Building a career is challenging enough in the best of circumstances, but working in an industry that is in decline and shedding jobs can make it even harder to advance. Whether you are just starting in the working world or looking for a career change, take the time to see which industries have better—and worse—potential than others. Employment in a growth industry will provide more opportunities for promotion and job changes throughout your career.
While some U.S. industries are expanding, others are shrinking. Declining industries traditionally hire fewer new workers and pay workers less than those in similar roles in thriving industries. Growth also varies by location; some states have a much stronger outlook than others.
It's wise to factor in the prospective growth, stagnation, or decline of a given industry as you target your job search. Even if you land a job in a manufacturing industry, for example, layoffs will be more common and there will be fewer chances for advancement. If you are looking at a job with a shaky outlook, think about how you could tweak your trajectory. If advertising sales has you interested, for instance, why not target leading online enterprises as opposed to print magazines?
Top 16 Industries for Job Losses
The U.S. government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) studies trends in the economy and job market and makes projections regarding areas of job growth and decline. The latest set of projections predicts gains and losses through 2026, based on economic and job market trends.
These are the industries that the BLS expects to experience the greatest job losses, with projected net decreases from 2016-2026:
- Wired Communication Carriers - 102,500
The rise in the use of mobile phones and the decline in landline accounts have cut into business, even as traditional carriers expand into other products.
- Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers - 88,000
Online and digital content is the preferred source of information for most people, with print losing much of its market share.
- Postal Service - 80,700
Increased use of email and digital advertising has decreased the flow of traditional mail. Most communications can be handled online rather than by postal mail, and private delivery services like UPS and FedEx have undercut the U.S. Postal Service.
- Printing and Related Support Services - 73,200
Individuals and businesses are storing and sending documents digitally and avoiding the cost, storage needs, and environmental concerns involved with printing on paper.
- Apparel Manufacturing - 48,200
The continued outsourcing of production to other countries, along with increased automation, is leading to cuts in U.S. manufacturing jobs.
- Textile Mills - 44,200
As with apparel manufacturing, rising automation and outsourcing are contributing to a decline in the textile industry.
- Plastics Products Manufacturing - 43,700
Along with increases in automation, environmental concerns about the disposal of plastics may contribute to employment decline.
- Semiconductor and Electronic Component Manufacturing - 37,700
Globalization and production overseas will cause job losses even as output increases slightly.
- Navigational, Measuring, and Control Instrument Manufacturing - 35,500
Once again, competition from overseas combined with increases in automation and efficiency are shrinking the U.S. job market.
- Other Miscellaneous Manufacturing - 25,800
The same general trend and factors apply in other fields of manufacturing.
- Foundries - 25,100
Foundries are likewise subject to the same influences as other forms of manufacturing.
- Communications Equipment Manufacturing - 23,700
These jobs are likely decreasing for the same reasons mentioned for other manufacturing.
- Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing (Excluding Digital Cameras) - 23,100
Despite a massive increase in domestic output, this field faces the same challenges for employment—automation, an increased focus on skilled labor, and overseas competition.
- Rubber Product Manufacturing - 21,500
The rubber industry faces similar challenges to job creation.
- Pulp and Mills - 20,800
Digitization and environmental concerns have cut the demand for some types of paper. The remaining companies have merged and limited their workforces.
- Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services - 20,700
Automated, online, and do-it-yourself travel services are replacing travel and tour booking agencies.
Another way to identify some areas of employment with diminishing job prospects is to review the BLS data on the fastest-declining occupations. These jobs have fallen out of favor for a variety of reasons, including: trends in the automation of production, outsourcing to overseas markets (where labor is cheaper), enhancements in information technology that reduce the need for workers, the emergence of the gig economy, and an increase in part-time and freelance workers filling what were once full-time jobs.
These are the 20 fastest-declining occupations, with projections from 2018-2028, ranked by the percentage of jobs expected to be lost:
- Locomotive Firers - 68.3%
- Respiratory Therapy Technicians - 57.5%
- Parking Enforcement Workers - 36.7%
- Word Processors and Typists - 33.8%
- Watch Repairers - 29.6%
- Electronic Equipment Repairers for Motor Vehicles - 28.6%
- Telephone Operators - 28.4%
- Cutters and Trimmers (by hand) - 28.4%
- Postmasters and Mail Superintendents - 27.5%
- Mine Shuttle Car Operators - 25.3%
- Computer Operators - 24.1%
- Switchboard Operators, including Answering Services - 23.8%
- Postal Service Mail Sorters, Processors, and Machine Operators - 23.8%
- Data Entry Keyers - 23.2%
- Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers - 22%
- Coil Winders, Tapers, Winders, and Finishers - 21.6%
- Photographic Process Workers - 21.3%
- Pressers, Textile, Garment, and Related Materials - 21.2%
- Legal Secretaries - 20.9%
- Prepress Technicians - 20.8%
The Best Industries for Jobs
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs for the average occupation will increase by 5.2% between 2018 and 2028. Healthcare and social assistance (1.6% annually), private educational services (1.2% annually), and construction (1.1% annually) are projected to be among the fastest-growing occupational groups.
These are among the jobs in industries on the other side of the spectrum that are growing at a fast pace. The top 10 industries have high projected growth in employment, with a wide variety of jobs available for those seeking career options. Many jobs are relatively safe from automation as well. Make sure you are aware of these trends are you embark on your career path.