The 10 American Industries That May Never Recover

24/7 Wall St.

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It has become clear that jobs in some industries may never come back, or if they do it will take years or decades for a recovery.

24/7 Wall St. examined the Bureau of Labor Statistics' "Employment Situation Summary," and a number of sources that show layoffs by company and sector. The weakness in these sectors will make it harder for the private industry, even aided by the government, to bring down total unemployment from 9.6% and replace the 8.3 million jobs lost during the recession. The losses in these industries have to be offset by growth in others before there can be any net increase in American employment.

Some of the industries are obvious. Detroit will never employ the number of people it did five years ago. Domestic car sales hit 16 million in 2005 and 2006. That number will be closer to 11.5 million in 2010. More cars and light vehicles are made overseas now, in places like Mexico, to keep labor costs down.

Home construction is another industry that will almost certainly not recover. Home inventories are still extremely high, and home prices have fallen to the levels where they were in 2004. Prices in some markets, which include Las Vegas, Florida and parts of California, have dropped 60% to 70%. New construction in those markets will not begin again in the foreseeable future.

Here is the list of the 10 job categories that will not recover, based on 24/7 Wall St. research:

1. State and Local Government Jobs. The level of unemployment in this sector continues to rise. Budget imbalances in a number of states have already caused mass layoffs as tax receipts have dropped sharply. A recent report by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers found that 22 states furloughed employees and 25 laid off workers during fiscal year 2009-10. As an example, California slashed its workforce by tens of thousands -- some were laid off permanently and some are out of work and may be recalled. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who is running for governor of California, said she will cut the state workforce by another 40,000 and sharply cut pensions for new workers. Forty-six states face budget shortfalls that will total $112 billion for the fiscal year ending next June, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Municipalities face similar difficulties as property taxes plummet.

2. Construction. Nationwide construction unemployment was 17% in August, up from 16.5% in the same month last year. Over the course of the summer, government statistics have shown sharp drops in the construction of new homes and apartments. Building permits are also down. Most large housing markets have more than 12 months of unsold inventory on hand. There is also a "shadow inventory" of unsold homes -- those that have gone into foreclosure but have not been put on the market by banks. Foreclosures and defaults are expected to rise another 3 million to 3.5 million this year.

3. Installation, Maintenance and Repair. A set of industries related to housing and commercial construction and maintenance will also not generate new jobs. This is the employment sector the government calls "installation, maintenance and repair." Jobs in this sector are dependent on real estate. While many of the workers in these industries, such as plumbers and electricians, are relatively well paid and many work on homes and commercial buildings, some are mechanics who work on industrial equipment, aircraft and plants. These industries will be more crowded as people with training in related work leave the armed forces with the drawdown in troops in Iraq, which will put downward pressure on wages.

4. Automotive Manufacturing. General Motors has cut over 100,000 people since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. Ford has cut over 20,000 and Chrysler 15,000. This does not include foreign car companies with workers in the U.S. By some estimates, every car company worker layoff leads to three more layoffs in related industries that supply the car and light truck manufacturing business. That includes hundreds of car dealerships that have been closed in the last two years.

5. Pharmaceuticals. This industry has bled workers for three years, and that trend is likely to continue. The largest companies in the sector, such as Pfizer and Merck, have a number of blockbuster drugs that have lost their patent protection in the last decade. They have other pharmaceuticals that will lose that protection in the next decade. Sales of most of these drugs will move to generic companies that will sell them for far less, and erode critical revenue sources for the huge pharma firms. Most companies in the industry admit that they cannot replace the drugs that go off patent fast enough to keep their revenue high. The other reason employment in the sector will stay down and may drop further is that big drug companies are merging to save costs, and most of those costs are people. Pfizer has cut 30,000 people since the start of the recession. Merck has cut 25,000, and these companies and their peers expect that they will have to bring down costs even more.

6. Big Telecom. AT&T, Sprint-Nextel and Verizon have passed their peak employment levels. Employment in the sector will not recover and could shrink for two reasons: (1) The landline business is falling rapidly as home phone users move to VoIP, and (2) Increased adoption of cell phones. The cellular subscription business has been damaged by price wars meant to gain market share in the wireless industry -- one that has stagnated due to a 90% market penetration in the U.S. Sprint made substantial cuts as it posted three years of losses. The most recent was 2,500 people in November last year. In 2008, AT&T said it would lay off 12,000 people. Verizon recently said it would fire 13,000 employees from its land line business.

7. Newspapers. The layoffs in newspapers began in the 1980s as presses became more automated and tens of thousands of pressmen lost jobs. More recently, the changing habits of news consumption have increased Internet readers and hurt print, which has caused more job losses in press rooms. Reporters and editors have lost work as print subscribers have stopped paying for what they can get online for free. One recent study claims that the newspaper industry employee base fell from 767,000 jobs in 1998 to 619,000 jobs in 2008. The U.S. Department of Labor has forecast another 120,000 newspaper layoffs over the next 10 years.

8. Airlines. The number of pilots, flight attendants and ground crew workers is shrinking as consolidation and the recession have hurt the industry badly. Mergers in the last two years, between Delta and Northwest and United's merger with Continental, have decreased the number of large carriers in the U.S. by half. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that the number of airline employees in the U.S. has fallen by 25% since 2001. And the latest merger firings have not yet been announced. Jobs for pilots and flight engineers fell by 30.4% in the third quarter of 2009 to 96,000 from 138,000 jobs in 2008, according to the BLS.

9. Realtors. The National Association of Realtors reports that there were 1,370,758 realtors in October 2006 -- the peak of the market. By the end of 2007, the figure was below 1.2 million. The number is below 1.1 million today and has continued on a downward trend. Home prices have dropped so far and so few homes are sold, that the ability to make money in the business disappears by the day.

10. Bank Tellers. Long before the recession, personal banking had begun to become automated. Over the last decade, banks have provided increasing access to banking accounts online, through call centers and at ATM kiosks. This technologically driven shift has been and will continue to be the chief cause of bank teller layoffs. According the the FDIC, since 2008, at the beginning of the recession, there have been 283 banks closed. Compared to the period 2000 to 2007, when only 27 banks closed, that's nearly 10 times as many bank closings in less than half the time. And as of Aug. 20, state and federal regulators had closed118 banks this year, making it on pace to exceed the 140 banks closed in 2009. Although nearly all of these banks have been acquired by other financial institutions, bank branch closings still occur -- employees and locations are consolidated. The single largest employee group at bank branches are bank tellers, and they will bear the brunt of the continued cost-cutting.

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