The U.S. work force is undergoing profound structural change, and "quaint" jobs keep disappearing.
January 7, 2004: 9:19 AM EST
By Leslie Haggin Geary, CNN/Money Staff Writer
New York (CNN/Money) – At Hoover's Dairy Farm, in Sanborn, N.Y., they still deliver milk the old-fashioned way: in glass bottles dropped off door-to-door.
Edwin Hoover opened his farm back in 1920 and it's now run by the fifth generation of the family: Robert, his wife, Julie, and their sons, Rob and Tom.
The farm's refrigerated red-and-white milk trucks have long been a familiar sight throughout Niagara County, making rounds to about 1,800 customers.
"Some of the older people still have milk boxes attached to their homes. We also have keys to people's home so we'll leave the milk right in the fridge or in the garage to keep cool," says Julie.
It wasn't so very long ago that the delivery of fresh milk was a common event. Now, the number of milkmen making door-to-door rounds can probably be counted "on one hand," surmises Julie. "We've hung in there."
Economists call the permanent demise of certain jobs a "structural" loss because their absence changes the shape and texture of the current labor market. These days, more and more individuals are working in jobs that are disappearing from the American landscape.
In fact, the nation's current work force is now undergoing the most profound structural change since World War II, says Erica L. Groshen, a labor economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Groshen recently co-authored a study looking at today's permanent job losses that have mounted even as the economy recovers. The findings? A full 79 percent of U.S. jobs are in "structurally" changed professions, where employers have permanently eliminated jobs they won't ever refill.
Instead, they are changing the way they do business, and the kind of employees they hire.
"As farms became more and more productive, that released more labor to work in cities and in manufacturing," says Groshen. "As manufacturing became more productive, that released people to work in the service sector."
The economist cites globalization as a factor in the evolution of the American work force.
"As we trade, we release more labor from the service sector because our highly skilled and highly paid workers lose their competitive advantage," she observes. "So we go on to the next big thing. We specialize in innovation. We start new products and industries."
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