What passes for a crystal ball at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a light blue-covered 100-page booklet called: "Employment Outlook 1996-2006" that BLS published in February of this year. After weeding through enough of its charts it becomes possible to make some guesses about job growth in industries such as food and chemicals and among packaging manufacturers that produce products like metal cans and paperboard boxes. The Outlook also contains a section on how individual occupations will fare. From an industry-by-industry perspective two key sectors are expected to leak jobs badly: metal cans and shipping containers (which BLS treats as one category) and beverages. They make the BLS list of "most rapidly declining" industries from the standpoint of loss of jobs. Cans and containers will lose 10% beverages 29% of employees in the decade ending in 2006. James Franklin a BLS economist who worked on the industry forecasts says that makers of cans and containers have been experiencing productivity growth rates of 3.5%/year since the late 1980s. That is the result of better manufacturing line technology. Those gains are expected to continue. So fewer people will be needed to make cans and boxes given what is expected to be a relatively flat demand for those types of packaging. Jobs in the beverage industry are expected to decline because of heavy capital spending on automated packaging technology. In addition growth is now focused on overseas sales. Companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola tend to locate their packaging lines as close to their markets as possible. The availability of new slicing and packaging machines for bakery products will have the same effect on employment within that industry as it will on other sectors within the food industry. For all food sectors the annual rate of employment growth between 1986-96 was 0.5%. Over the 10 years ending in 2006 employment is expected to register an increase of just 0.1% per year. For packaging suppliers although the number of jobs in metal cans and shipping containers will disappear at a rate of 3.1% per year employees making paperboard boxes and containers will be in good shape. That segment will still average an annual increase of 1.1%. A sub-category in the "Operators Fabricators and Laborers" category that is 100% packaging is "packaging and filling machine operators and tenders." And these jobs are predicted to multiply like rabbits. Look for a 16% increase in the decade '96-'06 for a total employment increase of 56.