Tag Archives: unemployment

‘Automation anxiety’ in the information age

Over the weekend, Mike Allen at Axios.com had a Special report: How the robot revolution is changing our lives:

We’re entering a new, robot-fueled tech boom that is already disrupting the world’s balance of power, and is changing how we fight wars, stay alive, drive, work, shop and do chores.

The future is now: We keep talking about what’s coming, but we’re already on the leading edge of a profound global change that will create tremendous opportunity for new power and wealth.

In this new age of automation, businesses are frantically installing machines and algorithms that eventually will make them far more efficient — and wipe out jobs and sectors at blinding speed.

  • This has touched off a tech race between the U.S. and China. And the other major economies — the U.K., France and South Korea in particular — are also spending big to own a piece of this future.

The upsides:

  • Manual, back-breaking jobs will go away (this is good only if replaced by better gigs). Far less time will be spent doing menial tasks like driving or cleaning. And your ability to get more of what you want, when you want it, will be greatly enhanced.
  • Health care will be more precise and sophisticated: Medical robots could make surgery more precise, and micro-bots will target the delivery of drugs within the body. Empathetic ones could help care for us as we age. Soft, flexible ones could aid in search and rescue operations.
  • Robots and other autonomous devices will power apps on your phone that advocate for you with doctors; and could cut through government bureaucracy.
  • The next big wow to your house will be smart appliances, especially in your kitchen: Your refrigerator will know its contents and order refills, and will communicate with your oven and dishwasher — to make us even lazier and less essential than we already are.
  • Manuela Veloso of Carnegie Mellon University told Axios that ultimately humans will be in control of how robots operate and the role they play: “These robots did not come from Mars and fall on Earth. They were invented by us and they will continue to be invented by us.”

Continue reading

(Update) Public policy is failing to address the economic disruption from rapidly advancing technology

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.

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Gov. Ducey scraps monthly unemployment report. Maybe proving my (earlier) point?

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

ducey herrodI’m always willing to portray Doug Ducey next to Cathi Herrod.

My last post was about the wealthiest Americans and polling showing that they are (highly) disinclined to see the government as a force to increase the employment rate. And then there was this Howie Fischer piece on Tuesday:

Following some less-than-spectacular jobless reports, the Ducey administration is scrapping at least temporarily – and perhaps forever – the monthly media briefings on the state’s unemployment situation. Continue reading

One percenters seem to hate it when everyone has a job

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

When we think of conservatives and economics we tend to focus on things like their opposition to taxes (on the wealthy, not necessarily everyone else) and social safety net programs. We tend, however, to take right wingers at their word when they say that they want people to work. I mean, come on, that’s the reason they hate “welfare” so much! “I don’t want to pay for people to sit around and do nothing!” has been the constant refrain of 99% of the discussions I’ve ever had with people about their “economic” reasons for voting GOP (really, it’s not more deep than that). On several occasions I have proposed – in naive honesty at first and later with resigned cynicism – to such people that the government should embrace a policy goal of full-employment and do whatever is necessary to attain that, including simply giving government jobs to everyone who wants them. There’s certainly plenty that needs to be done in the country and job-seekers could be paid while they train for those tasks.

The response I get to that suggestion falls into roughly two categories:

1. Crickets (from most of them since, to be fair, the concept of ambitious public works projects is beyond many Americans’ comprehension these days).

2. Argle-bargle about “inflation” and/or “crowding out the private sector” (from the ones who know just enough economic rhetoric to be dangerous). I have some anecdotal experience of getting the latter response from affluent people, conservatives mostly (but also from some moderates and even liberals).

But don’t take my word for it on the rich people, as the Russell Sage Foundation did a meta-analysis of opinion polls on several economic topics. (H/t to DailyKos diarist Auriandra). Continue reading

What Would Jesus Do? He’d Pay Unemployment Tax for His Workers

by Pamela Powers Hannley

HB2645, which was advanced by the Arizona Senate this week, would allow churches and religious schools to avoid paying unemployment tax for teachers and day care workers. Passed by the Arizona House in March, this bill would deny unemployment benefits to these workers if they were laid off or if the institutions closed.

Republicans, conservative groups, and religious schools are backing the bill. According to ABC Channel 15, "The measure marks the latest Republican-led effort to expand tax subsidies for religious institutions and limit unemployment insurance at a time when the state's jobless benefits fund is millions of dollars in the hole because of the struggling economy." [Emphasis added.] More details after the jump.

Religious schools are backing this? I have just one question for these "religious" schools: What would Jesus do? Obviously, he would take care of his workers. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

I work for a very small business– 3 employees. One of the many hats I wear is handling the payroll and the bills. My boss pays ~$450/year for unemployment tax. If an employer has a track record of laying off workers, their rate goes up.

In the ABC News article, an accountant who has several religious schools as clients said that her clients would have to pay $25,000-100,000 in unemployment tax and would be put out of business if they had to pay that. Let's say they have a stable workforce, and they pay ~$150/person/year (like my boss). At that rate, $25,000/year in unemployment tax = a workforce of 166 people, and $100,000/year = a workforce of 666 people. These are either HUGE religious schools, OR they have lousy working conditions that cause workers to leave or be laid off routinely, OR she's lying.

It is an abomination to allow any employers to mistreat their workers and deny them earned benefits, but it particularly disgusting and extremely hypocritical for religious schools and institutions to short change their workers.

Again, I'll ask the Bible-thumpers in our Legislature and the capitalists who run these "religious" schools: What would Jesus do? He would supply living wage, good working conditions, social safety net programs for the poor and elderly, and unemployment insurance for workers. It is disingenuous to call yourself a Christian and vote with the capitalists, over the workers and their children.