Special Report

17 Disappearing Middle Class Jobs

17. Bill and account collectors
> Projected employment change, 2014-2024:
> 2014 employment (thousands): 350.4
> 2024 projected employment (thousands): 330.9
> Median annual wage: $33,700

Bill and account collectors are typically tasked with reaching out to customers with overdue bills and negotiating repayment plans. Persons employed in this occupation typically have just a high school diploma, as any other necessary skills can be obtained through a moderate amount of on-the-job training. While overall, jobs are expected to grow by 7% across the United States from 2014 through 2024, the number of bill and account collectors is expected to decline by 6% over that period. This decline is in part due to the ongoing consolidation of collections agencies, as most small private operations are disappearing. Also, the increasing use and sophistication of software and automated calling systems has reduced the need for these occupations.

16. Mechanical drafters
> Projected employment change, 2014-2024:
> 2014 employment (thousands): 65.7
> 2024 projected employment (thousands): 61.2
> Median annual wage: $52,200

Mechanical drafters are the only position on this list that requires some post-secondary education — an associate’s degree in drafting. For this reason, the position also pays more than most positions on this list, at over $52,000 annually. Mechanical drafters create technical drawings of machines based on the designs of engineers. Unfortunately for these workers, manual drafting practice is on the decline due to the increased sophistication of CAD (computer-aided design) software, which allows engineers to create their own technical designs without drafters.

15. Surveying and mapping technicians
> Projected employment change, 2014-2024:
> 2014 employment (thousands): 57.3
> 2024 projected employment (thousands): 52.9
> Median annual wage: $40,770

Roughly 57,000 surveyors and mapping technicians work in the United States to collect data on terrain and geographic features. While mapping technicians often need a specialized education, most surveyors can get by with just a high school diploma. These positions tend to rely on the strength of the construction industry. However, even as most construction-related positions are projected to grow faster than the national job growth rate over the next decade, surveyors and mapping technician positions are on the decline in the United States, with a projected loss of 4,400 jobs through 2024. Technological advancement in the field such as the development of robots capable of replacing surveyors will push out a number of these workers.

14. Tellers
> Projected employment change, 2014-2024:
> 2014 employment (thousands): 520.5
> 2024 projected employment (thousands): 480.5
> Median annual wage: $25,760

Bank tellers are one of the largest middle-class jobs in the country, with more than 520,000 tellers. A typical person employed in this position earns just $25,760, and the job typically requires just a high school education, as any necessary additional training is typically provided on the job. The number of tellers working at American banks will decline by as many as 40,000 through 2024. The advent of online and mobile banking is driving this decline, as bank customers are now able to take care of many of the tasks that comprise the bulk of a teller’s duties, including transferring money between accounts and depositing checks.

13. Chemical equipment operators and tenders
> Projected employment change, 2014-2024:
> 2014 employment (thousands): 66.3
> 2024 projected employment (thousands): 60.8
> Median annual wage: $48,090

There will be roughly 5,500 fewer chemical equipment operator jobs in the United States by 2024. This projected 8.3% decrease is one of the largest among the country’s middle-skill jobs. While the vast majority of rapidly disappearing jobs have relatively low salaries, ranging between $25,000 and $40,000 a year, chemical equipment operators are relatively well compensated. The typical worker in the field earns more than $48,000 a year. The higher compensation may be due the inherent danger of fire and explosions on the job. Job responsibilities of such workers include operating equipment where chemical reactions take place in the process of manufacturing industrial or consumer goods.

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