The U.S. job market is expected to grow by about 7% over the next decade. At that rate, roughly 10 million more Americans will be employed by 2024.
However, these new jobs are not likely to be created evenly across all occupations and industries. The nation’s middle class has been shrinking at what some call an alarming rate, and even as the nation’s job market is expected to grow, demand for many mid- to low-skilled, primarily middle class positions is expected to rapidly decline. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a loss of hundreds of thousands of such jobs in the coming years due to outsourcing and the development of new technology.
More than 90 million of Americans work in jobs that require little to no prior experience and less than a bachelor’s degree. These positions tend provide any needed training on the job. In some cases, a two-year associate’s program is all that is required.
A low educational requirement and a lack of specialization means these jobs are much more accessible. However, this also means workers in these fields tend to be poorly compensated. The typical worker in the vast majority of the fastest disappearing middle-skill jobs has an annual salary of less than $40,000.
Another significant downside to these low-skill jobs is that a lack of specialization typically translates to a greater exposure to replacement by new technology. The now-widespread use of computers and the Internet for commerce and communication has resulted in hundreds of thousands of layoffs, from the post office to brick-and-mortar retailers.
The print industry, for example, has been reduced to a shadow of its former self, as consumers have transitioned from newspapers and books to news sites and e-readers. The ranks of printing press operators and print binding and finishing workers — jobs tied to the dwindling popularity of physical print — is projected to decrease by 12.5% and 13.7%, respectively, by 2024.
Automation and computing will also continue to contribute to sharp declines in certain middle-class jobs. The need for computer operators is steadily decreasing, as is demand for typist jobs and office machine operators.
The most dramatic change in employment due to the Internet will be among postal workers. The U.S. Postal Service has seen usage plunge as Americans switch from physical mail to email, and as businesses now conduct transactions online. Between 2005 and 2014, the number of full-time postal workers fell from over 700,000 to 487,000, and the service will likely continue to contract for years. The BLS projects a nearly 34% plunge in the number of Postal Service mail sorters and processors, for example, by 2024.
While technology and computing advances are responsible for the declining demand of most jobs on this list, outsourcing of the country’s manufacturing jobs outside the United States is also a factor. For example, the number of metal and plastic machine workers is projected to decline by 13% as many of those jobs will move overseas. Some specific occupations in the field, such as those working on molding, coremaking, and casting machines, will likely shrink by 25% within the next decade.
To identify the middle class jobs disappearing the fastest, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed jobs with the largest projected employment percentage decline from 2014 through 2024. To be considered, an occupation needed to have a minimum of 50,000 workers employed as of 2014 ,require minimal prior work experience, and typically require no education beyond an associate’s degree. Worker characteristics such as median annual wages, typical education needed for entry, and on-the-job training needed to reach competency came from the BLS’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. In some cases, multiple jobs with similar classifications made the list. In these cases, only the class with the largest projected decline was listed.
These are the 17 disappearing middle class jobs.