Category Archives: Workforce

Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce: Where Are We and Where Do We Go from Here?

Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017

From the summary:
Recent years have yielded significant advances in computing and communication technologies, with profound impacts on society. Technology is transforming the way we work, play, and interact with others. From these technological capabilities, new industries, organizational forms, and business models are emerging.
Technological advances can create enormous economic and other benefits, but can also lead to significant changes for workers. IT and automation can change the way work is conducted, by augmenting or replacing workers in specific tasks. This can shift the demand for some types of human labor, eliminating some jobs and creating new ones. Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce explores the interactions between technological, economic, and societal trends and identifies possible near-term developments for work. This report emphasizes the need to understand and track these trends and develop strategies to inform, prepare for, and respond to changes in the labor market. It offers evaluations of what is known, notes open questions to be addressed, and identifies promising research pathways moving forward.

Robots, the Quiet Workers, Are You Ready to Take Over?

Source: Philip Calvert, Public Library Quarterly, Latest Articles, Published online: 04 Apr 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Robots are becoming more commonly used in libraries. A robot that does shelf reading and reports the results to human staff is one example of a practical use of robotics in a library. Others have been used to retrieve large items such as boxes, but identifying and picking up small and varied objects such as books is still on the edge of what can be done. Devices using artificial intelligence can act as guides, or in some cases, as personal assistants for library customers. Some are answering questions and learning as they go. If robots can perform library work effectively and more cheaply than humans it is inevitable they will be more widely used.

Private Equity, Layoffs, and Job Polarization

Source: Martin Olsson, Joacim Tåg, Journal of Labor Economics, Ahead of Print, March 29, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Private equity firms are often criticized for laying off workers, but the evidence on who loses their jobs and why is scarce. This paper argues that explanations for job polarization also explain layoffs after private equity buyouts. Buyouts reduce agency problems, which triggers automation and offshoring. Using rich employer-employee data, we show that buyouts generally do not affect unemployment incidence. However, unemployment incidence doubles for workers in less productive firms who perform routine or offshorable job tasks. Job polarization is also much more marked among workers affected by buyouts than for the economy at large.

Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets

Source: Daron Acemoglu, Pascual Restrepo, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 23285, March 2017

From the abstract:
As robots and other computer-assisted technologies take over tasks previously performed by labor, there is increasing concern about the future of jobs and wages. We analyze the effect of the increase in industrial robot usage between 1990 and 2007 on US local labor markets. Using a model in which robots compete against human labor in the production of different tasks, we show that robots may reduce employment and wages, and that the local labor market effects of robots can be estimated by regressing the change in employment and wages on the exposure to robots in each local labor market—defined from the national penetration of robots into each industry and the local distribution of employment across industries. Using this approach, we estimate large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages across commuting zones. We bolster this evidence by showing that the commuting zones most exposed to robots in the post-1990 era do not exhibit any differential trends before 1990. The impact of robots is distinct from the impact of imports from China and Mexico, the decline of routine jobs, offshoring, other types of IT capital, and the total capital stock (in fact, exposure to robots is only weakly correlated with these other variables). According to our estimates, one more robot per thousand workers reduces the employment to population ratio by about 0.18-0.34 percentage points and wages by 0.25-0.5 percent.

The Decline of Professionalism

Source: Rebecca Roiphe, Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol. 29, 2016

From the abstract:
Traditionally, professionalism conceived of the professions as central to democratic society. Because professionals gained their status through reputation not wealth, they were in the best position to suppress their own self-interest in order to ascertain and pursue the public good. This Article argues that this traditional understanding of the professions was lost as a market ideology took hold in the 1970s. Professionalism gradually became synonymous with the delivery of services. This Article draws on this intellectual history to argue that aspects of the traditional concept of professionalism can and should be revived today.

