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Travel Agencies and 20 Other Businesses That Are Disappearing

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Endangered Employment

The nation's unemployment rate was below 4% until the coronavirus struck, sending joblessness soaring to the point that in July, around one in five American workers — that's around 30 million people — were drawing jobless benefits. But don't let pre-coronavirus nostalgia run away with you: It's not like anyone could get any job they wanted. Indeed, many once-robust industries have long been declining into irrelevance from factors such as outsourcing and automation, even as other industries showed unexpectedly rapid growth. Here are some U.S. industries and jobs disappearing from under our noses.

Related: 15 Industries That Would Benefit From a Recession

Travel Agencies

Travel Agencies

Travel is taking a pounding from COVID-1, but the booking industry had already shed more than 21,000 jobs before we'd heard of it, down from a high of 124,000 in 2000, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the decline would likely continue to 2026, even though jobs in leisure and hospitality had been expected to grow. People may still have been vacationing, but telecommuting via internet eliminated the need for many a business trip, and remaining agencies were forced to adapt and accommodate more user-dependent online booking. Now airlines are shutting down routes to empty airports and cruise liners are seen as as floating virus traps; people are camping and taking more road trips, and they don't need travel agencies for that.  



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. Pew found a drop of U.S. newsroom employment to 88,000 last year, down by about 23% from a 2008 — or about 60% since the advent of the internet, The Guardian says. Some analysis shared the blame with publishers' lack of ad and brand awareness in an ever-more-crowded marketplace. And then the coronavirus came along, and on its own closed an additional 50-plus local newsrooms across America in a few short months.

City Newsstands

City Newsstands

The rise of the internet as a news source also affected 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 with 1,700 in the 1980s, relying more on sales of beverages and lottery tickets. The coronavirus and its quarantining meant no customers at all for many newsstands.

Related: 15 Ways the Coronavirus Has Changed Americans' Daily Lives



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 ecommerce, ereading, and self-publishing has led to more book sales within an entirely new model. The remaining independent bookstores seemed to have figured out a formula, often involving hosting more events, until coronavirus closed their doors in March. Many small bookshops have been operating as sales-fulfillment centers and shippers, and wondering anew how long they can last. 

Other Publishers

Other Publishers

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, the last time the BLS took a major look at the industry. It was the biggest among the most in any industry, and the trends seemed clear.


Logging/Paper Mills

Employment in the logging and deforestation industries was predicted to drop 10.9% by 2026 even without coronavirus, while the larger market of pulp and paper mills was expected to shrink at almost twice the same rate. Such declines can be traced back decades to contributing factors such as high energy prices, less paper use in favor of digital platforms, and competition from plastic and steel as well as cheap foreign markets.

Private Household Employees

Private Household Employees

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.

Related: Short-Term Jobs You Can Still Get During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Cable and Other Subscription Programming

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 in 2017, which inspired many networks to enter the online streaming market and recoup some of the revenue lost — but the launch of Apple+, Disney+, Peacock, and others doesn't change employment rates significantly.

On the Hunt

Professional Employer Organizations

Professional employer organizations help other businesses by handling "employee management" tasks such as 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. Even without coronavirus, America entered a recession in February, and these companies that remain would be mainly issuing pink slips before showing themselves the door.

Related: Hiring Managers Advice for Landing a Work-From-Home Job

Land Subdivision
Janine Lamontagne/istockphoto

Land Subdivision

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.

Related: New Rules for Buying and Selling a Home During the Pandemic



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 drugstore.

Video Rental

Video Rental

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, revenue estimates for video streamers continue to climb.

Related: 35 Companies That Have Filed for Bankruptcy Since the Pandemic Began — and 14 That Could Be Next

Recording Studio

Recording Studios

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. One of the biggest remixes of the past year was by a 19-year-old living with his parents in a village in Kazakhstan, who learned from YouTube tutorials and got attention by uploading his work to TikTok.

Related: 35 Hobbies That Pay Off in Jobs



Once the bulwark of America's booming postwar economy, manufacturing is in such dire straits these days that related disciplines make up almost half of all entries on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of most rapidly declining industries. Whether making magnetic media such as audio tapes, telephone apparatus such as 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. Trade wars and tariffs led by the Trump administration haven't reverse the trend.

Related: 25 Towns Devastated by Losing a Single Company


Textiles/Apparel Manufacturing

The textile manufacturing and apparel knitting industries 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 — another trend not meaningfully affected by trade wars led by the Trump White House.

Related: Eerie Abandoned Factories Across America

Formal Attire

Formal Wear and Costume Rental

This increase in cheap imported textiles from China and other developing nations has allowed more Americans to buy formal wear rather than renting it, which helps to explain the 46% employment drop at clothing rental companies over the past decade. It doesn't help that fewer Americans are getting married, and no doubt the simplicity of finding costume components through ecommerce services has played a part as well.

Data Recovery

Data Recovery

The market for data recovery services — which salvage computer files from corrupted or inaccessible storage devices — declined an annual average of 8% in the five years leading up to 2019. It gets worse: The decline was about 21% annually in many of the preceding years. 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.

Toys "R" Us

Retail Stores

We thought we’d seen the peak of America's "retail apocalypse," in which thousands of once-iconic stores — Toys "R" Us, to name one recent example — closed their doors as a result of rising rents and reduced profits from online competition. A hundred thousand jobs in the industry were lost from October 2016 to April 2017 alone. But even then the losses were only expected to continue, and the disappearance of customers and foot traffic and difficulties of having workers in a store or warehouse during a pandemic brought new devastation. As of late July, 31 big companies from Brooks Brothers to GNC had filed for bankruptcy since the pandemic began, most of them retailers, and 15 were signaling they could be next.

Postal Service

The Postal Service

In 2018, the U.S. Postal Service reported a net financial loss for the 12th year in a row, driven by a decline in mail sent and an uptick in costs for employees' pension and health care. The service has been another victim of digital age innovation, with the rise of email supplanting some of their business, and it's flirted with suspending weekend service or increasing stamp prices to make their model more sustainable. This also got worse amid coronavirus, with as much as a $13 billion loss in revenue expected this year because of the pandemic. Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump weren't expressing much interest in helping the agency ride out the crisis, despite a looming election that could rely heavily on mail-in ballots.

Related: Why Stamp Prices Keep Rising as the Post Office Sinks Slowly

Take Out a Personal Loan

Lending/Savings/Credit Intermediation Institutions

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 in general have been seeking loans, and for many years the biggest banks were giving them out more sparingly. There were 45.3% fewer employed in the industry than in 2007, which can also be traced to the rise of online banking, but the future looks mixed: While pre-coronavirus projected employment for bank tellers is expected to drop by 8% by 2026, the market for loan officers is expected to rise by 11%.

Small Businesses

Small Business Startups

A decline in small-business launches was considered another lingering effect of the Great Recession and major source of economic stagnation and slow wage growth. The U.S. Census Bureau counted 414,000 businesses formed in the U.S. in 2015 compared with 558,000 in 2006, a declining trend that might 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. But it gets worse when considering that of the more than 30 million small businesses the government touts, around two-thirds are non-hiring, unprofitable side hustles; others are businesses that exist only on paper, for tax purposes; and serious hiring looks unlikely during a pandemic. On the other hand, some very successful businesses have been formed during bad economic times.