Blame Robots for Slow Job Growth

Recessions force businesses to cut costs, and one way they do that is by using new technologies to try to produce the same output with fewer workers. Because automation tends to work best at repetitive tasks, the workers replaced are overwhelmingly those in repetitive, middle-income jobs. Think of how touchscreens have replaced clerks at pharmacies, or how automated voicemail systems have replaced secretaries. But menial non-repetitive work, like gardening or janitorial work, is harder to automate, Roombas aside, and so far we haven’t trusted computers to take over non-repetitive cognitive tasks like in law or, er, journalism.

So, robots are taking away a bunch of middle-income jobs, which explains a little bit about why job growth has been so stagnant there, but not low-income jobs which have been steadily growing. I certainly wouldn’t trust a robot to make and serve me food, but what do I know.

Also, I think it’s entirely possible that I will be replaced by a robot! How do you know that a robot didn’t write this post? Have you met me? Do I even exist? Robots haven’t replaced writers, but they might some day.

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