Job automation will cost 6% of all jobs in the U.S. by 2021. That’s nearly 8.9 million jobs in five years. The 6% figure is according to a new report by Forrester Research. According to the study, the job loss won’t be uniform across all fields, industries and positions. However it also won’t be limited to manufacturing as it has in the past. Rather, Artificial intelligence (AI), robots, automation and machine learning will destroy vastly more than 6% of jobs in select industries like transportation (think driverless Uber) and trucking, customer service, logistics and consumer services. Jobs in still other areas will be created, but not enough to offset the overall loss.
— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) September 12, 2016
6% Is a Lot of Lost Jobs
A 6% employment loss to job automation may not seem like a lot. To put it in perspective, there are 148.1 million total jobs in the U.S. in 2016, according to research firm Department of Numbers. Losing 6% of those jobs in five years amounts to a literally unimaginable loss in estimated wages. Consider that the median U.S. household income is reported at $56,516 according to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau. That may sound like there are two people per household earning about $28,000 per year each, but in fact the number of hours worked in a typical household sits at at a much lower 44 hours per week. That amounts to just 1.1 “jobs” per household, or $51,378 earned per year in a typical “job.”
6% of US Jobs Lost to Automation by 2021
|Total jobs in the U.S. in 2016||148,106,000|
|Jobs lost to automation by 2021||8,886,360|
|Median household income||$56,516|
|Median jobs per household||1.1|
|Median income per job||$51,378|
|Lost income per year for Americans at the current median household income||$456,565,019,782|
Job Automation Will Cost $1 Trillion in Lost Salary Every 2.2 Years
The numbers above are very rough estimates, because medians and typicals don’t correlate exactly to reality. However, as a way of illustrating how much a 6% employment loss to job automation really is, take the $51,378 median income per job in the table above. 6% of all 148.1 million jobs in the U.S. is a loss of 8,886,360 total jobs. Taking our calculated median, that’s $456,565,019,782 in lost income for Americans each year. That’s $456.5 billion. In 2.2 years that adds up to a trillion in lost wages. This is not the normal fiscal upheaval of a new product or industry taking hold. This is a sea change on a scale the developed world has never yet had to cope with. Whatever the next decade holds, it will be unlike anything our economy has ever seen before.