As our economy keeps humming along and unemployment rates continue to drop it would appear, according to many economists, that we are at, or near, “full employment”. That is great news for job seekers and job hoppers. However, we also know that all jobs are not created equal.
The decline in manufacturing jobs in the US over the last forty years is due – in large part – to the increased use of automation. Take the automobile industry. While jobs in that sector have been on the increase in the last ten years when compared to 30 or 40 years ago they are down dramatically.
That said, the Washington DC area is less dependent on heavy industry than other areas. That does not mean we are immune to the slow creep of automation. With that in mind, what jobs that are more prevalent in the DMV could be in danger of being replaced by machines, automation, AI – whatever term you’d care to lose.
We did some digging and here is a partial list:
- Watch Repairers: OK, this is a highly specialized field. But with the advent of smartphones, Fit Bits, Apple Watches, etc. the demand and usage of traditional watches continues to decline.
- Computer Operators: Not to be confused with computer programmers. These positions are essentially human monitors. They watch over systems and respond to error messages, etc. This is increasingly being handled by software.
- Telephone Operators: We have all experienced the annoyance of calling a company and being greeted with a recorded voice that presents us with “options” (which may recently have changed. As this function becomes increasingly automated – and more reflexive due to improved voice recognition technology – there is less of a need for real human interaction.
- The US Mail: An industry that has undergone a fundamental change due to technology. E-mail, alone, has decreased the need for snail mail. In addition, automation at sorting centers has led to a decline in those positions, as well. In all, traditional mail is not a growth industry. Alas, we will still be getting all that junk mail…
- Telecom Installers and Repairers: As more people “cut the cord” and as landline telephones disappear there will be less of a need for those who install the wire and repair the systems. This decrease is not due to a robot takeover but a fundamental change in how we use technology.
- Bill Collectors: First, no – they will not stop calling you. But with advances in phone calling technology and digitized documentation there are fewer “hands” touching your overdue account.
- Executive and Administrative Assistants: “Hey Siri, remind me to call…”Outlook reminders, Google assistants, shared platforms like Base Camp – these all creep into the areas formerly the domain of real, live assistants. This is not to say these positions will not have value. By morphing into the project management area many of these jobs will continue to exist.
- Bank Tellers: This has been coming for a long time. The first ATM was installed on September 2, 1969 in New York. With so many people doing their banking online or their phone, there is less of a need to visit an actual brick-and-mortar bank.
- Cashiers: The self-checkout aisle at grocery stores. The ordering kiosks at McDonald’s. Oh, and Amazon. This and the fact that fewer people make cash purchases. This explains why there are only two lanes open on a Saturday…
This is a small sampling of the jobs that are predicted to decline over the next decade or so. We’ve included some links below that will provide more information.
At Goodwill, we strive to provide free job training in industries where jobs are not only abundant, but compensation is strong and the prospects for career growth are good. They include unarmed security and protective service, hospitality services, and healthcare administration. We will continue to provide access to training and supportive services to help our community become fully employed.
Moving forward, understanding where automation may impact jobs can be useful in providing workers with an opportunity to expand their knowledge base and obtain new, more marketable skills.