Artificial Intelligence, Automation Aren’t Killing Labor Market, Reports Says


Such technology aren't making it more likely for workers to lose jobs in 10 industries, the authors found.

Concerns that emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and automation could wipe out wide swaths of American jobs aren’t backed up by data, according to a Sept. 13 report released by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

The report examines decades’ worth of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics across 10 industries—construction, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, wholesale trade, financial activities, information, education and health services, and manufacturing. The report found rates of job loss in each industry were lower in the third quarter of 2020 than in 1995.

The third quarter of 2020 represented a stabilization of the American job market following a significant spike in job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic that reached as high as 45% in the leisure and hospital industries.

According to the report, U.S. workers have about a 5.8% chance of losing their jobs across those industries in any given quarter, down from 7.3% in 1995.

“The prevailing narrative of accelerating job loss due to new technology is just a myth,” ITIF President Robert Atkinson, who co-authored the report, said in a statement. “The number of workers laid off each year as a share of all jobs has actually decreased steadily since the mid-1990s. Moreover, despite major employment disruption in the early stages of COVID-19, the rate of job loss has returned to the pre-pandemic trend line.”

The report is a rebuttal to what ITIF calls the public’s “growing perception” that job insecurity is a staple of the modern tech-driven economy, as technology and automation become integral to everyday business. It warns that if public perception “misaligns with economic reality, there will likely be knock-on effects that could undermine growth—since pressure for stability build opposition to innovation and globalization.”

“As unease grows, individuals may push lawmakers to enact stronger labor protections. But such laws could act as a drag on productivity if they limit the ability of firms to restructure work, as we see currently in Europe,” the report states. “Even more detrimental to innovation, workers and lawmakers may resist productivity-enhancing disruptions such as new information technologies or labor-saving robotics, even when such disruptions improve the economy. And they may pay attention to pundits calling for a tax on automation.”