Travel Agencies and 20 Other Businesses That Are Disappearing
Currently sitting at four-percent, the nation's unemployment rate has been at a refreshing low the past couple years, but that doesn't mean anyone can get any job they desire. Indeed, many once-robust industries are declining into irrelevance due to market changes caused by outsourcing and automation as well as other complex factors — just as numerous other industries are unexpectedly showing rapid growth. To give you some idea which career pathways are going the way of the dinosaurs, here are 21 American industries and jobs in the process of disappearing from under our noses.
The travel booking industry has already shed more than 21,000 jobs after a high of 124,000 in 2000, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the decline is likely to continue to 2026, even as jobs in leisure and hospitality grow. People may still be vacationing, but telecommuting via internet has eliminated the need for many a business trip, and remaining agencies have been forced to adapt and accommodate more user-dependent online booking.
Newspapers are disappearing — it's practically a cliché to say so, but one backed up by more than a decade of declining ad revenues, circulation, and public interest in print journalism. Since 2009, many major American metropolitan dailies have shuttered, filed for bankruptcy, or drastically reduced operations. The most-frequently cited culprit is the rise of the internet, but a more recent analysis suggests it may be due to publishers' lack of advertising and brand awareness in an ever-more-crowded marketplace.
The rise of the internet as a news source also impacted the people in charge of distributing daily papers to readers — suburban paperboys as well as city newsstands. The latter's sales dropped 12.4% in 2016 continuing a long decline. In New York, one vendor estimated selling only 20 copies of the Post daily compared to 1,700 in the 1980s, relying more on sales of beverages and lottery tickets.
Print media as a whole has had a rough couple decades it seems, as the number of bookstores in the U.S. fell by almost 4,000 from 2007 to 2016, a 32.7% decline exceeded by a 42.9% decline in employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most precipitous event in the industry's decline was Borders closing its stores in 2011, and the most obvious suspect in its demise is Amazon, whose low prices and emphasis on e-commerce, e-reading, and self-publishing has led to more book sales within an entirely new model.
As with print books and newspapers, it seems there's just too many niche publications jockeying for our attention. For magazines, alternative weeklies, mailing lists, art prints, zines, and greeting card companies the number of workers employed by such niche publishers declined by 44.7% from 2007 to 2016, amongst the most in any industry.
Employment in the logging and deforestation industries is predicted to drop 10.9% by 2026, while the larger market of pulp and paper mills will shrink at almost twice the same rate. Such declines can be traced back decades to contributing factors like high energy prices, less paper use in favor of digital platforms, and competition from plastic and steel as well as cheap foreign markets.
There's a reason you don't seem to see many live-in nannies, maids, or butlers these days — the number of private household workers employed has essentially declined by half since 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, likely due to cultural shifts and the perception that such servant-like professions are now antiquated.
All those cord-cutters switching to Netflix and Hulu over DirecTV and Time Warner are having an impact after all, and one that's forecast to shrink employment in cable and other non-internet programming by almost 12% before 2026. Cable services saw the fastest rate of decline in subscriptions on record last year, so many networks are now seeking to enter the online streaming market to recoup some of the revenue lost.
Professional employer organizations help other businesses by handling "employee management" tasks like payroll, benefits, retirement planning, training, and risk management — all processes that have become more streamlined due to technological advances. As a result, many professional employer organizations have shuttered or shrunk operations in recent years, to the tune of a 48% reduction in employment across the industry.
Land subdivision means dividing tracts of land into smaller parcels usually for sale and new home construction, a practice that has yet to recover from the housing crisis of 2008. The lack of demand for construction caused this industry to lose 56% of jobs from 2007 to 2016.
The advent of digital technology has taken its toll on photofinishing parlors as well, where employment has declined by almost 60% since 2007. Most Americans can now take and refine high-quality photos right on their smartphones, so they no longer need to have film developed by one-hour photo stands at the local drug store.
Here's one you probably know about by now. Online streaming almost immediately made the neighborhood video rental store obsolete, so from 2007 to 2016, employment at such establishments fell by almost 90% as Blockbusters and independent locations shuttered with record speed. About 86% of rental stores open in 2007 are now closed, while not coincidentally, Netflix's revenue estimates continue to climb.
The number of recording studios in the U.S. fell from 1,700 in 2007 to 1,438 in 2016, and any wannabe DJ that's downloaded home-mixing software to their PC knows the reason why. Advances in sound editing software have made the music recording (and distribution) process more democratized and accessible to anyone, and thus less dependent on expensive equipment and professionally-trained engineers.
Once the bulwark of America's booming postwar economy, manufacturing is in such dire straits these days that related disciplines comprise almost half of all entries on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of most rapidly declining industries. Whether making magnetic media like audio tapes, telephone apparatus like modems, or office supplies, American manufacturing workers have rapidly been replaced with new forms of technology or cheaper sources of foreign labor, even as the industry's output has grown steadily.
The textile manufacturing and apparel knitting industries both shed roughly half their employees between 2007 and 2016, going much the same way as other manufacturing disciplines for many of the same reasons. Another major factor has been the elimination of quotas for domestic textile production in 2004, as Chinese textile and apparel imports have more than doubled since then.
This increase in cheap imported textiles from China and other developing nations has allowed more Americans to purchase formal wear rather than renting it, which helps to explain the 46% employment drop at clothing rental companies over the past decade. It also doesn't help that fewer Americans are getting married, and no doubt the simplicity of finding costume components through e-commerce services has played a part as well.
The market for data recovery services — which salvage computer files from corrupted or inaccessible storage devices — declined an annual average of 21.3% from 2011 to 2016. These services are slowly but surely being supplanted by cloud-based recovery options that give users greater confidence in their ability to recover imperiled data.
Last year may have represented the peak of America's "retail apocalypse," which has seen thousands of once-iconic stores — Toys "R" Us, to name one recent example — close their doors due to rising rents and reduced profits due to more convenient e-commerce competition. A hundred thousand jobs in the industry were lost from October 2016 to April 2017 alone, and the decline is only expected to continue as still more companies, like Sears, teeter on the edge of closure.
In 2017, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) reported a net financial loss for the 11th year in a row, driven by a decline in mail sent and an uptick in costs for employees' pension and healthcare. The service has been another victim of digital age innovation with the rise of email supplanting some of their business, and they've flirted with suspending weekend service or increasing stamp prices to make their model more sustainable.
Bank lending and consumer confidence in such credit institutions understandably declined after the housing market crash and subsequent Great Recession, and the industry has still not fully recovered. Fewer Americans are seeking loans, the biggest banks are giving them out more sparingly, and in 2016, there were 45.3% fewer employed in the industry to serve them than in 2007, which can also be traced to the rise of online banking.
Fewer Americans seeking loans means fewer starting businesses, another lingering effect of the Great Recession and major source of economic stagnation and slow wage growth. A total of 414,000 businesses were formed in the U.S. in 2015 compared to 558,000 in 2006, and the decline may be traced to the rising power of existing corporations that can now use their resources and influence to buy out, bankrupt, or otherwise deter fledgling competitors.
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