Machines Will Do That, Part II

By Deane Barker on January 24, 2013

Recession, Tech Kill Middle-Class Jobs: The Associated Press claims that technology has forever changed the job market.  It’s obviated a ton of jobs from the middle class, and the few that have come back are low-paying jobs.  And this trend will never reverse.

A lot of people are denouncing this headline as alarmist, but it comes on the heels of Kevin Kelly’s article about machines nipping at our heels in the working world, and I tend to think there’s more truth than myth here.

An example of the (very real) problem:

Thanks to computerized machines, Webb Wheel hasn’t added a factory worker in three years, though it’s making 300,000 more drums annually, a 25 percent increase.

[…] Start-ups account for much of the job growth in developed economies, but software is allowing entrepreneurs to launch businesses with a third fewer employees than in the 1990s.

[…]Entrepreneur Andrew Schrage started the financial advice website Money Crashers in 2009 with a partner and one freelance writer. The bare-bones start-up was only possible, Schrage says, because of technology that allowed the company to get online help with accounting and payroll and other support functions without hiring staff.

This isn’t the first time this has come up. The Motley Fool had an article a couple of months ago inventively-titled Technology Ate Your Job.

Since peaking in 1979, total U.S. manufacturing positions have fallen by 40% — a loss of some 8 million jobs. Real (inflation-adjusted) manufacturing output, however, has increased75%.

They quote an example from a New York Times article:

In 1950, the United States Steel Corporation employed 30,000 workers at its plant in Gary, Ind. Today that factory employs only 5,000 workers. But they produce more steel: 7.5 million tons a year now, compared with 6 million tons then.

No answers here. Just questions.

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