Millions of jobs that were once held by people have been lost due to advances in technology and automation, and that trend is not going away any time soon.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Oxford University, 42% of U.S. workers are at high risk of automation.
A further study of that data by the Brookings Institution found that 43% of the workers in the Monroe metro area are at high risk of losing their jobs as a result.
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But at least one Louisiana economist says there is no reason to worry about mass layoffs for the foreseeable future.
Tammy Johnston, economics professor at the University of Louisiana Monroe, said despite the seemingly high numbers, there isn’t reason for panic just yet.
“It looks like most of the cities were around that national average, so that 42% was pretty typical,” Johnston said. “That was good news. So it wasn’t like our area stood out substantially as being more affected than other areas.”
According to the study, of large U.S. metropolitan areas, the New Orleans-Metairie area has 44.3% of workers at high risk of automation, ranking seventh in the nation. For mid-size metros, Lafayette ranks fourth nationally with 48.2% of workers at high risk of automation, and Shreveport-Bossier City stands in 13th place with 46.8% of workers at high risk.
The small metros list includes Houma-Thibodaux in seventh place with 51.7% at high risk. Meanwhile, Monroe’s 43.5% comes in at spot 118.
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In addition to the Monroe workers at high risk for automation, the study found that 20.7% are at medium risk, and 35.8% are at low risk.
According to the study, lower-skilled jobs are more likely to be automated. Such jobs include office administration, production, transportation and food preparation. Furthermore, some areas of the country will see greater effects of automation, especially rural regions.
Johnston said this pattern has continued throughout the years. For example, switchboard operators, once a plentiful job, have been made obsolete.
“It’s just natural,” Johnston said. “The number of secretaries is down 50% from 1992 to 2015, and a lot of that’s because of automation. Because we have Microsoft Office, one person can do so much more than before with a typewriter.”
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Johnston said people can head off the prospect of losing their jobs by being proactive. This involves undergoing additional training as well as trying to be the best employee one can be.
“Someone will end up losing their job over this, and you don’t want to be the one that gets let go,” Johnston said. “How do you avoid that? By being the best worker there that they want to keep. And then if you are let go, you’re going to have to be willing to either move or receive additional training into the jobs that are available.”
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