235,000 Job Growth in February Is Good News for the Economy, But State and Local Government Job Growth Remains Weak

Source: Lucy Dadayan, Donald J. Boyd, Rockefeller Institute of Government, By The Numbers, March 2017

• Nationally, state and local government employment is 1.5 percent below its prior peak, while private sector employment is 6.4 percent above its prior peak.
• State government employment nationally is 2.5 percent below its peak level and local government employment is 1.3 percent below its peak level.
• State government non-education employment, for services such as corrections, hospitals and other health care, public welfare, and highways, has fared the worst among the government subsectors —- currently, 5.5 percent below its peak even though the population has grown 6.9 percent over the same period.
• Local government education and non-education employment are 2.0 percent and 0.8 percent below their respective prior peaks, while elementary and secondary enrollment has risen by more than 2.0 percent during the same period.
• The only subsector that has grown is state government education employment for universities, colleges, and similar services; here employment is up 1.2 percent above the prior peak, but still far weaker than in previous economic recoveries.
• Although state and local government employment did not decline as much during the Great Recession as private sector employment, it has been recovering far more slowly and has regained the jobs lost to the Great Recession.

Work in and beyond the Second Machine Age: the politics of production and digital technologies

Source: David Spencer, Work, employment and society, Vol 31, Issue 1, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, in their widely read and politically impactful book The Second Machine Age, highlight the costs and benefits of digital technologies for the volume and quality of work and identify reforms designed to ensure that digital technologies deliver net advantages to workers and society more generally. This article offers a critique of their thesis. Specifically, it criticizes the authors for their neglect of the nexus between the politics of production and digital technologies. They fail, in short, to grasp the importance of power relations for the form, direction and outcomes of digital technologies. The article argues for an alternative view of the progress of digital technologies that is rooted in an understanding of the political economy of capitalism. In this respect, it draws on and applies ideas and concepts from Marxian political economy.

Understanding the Economic Impact of the H-1B Program on the U.S.

Source: John Bound, Gaurav Khanna, Nicolas Morales, NBER Working Paper No. 23153, February 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Over the 1990s, the share of foreigners entering the US high-skill workforce grew rapidly. This migration potentially had a significant effect on US workers, consumers and firms. To study these effects, we construct a general equilibrium model of the US economy and calibrate it using data from 1994 to 2001. Built into the model are positive effects high skilled immigrants have on innovation. Counterfactual simulations based on our model suggest that immigration increased the overall welfare of US natives, and had significant distributional consequences. In the absence of immigration, wages for US computer scientists would have been 2.6% to 5.1% higher and employment in computer science for US workers would have been 6.1% to 10.8% higher in 2001. On the other hand, complements in production benefited substantially from immigration, and immigration also lowered prices and raised the output of IT goods by between 1.9% and 2.5%, thus benefiting consumers. Finally, firms in the IT sector also earned substantially higher profits due to immigration.
Using H-1B Visas To Help Outsource IT Work Draws Criticism, Scrutiny
Source: NPR, All Things Considered, February 13, 2017

Immigration Restrictions as Active Labor Market Policy: Evidence from the Mexican Bracero Exclusion

Source: Michael A. Clemens, Ethan G. Lewis, Hannah M. Postel, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 23125, February 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
An important class of active labor market policy has received little rigorous impact evaluation: immigration barriers intended to improve the terms of employment for domestic workers by deliberately shrinking the workforce. Recent advances in the theory of endogenous technical change suggest that such policies could have limited or even perverse labor-market effects, but empirical tests are scarce. We study a natural experiment that excluded almost half a million Mexican ‘bracero’ seasonal agricultural workers from the United States, with the stated goal of raising wages and employment for domestic farm workers. We build a simple model to clarify how the labor-market effects of bracero exclusion depend on assumptions about production technology, and test it by collecting novel archival data on the bracero program that allow us to measure state-level exposure to exclusion for the first time. We cannot reject the hypothesis that bracero exclusion had no effect on U.S. agricultural wages or employment, and find that important mechanisms for this result include both adoption of less labor-intensive technologies and shifts in crop mix.