The Robots Taking Factory Jobs Just Had Their Best Quarter Ever

The North American robotics industry had its best first quarter ever in 2017, in terms of both money made and robots sold.

A new report published last week by the Robotic Industries Association finds that “an all-time high total of 9,773 robots valued at approximately $516 million were ordered from North American robotics companies during the first quarter of 2017.” It marks a 32 percent increase in units sold from the first quarter of 2016 and 28 percent growth in the value of the units.

There was also a 3 percent decrease in the average price of these units over the same time. Robots are getting cheaper and people are buying more of them.

All those statistics add up to great news for robotics companies and their clients, who can see their businesses become more efficient and keep up with custome demand. A $516 million dollar Q1 showing is more than enough to seat robotics in the echelon of billion dollar industries, and its continued expansion, based on past trends, is all but assured.

But where will that new wealth go? It’s here that industry growth could spell bad news for individual workers in jobs — even beyond manufacturing — that will be hit by automation. It’s bad news that many, including former President Barack Obama, have already foreseen. “The next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete,” said Obama in his farewell address, zeroing in the problem.

A study released in March confirmed that automation is eliminating jobs faster than new ones can emerge.

The trend has the potential to seriously impact Rust Belt and specific-skill workers over the long term, wrote co-authors by Daron Acemoglu of MIT and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University.

Acemoglu recently told Inverse in March that, “robots are less complementary to a distinct set of skills that exist in the labor market at the moment than previous technologies.” They are more likely to replace workers, rather than augment their skills as inventions like mechanical looms and computers did in the past.

The study also showed that unemployment rises at a disproportionately high rate for each robot added. It’s not a 1-to-1 trade-off. Adding one robot to a group of 1,000 workers, they found, would increase the unemployment rate by .18 to .34 percent (if it was 1-to-1 they would have seen a .1 percent drop in employment per robot per thousand workers). A single robot could replace up to 3 or more human workers, depending on the industry.

The first quarter of 2017 saw nearly 1,000 robots purchased. It could be nearly 1,300 robots purchased in Q1 of 2018. That could cost over 3,000 jobs in Q1 alone. While those numbers may seem small now, given that the 211,000 jobs created in April, they will grow quickly.

The strength of America’s economy is often measured through employment statistics. But the continued rise of automation could upset that metric, creating a paradox. Whole companies, thanks to the cheaper, safer, and more efficient labor of machines, will continue to profit — maybe even more than they are now. But workers, left to compete for fewer positions, will keep losing their jobs.

One industry watcher sums it up as dystopian. Ben Wardell, founder of software company Stardock, warned in 2016 of a coming division between The Gods and The Useless. He writes in a blog post, “I am telling you the automation revolution isn’t happening soon. It’s happening right now.” And Wardell says he aren’t ready — we’re “oblivious.”

But few real solutions have actually been suggested, perhaps because Americans still don’t see it as a problem that will affect them personally. ““Automation is generally a good thing if you educate workers,” said Ian McCormack, one of 15 blue-collar workers at a Trump rally interviewed by Inverse during the 2016 election.

As things stand, that’s a big “if,” since no policies to that effect have yet emerged.

The responsibility could simply fall to business leaders. It’s been done before. Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed.com recently automated his warehouse without shedding a single worker. In fact, he gave some of them promotions. Huang told Inverse, “Instead of just saying, ‘you’re not going to lose your job,’ I actually wanted this to be an opportunity for folks to learn a skill that’s going to be really important in the future.” It’s a laudable move, but Huang has only 85 employees. The question remains whether the heads of much larger companies will show similar fidelity.

Some, like Elon Musk, have put forward out-there policy ideas. “This is going to be a massive social challenge,” Musk said in February at the World Government Summit. “And I think ultimately we are going to have some sort of universal basic income. I don’t think we have any choice.”

