The number of secretaries, administrative assistants, receptionists and clerks has fallen by one-third over roughly the past two decades, from 3.9 million in 1983 to 2.6 million in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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AKRON, Ohio — Looking for a secretary to take a memo or fetch your coffee? Dream on.

Unless you’re a chief executive or other VIP, you can do it yourself. Across the nation, there are fewer and fewer office assistants to handle such mundane chores as taking dictation, typing memos and serving coffee.

The number of secretaries, administrative assistants, receptionists and clerks has fallen by one-third over roughly the past two decades, from 3.9 million in 1983 to 2.6 million in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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And those who are left are too busy training staff members, researching presentations and serving on committees to spend their days typing and filing.

“Twenty years ago, every executive here had a secretary,” said Dixie Vinez, a spokeswoman at FirstMerit Bank.

“Now our secretaries and executive assistants work for multiple people and do multiple jobs.”

Even the biggest companies don’t have secretaries for every executive, as they once did.

Experts say that’s due to widespread cost-cutting and the growing use of desktop computers, voice mail and other office technology.

At Goodyear Tire & Rubber, only the most senior executives still have private secretaries, spokesman Fred Haymond said.

Lower executives and managers type their own memos and letters, and then send them to department secretaries to format.

“Asking a secretary to take a memo has pretty much gone the way of carbon paper, typewriters and correction fluid,” he said.

Office workers know that all too well.

“For years, I’ve just been doing a lot of formatting of documents that other people write. I don’t think anybody sits and takes dictation anymore,” said Diane Underman, a secretary at the University of Akron, who works for 13 professors in the department of speech and language pathology.

The same is true at many other companies.

More and more, the traditional secretarial skills of typing and filing have given way to doing more high-tech, specialized work, such as using the Internet to schedule trips for entire departments, or helping the marketing department research material for speeches.

“There’s a lot less secretarial science being taught in the schools,” said Arline Bratanov, executive assistant to the president of FirstEnergy, the Akron utility. “Shorthand is absolutely extinct.”

The downsizing of office staffs is apparent to almost anyone who calls a company and is immediately sent to voice mail, with no apparent way of reaching a real person.

“Technology has allowed people to do more work at their desks,” said John Zambito, general manager of Management Recruiters International in Columbus, Ohio, an executive search firm.

“And as companies try to run leaner and meaner, they’re cutting out anything that’s viewed as extraneous.”

Most executives don’t seem to care, he said. Few ask for a private secretary as one of the terms of employment.

“I’ve never even heard that come up,” Zambito said.

“Most executives that we recruit for a client will ask about the company’s strategy, their compensation plan and maybe relocation assistance for their family. The subject of secretaries don’t even make the list.”