Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Jobs


Sometimes it might seem like most jobs are, or will eventually be, susceptible to replacement by automation. Experts already predict the top-3 industries susceptible to automation over the next decade are “production”, “food service” and “transportation”.

In a report by Brookings titled Automation and Artificial Intelligence: How Machines are Affecting People and Places suggests, “automation will bring neither apocalypse nor utopia, but instead both benefits and stress alike.”

Examining the known impacts of automation on jobs from 1980 to 2016, Brookings makes predictions for 2016 to 2030. Instead of net job gains or losses, the report “focuses on areas of potential occupational change”.

The long-haul trucking industry still moves the majority of materials and consumer goods across the country. According to RTS Financial, there are currently “more than 1.7 million heavy-duty and tractor-trailer truck driving jobs” in the U.S. During 2016, commercial truckers moved 10.42 billion tons of freight across our nation. Additionally during 2016, a “trucker driver” was still the most common job in 29 U.S. states, two of which were California and Texas.

The Forbes Technology Council has created a list of 13 different jobs they believe are most likely to be replaced by automation to include: insurance underwriting, warehouse & manufacturing, research & data entry, local TV advertising, banking & retail checkout, fast food service, and of course, long haul trucking.

While not all at-risk jobs will disappear, those that do won’t disappear overnight. Ultimately, which sectors and the number of job losses within will only be told by the future. However, we do know how many people currently have jobs in sectors most susceptible to automation in the near future.

Looking at the Washington State Employment Security Department Covered Employment data (clicking the link will download the most recent data set), during 2018 in Spokane County, there were:

  • Nearly 16,000 jobs in the “Manufacturing” sector earning a total combined $869.3 million.
  • 6,080 jobs in the “Transportation and Warehousing” sector earning a total combined $299.5 million.
  • Over 19,400 jobs in the “Accommodation and Food Services” sector earning a total combined $403.0 million. 

Again, these are just predictions of a think-tank, but come as data-driven speculation. While losing millions of driving jobs will certainly affect a future economy and the ability for many to find a decent job, it will undoubtedly decrease the number of fatal car accidents (40,000) and permanent injuries (2 million) caused each year in the U.S. by human operated motor vehicles.