Declining Industries Destined to Fail

Finding work and launching a stable career can be hard enough. Doing so in a dying industry can make it incredibly harder.

As the economy changes and technology advances, many industries are growing and expanding, leading to careers that are in high demand. By the same token, industries such as newspaper publishing and various forms of manufacturing seem to be on their last legs.

Companies in dying industries offer fewer chances for career advancement, stagnant or declining wages, and frequent rounds of layoffs.

Industries decline when they don’t keep up with the country’s pace of economic growth. This can happen for various reasons, such as a change in customer preferences, new technologies, or emerging substitute industries.

Some dying industries bounce back in unexpected ways, such as vinyl record manufacturing in the past decade. Others, though, continue to decline until they’re lost forever and placed in the history books.

Bottom line: Stay away from industries that are in rapid decline and choose stable ones instead that should be around for a long time.

Here are three industries in the U.S. that are declining quickly and, barring an unforeseen resurgence, are destined to fail.

Newspaper Publishing

The internet and social media have significantly changed how Americans get their news. As a result, the fortunes of the newspaper publishing industry have steadily declined since the mid-2000s.

U.S. newspaper circulation in 2018 reached its lowest level since 1940, the first year that numbers were calculated, according to the Pew Research Center. Total daily circulation (print and digital combined) was estimated at 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sundays. Those numbers show an 8% and 9% respective decline from 2017.

Large newspapers such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have seen gains in recent years, but local newspapers have been especially hit hard.

Digital advertising revenue has skyrocketed recently, but newspapers and online news sites haven’t benefited that much. More than half of all digital ad revenue in 2018 went to Facebook and Google.

Despite the decline of newspapers and newsroom jobs, journalism advocates say the news media industry will find a way to survive in the internet age. However, it’s hard to say what that’ll look like in the future.

Increasingly, Americans say in surveys they prefer to get their news via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Apparel and Textile Manufacturing

Back in 1950, an estimated 2.5 million Americans were employed in the apparel and textile manufacturing industry. Today those numbers are much smaller. By 2017, apparel and textile manufacturing employed just 341,000 workers in the U.S.

The industry saw a gigantic decline in the early 2000s. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the industry lost 85% of its jobs in the past 25 years, which is the largest decrease among all manufacturing industries.

Automation and foreign outsourcing of jobs are the two primary reasons why you rarely see apparel products with a “Made in the U.S.A.” tag nowadays.

New technology led to machines replacing skilled workers in production jobs like knitting and weaving. And then low production and labor costs and free trade agreements enticed many American companies to relocate overseas.

Industry advocates say new demand for American-made products may lead to a resurgence in apparel manufacturing. Politicians also frequently promise to return manufacturing jobs to American soil.

But recent BLS statistics show the industry continues to bleed jobs and any type of comeback for U.S. apparel manufacturing may just be wishful thinking.

U.S. Postal Service

It’s hard to imagine American society without the Post Office (a government agency). But some experts predict the venerable institution is destined to fail.

The USPS has lost a staggering $69 billion in net losses over the past decade, as total mail volume has dropped 31% since 2007. The Postal Service was designed to be self-sufficient, but massive overhead and personnel costs have made it nearly impossible to remain financially solvent.

The USPS runs a giant retail operation with 31,000 post offices nationwide and a fleet of 230,000 trucks and vehicles to deliver mail. The Postal Service has 300,000 fewer employees than it had a few decades ago, but the agency’s compensation costs have still risen an estimated $2 billion since 2015.

The Post Office, of course, is a government agency and not an industry unto itself. A total financial collapse of the USPS then would perhaps lead to a massive bailout from the federal government.

Some political pundits have pushed for the USPS to be privatized for decades. The Postmaster General also recently warned the agency could completely run out of money in the next five years.

The USPS, the newspaper publishing industry, and apparel manufacturing could suddenly turn things around. Stranger things have happened.

But based on the recent trends and financial figures, it appears more than likely these industries and the Post Office are destined to fail.