This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, May 9, 2018:
Old myths die slowly, including the one that goes: “Robots are taking over the world, leaving millions unemployed!” Doomsayers are likely to refer to an article (from three years ago) that implicitly warned of exactly that. From Intelligent Machines in July, 2015:
At the center of the [Amazon] warehouse is a storage space containing square shelves packed with countless products from Amazon’s inventory. In previous generations of its fulfillment center, Amazon’s workers would have roamed these shelves searching for the products needed to fulfill each new order. Now the shelves themselves glide quickly across the floor carried atop robots about the size and shape of footstools. In a carefully choreographed dance, these robots either rearrange the shelves in neatly packed rows, or bring them over to human workers, who stack them with new products or retrieve goods for packaging.
Amazon’s robotic shelves allow more products to be packed into a tighter space. They also make stacking and picking more efficient by automatically bringing empty shelves over to packers or the right products over to pickers. The process is more efficient than having humans walk around….
The report released on Tuesday by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) put the lie to rest: “On the last business day of March, the job openings level increased to a series high of 6.6 million. The series began in December 2000.” Translation: the U.S. economy, as measured by job growth, job openings, and unemployment numbers, is stronger now than at any time in the past 17 years.
Those job openings are in professional and business services, the segment of the economy that facilitates the rest of the economy through technology. Employers are looking for construction workers (68,000 openings in March) and in transportation, warehousing, and utilities (37,000 openings in March).
Buried in the numbers is another astonishing fact: “Over the 12 months ending in March, hires totaled 65.7 million and separations totaled 63.4 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.3 million.” This is confirmation of President Trump’s boast that under his administration’s first year there have been more than two million jobs created.
All of this on top of robots continuing to take away the menial, the repetitive, the manual work that used to be done by humans. Instead of finding themselves out of work, those humans are now increasingly in demand to run the robots! Why, there’s even competition heating up between Amazon’s Kiva robots and Alibaba’s Quicktron robots as both companies grow at breakneck speed to fulfill customers’ orders ever more quickly and cheaply. For a view of that remarkable “dance of the robots”, see the YouTube link below in Sources.
As reported last week, the economy grew by more than 200,000 jobs in April for the sixth straight month in a row. This drew warnings from Ahu Hildirmaz, the vice president of the ADP Research Institute, who said “As the labor pool tightens it will become increasingly difficult for employers to find skilled talent.”
Theoretically every unemployed individual in the county – 6.5 million – should be able to find work, filling those 6.6 million job openings. That’s a fanciful conclusion, for many reasons: job openings aren’t being offered where people are looking for work, or the openings require skills those looking for work don’t have.
But the economy has continued to surprise on the upside, deaf to warnings of a labor “pinch” from people like Hildirmaz. Baby boomers are staying on the job longer, putting off retirement for many reasons. Some of them are returning to the workforce as employers increase incentives for them to do so. Many companies are funding training schools and expanding educational opportunities, creating the very workforce that they know they will be needing as the economy continues to grow. More than one million women, formerly out of the workforce, have entered (or reentered) the job market in the last year, bringing skills increasingly needed as the economy grows.
Many myths like this one die slowly. The report from the BLS is helping to speed up the end of this one.