Study Finds Job Automation to Slam Low-Wage Cities Such as Las Vegas, El Paso

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As much as 65% of jobs in some metropolitan areas of the United States could be automated within the next 20 years, according to new research from the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis, conducted by the University of Redlands in Redlands, California.

The ISEA analysis finds that job automation will impact low-wage metro areas such as Las Vegas, Nevada; El Paso, Texas; and Riverside-San Bernardino, California, harder than high-tech, higher-wage regions like California’s Silicon Valley and Boston. The findings say 65.2% of jobs in Las Vegas could be automated. El Paso could see 63.9% of its jobs no longer taken by humans.

Economists at ISEA combined research from Oxford analysts on the probability of automation for various occupations with employment data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. ISEA researchers weighed data from 100 metropolitan areas in the United States with more than 250,000 jobs.

Because of recent advances in machine learning, self-driving technology, health-care diagnostics and mobile robotics, researchers found that the impact of automation on jobs is likely to be more severe than previously expected.

“The replacement of jobs by machines has been happening continuously since the Industrial Revolution, but it’s expected to significantly accelerate in the coming 10 or 20 years,” said Professor Johannes Moenius, founding director of ISEA.

ISEA thinks at least 10 metropolitan areas will see more than 61% of jobs automated in the next 20 years. Three areas are in California: Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario; Bakersfield; and Fresno. Two are in Florida: Northport-Sarasota-Bradenton and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford.

ISEA said the groups of occupations contributing the most to future automation across the metro areas examined are office and administrative support occupations, food preparation and serving-related occupations, and sales and related occupations. Transportation and material-moving occupations also contribute to potential job losses.

The researchers added that automation probability does not necessarily equal future unemployment rates. “Technical feasibility does not imply that automation necessarily makes economic sense. And historically, automation went hand in hand with new job creation both in skilled and less-skilled labor,” said Dr. Jess Chen, a researcher with ISEA.

“However, the speed and the high share of automation in less-skilled jobs raises many questions about whether the economy will be able to make up for the expected job losses,’’ said Chen. “What we do expect is that automation will create winners and losers among cities and regions of the U.S., where losers may not recover to their original employment levels within even a decade’s time.”