Major threat to U.S. jobs today? It's automation, not China - #technoskeptic

" What is usually called the China Shock to the American economy was certainly a real thing. It developed about when China was admitted to the World Trade Organization in 2001, although this basically meant China had to liberalize its economy. These changes had the effect of making its businesses more efficient and tougher global competitors.

What followed was a period that researchers later called “the great employment sag,” as the number of working-age men in the United States without a job swelled and the growth in the employment rate of women stagnated. What really got hurt were so-called middle-skill jobs, like skilled production work. This was not the kind of economic effect that got evenly distributed throughout the country, as some industries were far more vulnerable to offshore competition than others.

But the important thing to understand is that automation is already, and increasingly, all around us.

Earlier this fall, on a tour at a Twin Cities steel fabrication firm, the owners matter-of-factly pointed out a 4,000-watt laser cutter making a steel part that was hard to identify, other than that it had to be 20 feet long with a lot of angles and holes. A finished piece got taken off the machine and stacked as the machine started making the next one, all of it running by itself. The machine gets set up to run for up to 72 hours.

In China, there could be hundreds of firms with the capability to make that part. Yet this work was being done here, to precise specifications, at a price that obviously represents good value for the customer.

But no worker ever touches it."

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