Future of skills 2019: Anticipating what’s next for your business
Until recently, most research on the potential effects of automation, including our own body of work, has focused on the national-level effects. Our previous work ran multiple scenarios regarding the pace and extent of adoption. In the midpoint case, our modeling shows some jobs being phased out but sufficient numbers being added at the same time to produce net positive job growth for the United States as a whole through 2030. But the national results contain a wide spectrum of outcomes, and this report goes one step further to explore those variations. Automation is not happening in a vacuum, and the health of local economies today will affect their ability to adapt and thrive in the face of the changes that lie ahead. Our analysis of more than 3,000 US counties and 315 cities finds they are on sharply different paths. Twenty-five megacities and high-growth hubs, plus their peripheries, have generated the majority of job growth since the Great Recession. By contrast, 54 trailing cities and roughly 2,000 rural counties that are home to one-quarter of the US population have older and shrinking workforces, higher unemployment, and lower educational attainment. Automation technologies may widen these disparities at a time when workforce mobility is at historic lows.The labor market could become even more polarized. Workers with a high school degree or less are four times as likely as those with a bachelor’s degree to be displaced by automation. Reflecting more limited access to education, Hispanic workers are most at risk of displacement, followed by African Americans. Jobs held by nearly 15 million workers ages 18–34 may be automated, so young people will need new career paths to gain an initial foothold in the working world. Roughly 11.5 million workers over age 50 could also be displaced and face the challenge of making late-career moves. The hollowing out of middlewage work could continue.The future of work is not just about how many jobs could be lost and gained. Technology is altering the day-to-day mix of activities associated with more and more jobs over time. The occupational mix of the economy is changing, and the demand for skills is changing along with it. Employers will need to manage large-scale workforce transformations that could involve redefining business processes and workforce needs, retraining and moving some people into new roles, and creating programs for continuous learning. This could be an opportunity to upgrade jobs and make them more rewarding. The choices that employers make will ripple through the communities in which they operate.