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13 jobs that are quickly disappearing thanks to robots

Photo by China Photos/Getty Images

Thanks in part to automated mail sorting systems, postal workers may be all but obsolete in the not-so-distant future.

By 2024, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics projects a 28% decline in postal-service jobs, totaling around 136,000 fewer positions than 2014.

Mail carriers and processors aren’t the only ones whose jobs are disappearing thanks to robots.

Automation technologies that conduct physical, intellectual, or customer service tasks are affecting a variety of fields, most notably metal and plastic machine workers.

Based on the BLS’s occupational outlook data, here are 13 jobs that could be on their way out of the US thanks to robots:

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

13. Forging Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic

According to the BLS, they set up, operate, or tend forging machines to taper, shape, or form metal or plastic parts.

Median annual pay: $35,480

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 21,600

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 17,000

Projected decline: 21.5%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labour-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.

12. Grinding, lapping, polishing, and buffing machine tool setters, operators, and tenders (metal and plastic)

According to the BLS, they set up, operate, or tend grinding and related tools that remove excess material or burrs from surfaces, sharpen edges or corners, or buff, hone, or polish metal or plastic work pieces.

Median annual pay: $34,150

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 71,400

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 55,800

Projected decline: 21.9%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labour-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.

11. Patternmakers (metal and plastic)

According to the BLS, they lay out, machine, fit, and assemble castings and parts to metal or plastic foundry patterns, core boxes, or match plates.

Median annual pay: $41,670

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 3,800

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 2,900

Projected decline: 23.4%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labour-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.

10. Extruding and drawing machine setters, operators, and tenders (metal and plastic)

According to the BLS, they set up, operate, or tend machines to extrude or draw thermoplastic or metal materials into tubes, rods, hoses, wire, bars, or structural shapes.

Median annual pay: $33,800

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 73,400

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 55,500

Projected decline: 24.4%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labour-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.

9. Moulding, core making, and casting machine setters, operators, and tenders (metal and plastic)

According to the BLS, they set up, operate, or tend metal or plastic moulding, casting, or core-making machines to mould or cast metal or thermoplastic parts or products.

Median annual pay: $30,600

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 129,500

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 97,200

Projected decline: 25%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labour-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.

8. Postmasters and mail superintendents

According to the BLS, they plan, direct, or coordinate operational, administrative, management, and supportive services of a US post office, or coordinate activities of workers engaged in postal and related work in an assigned post office.

Median annual pay: $67,000

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 17,300

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 12,800

Projected decline: 26.2%

Why it's declining: The BLS's projected loss of postal worker jobs is due to more reliance on email and online bill pay services and to technological advances that allow for automatic mail sorting. Less postal workers also means less need for supervisory roles.

Christopher Jue/Getty Images

7. Postal-service clerks

According to the BLS, they perform any combination of tasks in a post office, such as receive letters and parcels; sell postage and revenue stamps, postal cards, and stamped envelopes; fill out and sell money orders; place mail in pigeon holes of a mail rack or in bags; and examine mail for correct postage.

Median annual pay: $49,040

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 69,600

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 51,300

Projected decline: 26.2%

Why it's declining: The BLS attributes the decline in First-Class Mail volume to increasing use of automated bill pay.

6. Postal-service mail carriers

According to the BLS, they sort mail for delivery and deliver mail on an established route by vehicle or on foot.

Median annual pay: $51,790

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 297,400

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 219,400

Projected decline: 26.2%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, the US postal service is moving to automated 'delivery point sequencing' systems that sort letter mail directly. This reduces the amount of time that carriers spend sorting, allowing them to spend more time on the streets delivering mail, thereby increasing the size of their routes and reducing the need to hire more carriers.

5. Pourers and casters (metal)

According to the BLS, they operate hand-controlled mechanisms to pour and regulate the flow of molten metal into molds to produce castings or ingots.

Median annual pay: $34,430

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 9,800

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 7,200

Projected decline: 26.6%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labour-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

4. Foundry mould and core makers

According to the BLS, they make or form wax or sand cores or molds used in the production of metal castings in foundries.

Median annual pay: $32,510

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 12,000

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 8,700

Projected decline: 27.7%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labour-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.

3. Switchboard operators, including answering service

According to the BLS, they operate telephone business-systems equipment or switchboards to relay incoming, outgoing, and interoffice calls. May supply information to callers and record messages.

Median annual pay: $28,000

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 112,400

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 75,400

Projected decline: 32.9%

Why it's declining: Switchboard operators are on the decline thanks to the growth of automated communication technology and software that lets people field calls themselves.

2. Postal-service mail sorters, processors, and processing-machine operators

According to the BLS, they prepare incoming and outgoing mail for distribution. They also examine, sort, and route mail; load, operate, and occasionally adjust and repair mail processing, sorting, and cancelling machinery; keep records of shipments, pouches, and sacks; and perform other duties related to mail handling within the postal service.

Median annual pay: $48,710

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 117,600

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 78,000

Projected decline: 33.7%

Why it's declining: The BLS projects the US postal service will need fewer workers to sort mail thanks to new mail sorting technology that can read text and automatically sort, forward, and process mail and the increased use of online bill pay services and email.

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images.

1. Telephone operators

According to the BLS, they provide information by accessing alphabetical, geographical, or other directories. They assist customers with special billing requests, such as charges to a third party and credits or refunds for incorrectly dialed numbers or bad connections. May handle emergency calls and assist children or people with physical disabilities to make telephone calls.

Median annual pay: $39,350

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 13,100

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 7,500

Projected decline: 42.4%

Why it's declining: The growth of automated communication technology like voice recognition systems has decreased the need for telephone operators.

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