this occupation are being replaced by machines. Additionally, high manufacturing costs in the U.S. have driven many of the companies that employ semiconductor processors overseas. As a consequence, employment in this field fell 47.3% from 2005 through 2014, and the BLS forecasts an additional 27.1% decline in employment by 2022. Plants still operating domestically may already be facing pressure to keep operating costs low to remain competitive. A typical semiconductor processor earned $34,680, in line with the national median, but just 11.8% higher than 10 years earlier. Nationwide, salaries rose 20.8% over that period.

6. Brickmasons and Blockmasons
> 10-year job growth:
-48.8%
> Total employed: 59,340
> Median annual pay: $47,650

Employment of brickmasons and blockmasons shrank by 48.8% from 2005 through 2014, the sixth largest contraction in the country. Much of that decline is likely due to the recession, which may have prevented developers from investing in new projects and homeowners from expanding or improving their homes. Still, the rapidly growing U.S. population will require more schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings, many of which are made of brick or stone. By 2022, the BLS forecasts that employment in this field will grow by 35.5% to more than 96,000.

5. Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants
> 10-year job growth:
-50.5%
> Total employed: 713,730
> Median annual pay: $51,270

The number of executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants was cut in half over the past decade. According to the BLS, technological advances have resulted in an increasing number of executives taking care of their own correspondence and scheduling. Because of this, corporations are increasingly replacing higher-paying executive secretary positions with lower-level secretary positions. In the coming years, even as secretary positions are expected to rise overall, the number of executive secretaries and administrative assistants is anticipated to remain stagnant.

4. Computer Operators
> 10-year job growth:
-55.0%
> Total employed: 58,060
> Median annual pay: $39,590

Computer operators are responsible for operating computer terminals and monitoring data processing systems. Workers in this occupation must ensure machines are functioning properly, which involves checking and responding to error messages as well as recording and documenting problems. Automation and improved computing may be two reasons employment in this occupation fell 55% from 2005 through 2014 and is projected to fall by another 17% by 2022.