Workable solution or not, Americans may soon find themselves facing a new kind of economy: One that’s flush with productivity and cash but is simultaneously inaccessible to the increasing numbers of people whose skills are obsolete.

The Retail Sector Lost 30,000 Jobs Last Month

We’ve focused a lot in recent months on the worrisome trend of retail bankruptcies and all the stores and malls being left vacant in their wake. But a new federal jobs report gives an idea of the impact these tough times have had on workers, with nearly 30,000 retail jobs vanishing in March.

According to data released today by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the second month in a row of significant employment losses in the retail sector.

Between the 29,700 decrease in March and a drop of 34,700 in February, nearly 65,000 retail jobs have been lost.

According to the report, employment in general merchandise stores — department and other retailers — was hit the hardest, with 34,700 jobs lost between February and March.

Of those lost jobs, 12,600 were in department stores, while 22,100 were from other retailers.

The job losses aren’t exactly unexpected. In just the first few months of 2017 a number of retailers —including Gordmans, hhgregg, RadioShack, Gander Mountain, BCBG Max Azria, MC Sports, Eastern Outfitters, Wet Seal, Payless, and The Limited — have announced store closures, bankruptcies and other restructuring measures; a trend that has already surpassed the number of closing in all of 2016.

The reason more general merchandise jobs were lost than total retail jobs is because certain sectors, including auto dealers, garden supply, and non-store retailer actually added positions.

In all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that general merchandise jobs have declined by 89,000 since Oct. 2016. That’s the largest decline since Dec. 2009, according to the report.

In fact, the March job losses are in stark contrast to retail position increases the last two years.

In 2015, the retail industry added 26,000 jobs in March, while 21,000 were added in the same month in 2014.

That’s not to say March is always a time for retail job growth. The sector saw hefty drops in 2012 and 2013, when 34,000 and 23,000 jobs were lost, respectively.

Jeb Bush is Extremely Concerned About Automation Job Loss

Former Florida Governor Jeb (!) Bush wants us all out in the streets to bring change to America. No, the former Republican presidential candidate isn’t trying to revive his campaign, he just wants to warn us of the imminent crisis facing the American workforce if the government doesn’t prepare workers for the rise of the automated workplace.

Bush told AM 970 New York’s John Catsimatidis that the country is essentially training its children to do jobs that will belong to robots by the time they graduate, according to the Washington Examiner.

“People should be marching in the streets demanding that we change how we educate K-12, higher education, job training,” Bush said. “We need life long in skills development so people can live purposeful lives.”

Bush has actually presented education as a central part of a strong job market for years, and used claims of Florida’s success in this area as part of his 2016 campaign. In Florida, one of his primary methods of improving the state’s jobs number was to invite the sort of manufacturing work that is now under serious threat of automation.

“This is not something that’s science fiction,” he said. “This is happening as we speak. And yet we still have this big skills gap.”

Last week, the National Bureau of Economic research published a study claiming that automation was taking jobs at a surprising rate — up to three jobs per every new robot in a 1000-man workforce — supporting the idea that automation will need to be offset by education and re-training programs.

Bush also took the opportunity to get in a dig at his former rival, President Donald Trump. “We have got to sort out what we stand for,” Bush said. “Presidential leadership would be helpful here.”

Trump has been largely silent on automation, although his treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin isn’t worried about the prospect.

But where American jobs will inevitably decline, it’s worth noting that automation will create jobs in other fields as well. The world needs more talent in certain areas like advanced database management and machine learning, even as other white collar professions also start to feel the heat.

The Examiner’s article also hits on another common thread in the conversation around automation: just what in the hell life is going to be about, if not work? Bush worries that Americans are in danger of losing the opportunity to lead “purposeful lives” in which they contribute to the economy. While that’s probably not the biggest concern for people trying to generate enough income to pay the rent, it is something worth thinking about. A Jeb-style mass reorientation toward computer skills and other, more academic areas of study could produce a workforce full of highly educated people with low or no incomes, or at least exacerbate that problem. If that doesn’t work, a system of guaranteed minimum income, might just institution of work entirely — which probably doesn’t match up with Bush’s conservative ideals.

