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© 2010 Ugur Akinci
The sectors of the U.S. economy that are shrinking are not only bad for those who are working in it as workers and managers but for technical communicators and writers as well whose jobs depend on the growth of the same sectors.
If I were a senior in a technical writing program or a technical communicator looking for a job today, I would not keep my hopes high to find a good-paying tech writing job in the following sectors (source: http://business.ezinemark.com/industries-never-to-recover-7736651b5178.html) :
1) Newspaper Publishing. Between 1998 and 2008, number of newspaper employees dropped from 767,000 to 619,000 and it keeps falling due to the popularity of Internet news and the high cost of printing text on paper with ink and distributing it with trucks and cargo planes that burn fossil oil.
2) Automotive Manufacturing. This probably does not even count as “news” anymore. Since 2008, General Motors alone has slashed 100,000 jobs. Ford and Chrysler also shrunk their labor force by a total of 35,000 jobs and most of those jobs will not be coming back, according to industry observers.
3) Pharmaceutical Industry. Although medical writing is a lucrative niche for technical writers this is one sector that is also in trouble. Many drug companies grow on the profits secured by the patents they have on popular drugs. When those patents expire they start to lose cash fast to the competition of generic drugs. Drug giants Pfizer and Merck are in that situation now with patents expiring. As a solution the pharmaceuticals shrink their labor force, including the number of medical writers they employ.
4) Airlines. Another sector hit hard by rising fuel costs and the 2008-2010 recession. Industry observers claim that the level of employment in the airline industry went down by 25% over the last nine years.
5) Telecom companies that rely on landline phone business. The old-fashioned giant landline phone companies are fast becoming extinct like the dinosaurs for one very simple reason: mobile phones and VoIP.
6) Retail banking. If the local branch of your bank has closed down or gobbled up by another bank, it’s not a coincidence. Or if you’ve visited your local bank and saw that only one or two tellers were available instead of the previous four or five, that’s not a random fact either. With the spread of online banking, many retail deposit banks are now shrinking their labor force and ratcheting down their local operations. Did you know that 283 U.S. banks have shut down for good since 2008? That means of course less opportunities for tech writers specializing in banking documentation.
7) Construction Sector. Usually the locomotive of a classical U.S. economic recovery, the construction sector is still reeling form the beating it received during the recession of 2008-2010. As of August 2010, the unemployment rate in this sector stood at 17%, almost double the national unemployment rate.
Which sectors look good?
If I were a tech writer looking for stable employment today with some reasonable guarantee of future growth I’d consider the following sectors:
Software, hardware, computer networking.
Green technologies and renewable energy sector.
Wellness, personal exercise and personal care.
Mobile phones and mobile computing.
Digital and online media.
VoIP (Voice Over IP) telecommunications.
Defense, armament, intrusion detection, security access.