Earlier this year the Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that “printer”, “screen printer”, as well as “printer support” are no longer official jobs. The printing industries have become too small to justify being counted as a separate category in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly report on U.S payrolls.
A job category is purged from the monthly report when it becomes so small that a few companies make up the entire category. The loss of these jobs illustrates changes in the economy that have been in effect since the Great Recession of 2008.
Since 2008 commercial printing has lost about a third of its jobs due to a decrease in demand and an increase in technologically advanced printing that requires fewer employees. People were printing less as the age of print pamphlets, flyers, and postcards ended and they were replaced with websites and e-vites. The printing industry became digitized and small printing businesses were forced to participate in a technological arms race, investing in technology that would leave little room to pay employees salaries and render many workers obsolete.
Many are mourning the loss of “printing” as an official job recognized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reality reaffirmed by February’s report on industries in the U.S is that artisan manufacturing jobs such as printing or print support jobs have been declining with the rise of technological production. As Americans rely more on the internet and big companies it will not come as a shock if more categories of jobs are purged off from the Bureau’s monthly report.
Letterpress and letter cutting are considered to be endangered crafts in other countries as well. For example, the Heritage Crafts Association in the UK tracks the artisan occupations that are considered to be in decline or even lost. Hopefully, bookbinding is in high demand even among young. However, that doesn’t fully protect us from losing some niche or obscure techniques practiced by only a handful of older masters, as it already happened multiple times throughout history.
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