Nation Expected to Lose 30% of Jobs to Automation in 15 Years

Whether we like it or not, robots are making an impact in the job market. Experts predict that almost a million jobs will be replaced by robots in 2030, while companies like apple are justifying such predictions. This may also be a boon to governments that wish to cut costs, and almost 80 percent of administrative work will likely be automated in the course of the next 15 years.

We’re expected to see changes in sales, customer service, transportation, shipping and logistics, healthcare, and legal paraprofessionals. The consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) took a look at the future of one of the world’s super-powers — the U.K.

In a few years even a developed country like Britain might lose a significant portion of its work force — about 30 percent — to automation, leaving 10 million workers without a job. Breaking the numbers down in terms of the sexes, this means that 35 percent of jobs currently held by men are at risk. Women are expected to fare slightly better, with only 26 percent of jobs currently held by women expected to be replaced by robots.  While sectors such as wholesale and administrative work are most likely to get the replacement, the health care and social work industries might keep the automation at bay for now.

PWC’s chief economist, John Hawksworth, asserted in a PWC press release that this is because “manual and routine tasks are more susceptible to automation, while social skills are relatively less automatable.” In light of this prediction, the PWC’s team does offer several solutions, including increasing education, spreading potential gains from automation, and considering a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI).

HOW A SOCIETY WITHOUT JOBS COULD WORK

A UBI is gaining traction around the world as potential solution to global automation. While certain entrepreneurs dislike the notion or feel that we aren’t ready for it yet, countries like Finland, Canada, and even cities in the U.S. are experimenting with the system.

A UBI guarantees every citizen a monthly income regardless of any additional salaries they may accrue. While some urge for a complete replacement of all social programs with UBI, others suggest just a partial consolidation. In order to pay for the program as a whole in the U.S., experts suggest possibly eliminating tax cuts that represent upwards of $540 billion for the wealthy or reducing the $853 billion budget on defense.

Will UBI provide as sustainable solution to living in an automated world? We might just have to wait 15 years to find out.

Make $12,000 Traveling the US and Drinking Beer

World of Beer is back with another Drink It Internship that will give you the opportunity to make $12,000 traveling the US and drinking beer. If you’ve never visited a World of Beer location, the selection of craft beers, food, and the staff’s expansive knowledge show why the name works. It really is a world of beer. And what better company to fund three interns travel and beer experiences than the company that’s all about sharing the global story behind the beer? Hit up the Drink It Intern section of the World of Beer site below to submit your entry, and then cross your fingers you get chosen to explore, share, photograph, blog and try new things while still getting paid $12,000 for something that shouldn’t be considered work. Applications are due by March 26th, so you have around three weeks to create your magnum opus and get it to World of Beer.

The Marijuana Industry is Projected to Create More Than 250,000 Jobs by 2020

As more and more states begin to legalize marijuana use—despite the president’s opposition to recreational marijuana—you probably figured the new industry will create some jobs.

How many jobs will be created, however, may surprise you. The legal cannabis market is projected to create more than 250,000 jobs by 2020, according to a report from New Frontier Data.

That’s more jobs than are projected for transportation, agriculture, utilities, or the federal government, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

New Frontier’s data projections are based only on the states that have already passed legalization. It does not include other states—even those that will likely legalize marijuana use in the next few years.

The U.S. marijuana industry is expected to be worth more than $24 billion by 2025. It was estimated to be worth $7.2 billion last year.

“While we see a potential drop in total number of U.S. jobs created in 2017, as reported by Kiplinger, as well as an overall expected drop in GDP growth, the cannabis industry continues to be a positive contributing factor to growth at a time of potential decline,” said New Frontier CEO Aguirre De Carcer, according to Forbes.

