Among the job market’s twists and turns are also dead ends.
CareerCast, a job search company that tracks “endangered” jobs, has some surprising predictions about occupations most in danger of disappearing over the next several years. They include insurance underwriters, disk jockeys and broadcast journalists. Yes, mail carriers top the list of largest expected employment declines -- hardly a surprise in the email era. But the second-largest projected drop, by absolute numbers, is in a field purportedly bursting with opportunity: computer programming.
It’s the first time in CareerCast’s annual survey that computer programmers have appeared on the endangered list, said Kyle Kensing, an online content editor with the job services site.
“It’s an outlier in the IT sector,” Kensing said. Coding “is a skillset that’s become more integrated into other jobs in the industry as a whole. The more tedious tasks can be outsourced.”
CareerCast’s forecast jibes with government estimates. While the economy is expected to produce more than a half-million new computer and math jobs by 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency forecasts some 26,000 fewer jobs for programmers.
Automation, too, plays a part. It’s the main culprit behind the disappearance of insurance underwriters, No. 3 on the endangered jobs list. Underwriters are responsible for creating an insurance policy, and software that streamlines the underwriting process obviates the need for a human.
Another factor that has long been reshaping the domestic labor market -- globalization. Demand for jewelers and tailors or seamstresses is also dropping, thanks to the increasing popularity of cheap clothing manufactured overseas.
“People are more likely now to just replace an item because it’s ruined or torn -- it doesn’t go to a tailor,” Kensing said.
But the job most in danger of extinction, according to CareerCast, is the mail carrier’s. The U.S. Postal Service as a whole will see a drop of 28 percent, or 136,000 jobs, by 2024, the Labor Department predicts. Mail carriers aren’t seeing much benefit from the explosion in online shopping -- many of those parcels get delivered by private services, such as FedEx (FDX) or UPS (UPS), rather than the USPS.
Of course, many other occupations -- mostly in manufacturing -- have been declining for decades and don’t appear in CareerCast’s report, which is based on the 200 largely professional jobs the firm tracks. Increasing efficiency is a big reason for declines: As workers get more productive and parts of their job get automated, it takes fewer people to produce the same amount of work.
But government policy also plays a large role in picking job winners and losers. Tax laws influence where companies choose to do business, and whether they work in the U.S. at all. So do tax deals made with individual companies, as President-elect Donald Trump demonstrated last month when he offered tax breaks to an Indiana corporation in return for the company’s keeping nearly 1,000 jobs in the U.S.
Governments also shape the job markets through trade agreements that may give a competitive advantage to other countries, as well as through regulations like licensing requirements, which today affect nearly 30 percent of occupations, from medical technicians to hair stylists.