Stand in line at some McDonald Corp. (NYSE: MCD) stores or at the checkout section at some Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) locations or thousands of pharmacy chain stores. Anyone who says that robots are not crippling the future of retail checkout employment is wrong.
The only humans needed at the checkout lines at thousands of large retail locations are those to help customers who have not learned how to use automated machines. Eventually, it may be that robots can take the place of these employees who aid customers. No matter how the figures are totaled, tens of thousands of jobs are at risk, and almost all of those are among workers who make above minimum wage, but not by much. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most cashiers make between $19,000 and $25,000 a year.
The technology is not the only reason that scanning checkout has grown. Some significant portion of the population likes the process. According to research firm eMarketer:
And this type of technology is certainly something consumers are interested in. A March 2017 survey of US internet users by Acosta found that more than eight in 10 millennials, and 58.2% of respondents overall, express an interest in scan-and-go technology.
The disappearance of most of these jobs will affect the U.S. economy only modestly. The buying power of people who make $25,000 is very low because their discretionary income is close to zero. Even if the loss of these jobs numbers well into the tens of thousands, and perhaps higher, the tick up in unemployment rates would only be a fraction of a percent. In a “full employment” economy, that won’t mean much.
A considerable number of Americans already must have used checkout technology because it is in so many places. And the number of jobs handed over to the technology is sure to grow. Soon, some locations won’t have people at checkout at all.