1986 was Peak Secretary according to an NPR article examining America’s changing workforce.
Published last February, The Most Common Job in Every State used US Census data to examine which were the most common jobs in each state. The change with each census starkly illustrates the changing workforce and, worryingly, a declining diversity.
In 1978 US states boasted a mix of occupations ranging from farm hands and farmers through to machine operators and secretaries. By 1986 secretaries dominated.
Then came the personal computer and the role of the secretary declined to be replaced by truck drivers, although the NPR article notes the definition of a truck driver by the US Census office is very broad.
Interestingly truck drivers themselves seem to have peaked in the 2006 Census with software developers and primary school teachers overtaking them.
For those truck drivers – and forklift operators, couriers and delivery staff who also seem to come under the definition – the future probably doesn’t bode well as automation is increasingly going to take their roles.
The NPR article is an interesting series of snapshots of how an economy is a dynamic beast, assuming industries and the roles in them are static is misguided if not downright dangerous.
Indeed we may well find in twenty years time we’re commenting on the rise and decline of software developers.
What’s an interesting footnote, and worth considering, is what happened to all of the secretaries displaced by personal computers during the 1990s? That’s probably worth considering in another post.