Aguirre De Carcer added that the numbers “confirm that cannabis is a major economic driver and job creation engine for the U.S. economy.”

The industry already employs between 100,000 to 150,000 people.

Is Facebook the New LinkedIn?

For many people, the thought of employers trawling Facebook is a troubling one. I, for one, don’t think my ‘Love Hate Ink’ album exactly sings my praises in a professional capacity. Nonetheless, Facebook has launched a job-searching application on its site, hoovering up business from those who don’t fit into LinkedIn’s more corporate world.

The application is aimed at both lower-skilled workers, and those who aren’t actively seeking out a job, but who might consider jumping ship were they offered, say, a better wage or a more convenient location. The application is becoming available to business pages in the US and Canada, but knowing Facebook’s omnipresent ways, it won’t be long before the feature migrates to the UK.

In keeping with Facebook’s whole business model, the setup is simple, informal and (supposedly) transparent; Business Pages can post job vacancies in the News Feed, which will in turn be housed in a brand spanking new Jobs tab on their Page. And here comes the streamlined part: users hit an ‘Apply Now’ button and apply via Facebook Messenger. Facebook provides the prospective employer with the name and profile picture of the applicant, lending the whole thing a laid-back, sociable ethos.

The enterprise could earn Facebook even more revenue by offering employers the option to turn posts into ads, which would permeate news feeds, featuring more prominently and reaching a wider group of prospective employees. It’s unlikely that many businesses will need to turn to this, what with the share-happy millennials dispersing career opportunities amongst friends who are job-hunting.

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Facebook’s VP of Ads and Business Platform Andrew Bosworth spoke to TechCrunch, revealing the backstory behind the new platform. The company, he says, asked the question “How can we make Facebook more useful in your everyday life?” They found that small businesses ran into trouble hiring staff, particularly on a part-time or hourly basis. They also found that people in employment were open to a high-paid jobs with more responsibility, or in a different field, but often lacked the wherewithal to go through the (often arduous) process of applying for jobs.

I can testify to this; like so many of my peers, my immediate experience after university was working part-time jobs punctuated by bouts of travelling, which often meant I had to get myself rehired when I returned. I worked in a Jamaican cafe, a burger bar, and a pub that specialized in craft beer, all of which required traipsing around my neighborhood handing out dog-eared CVs. Facebook’s Job feature could have saved me – and a generation of heavily indebted twenty-somethings – a world of job-seeking pain.

All very sensible, I hear you say, but the primary problem persists: people don’t want employers checking out their social media profiles. Bosworth, however, suggests that the project has been met with “overwhelming enthusiasm”, accrediting this to the laid-back attitude of their demographic; these aren’t bullish young lawyers battling it out for a Magic Circle contract, they’re “casual job seekers… they’re just looking for every opportunity they can get”.

And whilst LinkedIn’s trusty user base of nearly 500 million may login on a daily basis, Facebook’s gargantuan 1.86 billion users are more habitual, with many devotees logging in hourly or more. It’s an enterprising move into a vastly untapped marked, both democratizing and streamlining the onerous world of online job seeking.

The Next Blue Collar Job? Coding

It almost shouldn’t come as a surprise. In an age defined by advancements in the tech industry, it was only a matter of time before the traditional paradigms set by the industrial revolution had to change.

The sophistication of today’s technology means factories are turning to computers instead of human employees to get the job done. According to a joint study conducted by Oxford University and the Oxford Martin School, “[…] 47 percent of jobs in the US are ‘at risk’ of being automated in the next 20 years.” A Ball State University study concluded that almost nine out of 10 jobs have been lost to automation since 2000, and a factory in China just saw a 250 percent increase in production after replacing 90 percent of its workforce with automated systems.

However, as demand for physical labor goes down, other opportunities are arising, and according to Clive Thompson of Wired, the next big blue-collar job will be coding.

