Where the jobs aren't

April 7, 2009 10:41:24 AM PDT
Gloria Lomeli, who has wanted to write since she was a kid, is just finishing her major in magazine journalism at Ohio University. When she graduates this summer, she'll look for a job in her field. During a massive recession.

In a profession that is shrinking fast.

"Right about now," she said, "I'd be satisfied with anything."

One cold comfort for job seekers like Lomeli is that even in this bleak economy, hiring is expected to nudge up again this year or next. But not all jobs will come back at the same pace. Some fields will never recover.

But which? Who are the cobblers and lighthouse keepers of tomorrow?

In short: Where will the jobs NOT be?

Career counselors caution that predictions about dying professions should be taken with a grain of salt. No projection is perfect and few job fields disappear entirely. But there are trends that any job seeker should pay attention to, whether they are college graduates or displaced workers looking for a new start.

"If you choose to go into an industry or work function that is shrinking, do not assume that you will be the exception and land a job with ease," said Chandlee Bryan, a former Ivy League career services director who now consults privately in New York City.

"It's always good to have a backup plan."

The authority for labor projections in the United States is the 10-year job report put out every two years by federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. It looks at prospects for hundreds of jobs, from bartenders to astronomers. The data often is used to produce those popular "hot jobs" lists that talk up careers in health care, education and high tech. But it also can be studied for clues about where jobs are shrinking.

The latest projections, through 2016, show that the nation's long-running shift from a manufacturing to a service economy will continue to make factory jobs scarcer. The BLS predicts a loss of 1.5 million manufacturing jobs in the decade ending in 2016.

Likewise, look for automation to lessen the need for order filers, cashiers, telephone operators and mail clerks.

"Anything that you can have a machine do better or faster than a human can do it, or more accurately, those jobs are going away," said Rose Baker, director of the Center for Regional Economic and Workforce Analysis at Pennsylvania State University.

In other words, Mom and Dad were right: Education helps. Jobs that require an associate's degree or higher fare much better in the BLS data. There are some exceptions. Law clerks and computer programmers are among the few jobs requiring a bachelor's degree that are projected to shrink.

A big problem with the current federal figures is they were calculated before the economy nose-dived last year. Things have changed dramatically since 2006. Few analysts would now endorse BLS data projecting 25 percent growth for securities, commodities and financial services sales agents.

"Wall Street and finance, obviously that has contracted. Real estate has contracted. Construction. And those are never going to be at the places they once were ... Those were so inflated," said Stacie Hagenbaugh, director of the Career Development Office at Smith College in Massachusetts.

But Hagenbaugh is quick to add that she does not necessarily discourage students from following their interests, even if they lead to a deflating field. There are jobs - you just have to be realistic. Her advice: Be flexible.

For instance, a student who wants to head to Wall Street might try for an entry-level job in a retail bank instead. She can gain experience there and see how things look in a few years, Hagenbaugh said. Likewise, students interested in journalism would do well to learn video and other skills that broaden their marketability.

Lomeli at Ohio University is doing exactly that. Her dream is to land a gig at a travel magazine, but she's learning skills that would transfer to Web journalism, such as blogging. She's hoping to start work at a small-circulation local publication and maybe help them with online journalism.

"I realize with the dwindling jobs you're going to have to be a multi-tasker," Lomeli said, "and learning online tools is going to be helpful."

She and others facing a cloudy career path also could take heart from observations by Baker and David Passmore, her Penn State colleague who directs the Institute for Research in Training and Development.

First, the pending big wave of Baby Boomer retirements - the first ones are turning 63 this year - could create a bull market for replacement jobs even in fields in eclipse.

And getting a job is not about BLS numbers, Passmore stresses. It's about passion. Wannabe bond traders should note that radio deejays survived the birth of TV, and some bike manufacturers have persisted through the auto age.

"Somewhere out there," Passmore said, "someone is making and selling buggy whips."

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