Printing Industry Job Outlook
supplemental resource: Job Outlook by Profession
Employment in printing is expected to decline rapidly, but the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation will create job opportunities, especially for persons with up-to-date printing skills. Changing technology and new business models that make greater use of digital equipment and shorter-run print jobs will stem the rate of decline and provide job opportunities in an evolving printing industry.
Employment change. Wage and salary employment in the printing and related support activities industry is projected to decline 16 percent over the 2008–18 period, compared with 11 percent growth projected for the economy as a whole. This decrease reflects the increasing automation of the printing process and the expanding use of the Internet that reduces the need for printed materials. Some small- and medium-size firms are also consolidating in order to afford the investment in new technology and equipment leading to an expected drop in employment. However, digital printing and shorter run print capabilities allow many printers to accept smaller job orders and remain profitable, thus stemming the level of employment decline somewhat.
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Processes that had been performed manually are now largely automated. As a result, job skills have changed and nearly all workers need to be computer literate and comfortable working with sophisticated equipment. Some jobs have shifted from production occupations to computer-related occupations that perform the same functions while others have largely vanished. For example, demand for workers who perform prepress tasks manually—paste-up workers, photoengravers, camera operators, film strippers, and platemakers—is expected to disappear. In some cases, technological advances have shifted job duties from printers to printers' clients. For example, as layout and design are performed and transmitted electronically to printing companies, employment of desktop publishers and graphic designers in client industries should grow.
Growth in mechanization in bindery operations should result in declines in the employment of bindery workers. While the need for manual binding has declined, the demand for hand finishing operations, such as individualized enhancement services generally provided for high end or one-of-a-kind publications, has grown offsetting some of the employment decline in bindery and finishing departments. Employment of bookbinders, who do very skilled craft work by hand, also will decline mostly due to falling demand for their services. Increasing sophistication of printing presses will lead to a net decline in the employment of printing machine operators; however, increased capabilities for producing smaller quantities of job output will lead to increases in job orders thus offsetting employment declines.
Many printers are expanding the number of secondary services they offer in response to an increasing number of alternatives to traditional printing services. These services include mailing, shipping, and performing inventory and database management for customers. Growth in these services, coupled with increases in digital printing capabilities, will moderate the decline in employment of printing's production occupations and create new opportunities for workers with customer service, graphic design, or information technology abilities.
Despite the projected downturn in employment in printing, retirements and turnover will continue to generate job openings, especially in firms that feature large-press printing or small-run, customizable print products. Opportunities should be best for those with computer, graphic design, and communications skills.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition
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