OPPORTUNITIES IN IT AND BEYOND

The information technology industry is expected to grow faster than almost any other, with some predicting a 12 percent growth between 2014 to 2024. The problem lies in the fact that coding will require a different technical skill set than much of today’s blue collar work. But thankfully, many employers are responding to the needs of the evolving job market by attempting to make code learning more accessible.

Silicon Valley giants like Google have initiatives designed to engage and teach anyone interested in programming. Schools are working to introduce coding as early as high school, while various other institutions are offering intensive code-learning programs. This level of education and exposure to coding won’t necessarily give these future coders the knowledge to create complex AI algorithms, but it would be enough to qualify them for a well-paying, reliable job in the IT department.

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It should also be noted that coding opportunities reach far beyond the tech industry. Silicon Valley employs only eight percent of the coders in the U.S., and according to one study, half of all programming openings are in industries outside of technology, such as finance, manufacturing, and healthcare. There’s also the draw of compensation. The national average salary for IT jobs is double the national average for all jobs: $81,000 annually.

It’s now a matter of demystifying coding as a profession that only gifted computer prodigies are capable of learning. As Thompson points out in his article, several of the skills needed to be successful at blue collar occupations like coal mining — intense focus, an ability to function within a team, a level of comfort working with engineering tech, etc. — could easily translate into coding. Once people realize that it is a highly specialized skill but one that they can learn to do well, coding has the potential to open more doors to employment in the age of automation.

The Solar Power Industry Continues to Grow Jobs… 51,000 in 2016

In 2016, the still-burgeoning solar industry added more than 51,000 jobs to the American workforce, representing two percent of all new jobs.

That number, included in an annual report by the nonprofit Solar Foundation, represents a 24.5 percent increase over 2015, and means that about 260,000 Americans have work in the solar industry (about the population of Orlando, Fla.).

The Solar Foundation’s report means that the solar industry is now the U.S.’s second-largest energy industry after oil and petroleum, which has been steadily shedding jobs across the workforce.

According to the Washington Post, over half of the 51,000 jobs added are in solar panel installation, particularly for residential usage, which might indicate that more Americans have grown comfortable with embracing solar.

Despite the uptick, the industry faces an uncertain future and a possible dip in 2017 as solar investment tax credits begin to phase down. Moreover, the Trump administration has made fossil fuels a top priority of its “America First Energy Plan,” which doesn’t even mention solar energy.

Still, states such as Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska and Wisconsin (which voted for Trump) experienced a growth in solar jobs, as did 40 other states.

Check out the Solar Foundation’s full report here.

Apparently, Tuesdays at 2:30 PM Is the Best Time to Schedule a Meeting

We’ve established that Tuesdays are the most productive day of the week, so it makes sense that a meeting on Tuesday would be best for a productive, useful meeting. And right after lunch is the best time. Tuesdays, 2:30pm local time, is your ideal time, based on a survey that collected over 2 million responses.

The survey was conducted by UK scheduling firm YouCanBookMe, which collected and analyzed the responses of its customer bases to find out when the ideal meeting time would be. From Quartz:

If you want to make sure everyone can be there, the best time to meet is Tuesday afternoon, according to a study from YouCanBookMe, a UK company that makes scheduling apps for businesses. The firm crunched data from more than 2 million responses to 530,000 invitations and concluded that 2:30pm Tuesday is the time most people are free.

While Monday mornings are popular for team meetings, it’s also one of the worst times, with only one in three invitees accepting invitations to meet. (The most likely days for people to be out of the office are Monday and Friday.) Attendance rises in the afternoon, when the day’s work load has eased and people feel they’re better prepared.

Of course, the founder of that same company notes that her firm has an all-hands meeting on Wednesdays at 3pm, with the logic that by Wednesday enough has happened during the week that people have their bearings and something to report, and there’s enough time left in the week to make some changes, do good work, and shift priorities if necessary. Either way, if you have to organize meetings—or know someone who does—these factors might be worth taking into consideration.