Special Report

America's Fastest Shrinking Jobs

Alexander Kent, Michael B. Sauter

3. Plasterers and Stucco Masons
> 10-year job growth:
-56.5%
> Total employed: 20,760
> Median annual pay: $37,550

Slightly less than 21,000 people are employed as plasters and stucco masons in the country, down 56.5% since 2005. A typical worker in this field earned $37,550 in 2014, slightly higher than the national median salary, and one of the highest paying occupations for people with less than a high school diploma. Like other jobs on this list, employment of plasterers and stucco masons can be extremely sensitive to changes in the business cycle — such as the last decade’s housing bust. Despite declining in previous years, the BLS estimates employment in this field will increase 15% over the 10 years ending in 2022.

2. Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters — Helpers
> 10-year job growth:
-59.8%
> Total employed: 23,570
> Median annual pay: $28,830

The number of assistants working with brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters fell from 58,690 in 2005 to just 23,570 as of last year. This nearly 60% drop came primarily as a byproduct of the subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent collapse of the U.S. housing market and construction industry. According to the BLS, helpers were more affected than other construction workers because “contractors kept their more experienced workers and had them perform tasks that helpers would normally do.” While they do not appear likely to return to previous levels, positions for construction helpers are expected to grow by 43% by 2022 as the industry continues to recover.

1. Carpenters — Helpers
> 10-year job growth:
-61.8%
> Total employed: 38,900
> Median annual pay: $26,600

Carpenters’ helpers — commonly called gofers — perform lower-skill tasks, such as gathering materials or tools and cleaning the work area and equipment. In 2005, nearly 102,000 carpenters’ helpers were employed in the United States. As of 2014, employment in this field had contracted 61.8%, largely due to the slowdown in construction during the recession. According to the BLS, helpers are usually the first to lose their jobs in economic downturns because contractors prefer to keep their more experienced workers and have them perform tasks normally reserved for helpers. As the housing market rebounds, carpenters’ helpers may not be found among America’s disappearing jobs. In fact, the BLS projects the number of people employed in this occupation will increase by 29.6% by 2022.