A study called The future of work in America: People and places, today and tomorrow attempts to take a granular look at the condition of today’s local labor markets. It assesses how things could play out across the United States for different types of communities and demographic groups.
Megacities and high-growth hubs, home to 96 million people, are the most vibrant economies in the nation, with high-growth industries, many high-wage jobs, and young, trained workers. By comparison, there are 54 trailing towns and nearly 2,000 rural counties, home to 78 million residents, have older and declining populations, higher unemployment, and lower educational achievement. Between these extremes are some vibrant small towns, a broader “mixed center” and some industrial hubs with moderate economic growth; these areas are home to some 94 million people.
This economic performance diverged for decades, and that trend has accelerated after the Great Recession, even as the economy has bounced back on the national level. Over the past decade, only 25 urban areas (megacities and high-growth hubs plus their peripheries) accounted for more than two-thirds development of jobs. By comparison, trailing cities have had practically no growth in employment for a decade, and Americana counties and struggling Americana have 360,000 fewer jobs in 2017 than they did in 2007. Such developments were emerging when the regional mobility of Americans has reached an all-time low, with few residents heading to prosperous cities from impoverished areas.
When intelligent machines continue to take on more forms of work, these divergences may get even more expansive. The positions most likely to be automated — in categories such as office staff, food service, production processing, and customer service and retail sales — are located everywhere. But local economies are entering with varying momentum into this decade. Many will continue to create new opportunities to offset those losses. By 2030, the same 25 urban areas that led to post-recession recovery could capture 60 percent of national employment growth. Meanwhile, rural counties could see a decade of net job growth flat or even harmful. Individual segments are only in a modest location.
We also see who holds the positions that are likely to diminish over time, looking at age, level of education, gender, and ethnicity. Educational success is one of the primary risk markers: staff with or under high school diplomas are four times more likely to be in automated positions than those with or above bachelor’s degrees. Our team also concentrated on the fact that automation would remove many entry-level positions that historically gave young people their first foothold in the world of work, while 11.5 million jobs were over the age of 50.
Companies would want to optimize what artificial intelligence can do for efficiency and innovation. However, many of them will need to manage complex organizational change, with various challenges depending on their workforce ‘s nature, mix, and geographic footprint. Both employers will need to make reasonable strategic, financial, technological, and training decisions that potentially affect the communities they operate in.
Americans need to prepare for future jobs — and many promising workforce initiatives are underway to help them do just that, both from businesses and from nonprofits. But much more can be done — and it needs to happen in more areas, on a broader scale. The goals can vary in various cultures, but the U.S. needs more educational programs, better job matching, and more investment in the left places.
America will choose the way it wants to go. Creating better learning systems and career paths and injecting new hope into large parts of the country that have struggled for too long is within our power. Rapid technological change is no panic; it is a call for action. Businesses, politicians, educators, and other stakeholders need to join together to create labor markets that work for more Americans.