Get Out of These 10 Professions Now

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be postmen -- or garment-factory workers, either.

That's because a recent study by the U.S. Labor Department found that eight of the 10 professions expected to face the greatest job losses during the current decade involve apparel manufacturing or the U.S. Postal Service.

"Young people should probably look less at these positions and more at occupations where we project large job growth," says Teri Morisi of the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiled the report.

Morisi says postal jobs are becoming about as vital as the one-cent stamp because email, online bill paying and other modern technologies are drying up "snail mail" usage. She believes apparel-manufacturing jobs are in decline because of a combination of "offshoring" and increased automation.

"Machinery can replace workers, productivity can reduce the need for a certain number of employees and there can be outsourcing to offshore locations," she says.

Here's a look at the 10 professions the BLS predicts will face the biggest percentage declines in available jobs during the current decade. All median-pay figures are estimates of each profession's annual salary as of 2010, a year U.S. workers earned a median $33,840 overall.

Tenth-worst profession: Semiconductor processor
Median pay: $33,130

You'd think semiconductor processors -- people who make microchips -- would have lots of job opportunities these days, since their wares wind up in everything from cellphones to cars.

But increased automation at U.S. chip factories means the industry needs fewer and fewer workers, while lots of the jobs that remain are moving overseas, Morisi says.

All told, the BLS estimates U.S. firms will cut 17.9% of all semiconductor-processing jobs between 2010 and 2020. That'll take the industry down to 17,300 positions from 21,100 when the decade began.

Eighth- and ninth-worst professions: Textile-cutting- and knitting-machine operators
Median pay: $23,490 for cutting-machine operators, $25,870 for knitting-machine workers

These folks run the machines that cut, knot, loop or weave fabrics -- jobs that face steep declines because of a combination of offshoring and greater automation, according to Morisi.

Textile-knitting-machine operators can expect their profession to drop to 18,400 jobs in 2020 from 22,500 in 2010. That's an 18.2% pullback -- ninth-worst on the BLS list. Textile-cutting-machine operators will see even steeper job declines in percentage terms, with the BLS estimating an eighth-worst drop of 21.8% in all jobs during the current decade, dropping to 11,700 positions in 2020 from 14,900 as of 2010.

Seventh-worst profession: Switchboard/answering service operator
Median pay: $24,920

The old company switchboard operator is going the way of -- well, the old company switchboard.

That's because cellphones, text messaging, voice mail and other modern technologies mean fewer and fewer people have to leave a message with a switchboard operator or answering service.

"Cellphones reach the person you're trying to call, not the company operator," Morisi says.

The BLS projects U.S. employers will hang up on 23.3% of all switchboard- and answering-service-operator jobs this decade, cutting the profession's ranks to 109,300 positions in 2020 from 142,500 in 2010.

Sixth-worst profession: Sewing-machine operator
Median pay: $20,600

Just as textile-machine jobs are disappearing to automation and offshoring, so too are positions for sewing-machine operators, Morisi says.

Her agency forecasts the number of U.S. sewing-machine operators will drop to 121,100 as of 2020 from 163,200 in 2010. That's a 25.8% decline.

Fifth-worst profession: Postmaster/mail superintendent
Median pay: $60,300

A 2010 study commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service estimates mail volumes will fall to 150 million items by 2020 from 213 million in 2006 -- a 30% drop.

That has the Postal Service cutting staff, closing facilities and proposing the end of Saturday mail delivery (a move that requires congressional approval).

As a result, postmasters and mail superintendents -- the managers who oversee operations at post offices and sorting facilities -- face poor job prospects.

The BLS estimates the USPS will cut 27.8% of all postmaster and mail-superintendent positions this decade, reducing the profession to 17,700 jobs as of 2020 from 24,500 in 2010.

Fourth-worst profession: Fabric/apparel patternmaker
Median pay: $38,970

These workers make the master patterns and layouts used in fabric and clothing production -- an industry where the workforce is shrinking faster than a cheap suit because of automation and offshoring.

The BLS predicts the nation's ranks of fabric and apparel pattern makers will drop 35.6% to 3,900 in 2020 from 6,000 in 2010.

"I think this is a job that's going the way of the textile worker," Morisi says.

Second- and third-worst professions: Mail sorters and postal clerks
Median pay: $53,080 of mail sorters, $53,100 for postal clerks

Declining mail volumes seem poised to send many mail-sorter and postal-clerk jobs to the dead-letter office.

The BLS estimates America will have just 34,000 postal clerks in 2020 -- a 48.2% drop from 2010's 65,600. That's the third-biggest decline for any U.S. profession.

Mail-sorter jobs will drop an even steeper 48.5%, declining to 73,000 positions in 2020 from 142,000 in 2010.

Morisi says mail sorters face sharp declines not only because fewer people are mailing letters, but also because improving technology makes it easier to sort letters using fewer people.

Worst profession: Shoe-machine operator
Median pay: $26,280

The BLS predicts employers will give 53.4% of all U.S. shoe-machine operators the boot between 2010 and 2020 -- the worst outlook for any U.S. job.

The agency estimates total employment for shoe-machine operators, who run the factory equipment that makes shoes, will drop to 1,500 jobs as of 2020 from 3,200 in 2010. Morisi blames the decline primarily on offshoring.

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