Last week the Bureau of Economic Analysis released data that real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of only 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017. CNBC reported, US first-quarter growth weakest in three years, as consumer spending falters:
The U.S. economy grew at its weakest pace in three years in the first quarter as consumer spending barely increased and businesses invested less on inventories, in a potential setback to President Donald Trump’s promise to boost growth.
Gross domestic product increased at a 0.7 percent annual rate also as the government cut back on defense spending, the Commerce Department said on Friday. That was the weakest performance since the first quarter of 2014.
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The pedestrian first-quarter growth pace is, however, not a true picture of the economy’s health. The labor market is near full employment and consumer confidence is near multi-year highs, suggesting that the mostly weather-induced sharp slowdown in consumer spending is probably temporary.
“First quarter GDP tends to underperform because of difficulties with the calculation of data that the government has acknowledged and is working to rectify.”
Steve Benen has the April jobs report today. Job market improved as winter turned to spring:
After a sluggish month for the U.S. job market in March, many were eager to see whether the slide would continue, or whether we’d seen an improvement as winter turned to spring.
As is turns out, it now looks like the latter is true. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 211,000 jobs in April, more than double March’s total. The unemployment rate inched lower to 4.4%, the lowest since the summer of 2007, before the start of the Great Recession.
Another in a series of posts about the technology tsunami rapidly transforming the labor force.
The Washington Post this week has a couple of interesting reports on jobs affected by the Technology Revolution, and the economic disruption it is having on society.
First, Jef Guo writes at the Wonkblog, We’re so unprepared for the robot apocalypse:
Economists have long argued that automation, not trade, is responsible for the bulk of the six million jobs shed by the manufacturing sector over the last 25 years. Now, they have a put a precise figure on some of the losses.
Industrial robots alone have eliminated up to 670,000 American jobs between 1990 and 2007, according to new research from MIT’s Daron Acemoglu and Boston University’s Pascual Restrepo.
The number is stunning on the face of it, and many have interpreted the study as an indictment of technological change — a sign that “robots are winning the race for American jobs” (Clair Cain Miller, The Upshot at The New York Times). But the bigger takeaway is that the nation has been ill-equipped to deal with the upheaval caused by automation.
The researchers estimate that half of the job losses resulted from robots directly replacing workers. The rest of the jobs disappeared from elsewhere in the local community. It seems that after a factory sheds workers, that economic pain reverberates, triggering further unemployment at, say, the grocery store or the neighborhood car dealership.
While I was waiting in line to check out at the store, I thumbed through a special edition of Popular Science on the magazine rack. Popular Science – The New Artificial Intelligence.
The New York Times Magazine recently published a feature, The Great A.I. Awakening, about how Google used artificial intelligence to transform Google Translate, one of its more popular services — and how machine learning is poised to reinvent computing itself.
Last year there was even a best selling book on the subject by Martin Ford, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future: “As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer people will be necessary. Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making ‘good jobs’ obsolete…”
More and more I see news articles appearing on this topic, but our political leaders appear to be entirely unaware, uninformed and unconcerned about rapid advances in technology replacing human labor. They do not even talk about this subject, let alone offer any plans or policies to deal with the economic disruption caused by rapidly advancing technology.
Instead, we just held an election in which Appalachian coal country voted for Donald Trump because he told them that he could bring back 20th Century coal mining jobs that disappeared years ago and are never coming back. It was a cruel hoax for which all of us will now have to suffer the consequences.
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Tagged Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Technology