2010 May 13 Thursday
Permanent Job Losses And Long Term Unemployment

A New York Times piece by Catherine Rampell addresses the long term unemployed of workers whose types of jobs aren't coming back.

Sometimes she blames the bad economy in Jacksonville. Sometimes she sees age discrimination. Sometimes she thinks the problem is that she has not been able to afford a haircut in a while. Or perhaps the paper her résumé is printed on is not nice enough.

The problem cannot be that the occupation she has devoted her life to has been largely computerized, she says.

“You can’t replace the human thought process,” she says. “I can anticipate people’s needs. Usually, I give them what they want before they even know they need it. There will never be a machine that can do that.”

The poor woman comforts herself with delusions. Computers can't anticipate people's needs? Sure they can and their ability to do so will steadily increase. The article reports the woman found work as a cashier at Wal-Mart. But Wal-Mart already has self-service check-out lanes. In the longer run will Wal-Mart even continue to employ human greeters? Or will robot greeters become cheaper, more helpful and more entertaining to customers? Surely shelf stocking will be done by robots.

We live in an era where an increasing number of lower IQ jobs are going away and they aren't coming back. It is crazy to have an immigration policy that increases the number of low skilled workers at a time when demand for low skilled workers is on the decline.

The current recession's job losses dwarf every recession since World War II. Expect a slow recovery. Then rising oil prices will choke off the recovery and another recession will begin.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 May 13 11:22 PM  Economics Labor

miles said at May 15, 2010 10:35 PM:

Remember the movie, Minority Report, with Tom Cruise? Those iris-scans that took place when he walked into a store and welcomed him in?

Where I work, you have to "scan your badge" to get into any computer system, and when you show up in the morning to prove you are actually there. I imagine in the future, you might have an ID badge on you that announces your presence "in the store". If we dont have cash anymore, just debit/credit cards, you will have to use plastic to pay for everything, so when you leave the store, the badge will notify the sensors that you left without payment of any item you happen to be carrying---and the surveillance cameras will be able to tell if you are carrying anything. In fact, those little electronic locks they put on various expensive items could eventually just be "e-tags" that you have to run through a machine to be de-activated in order to keep the door-alarm from not going off. If you steal something, the evidence will be on film, electronically recorded, and the very item ID number will be accounted. Thats all the evidence the police will need when notified. They show up at your house with a warrant, perform the arrest, and zippo...............ya' busted homie.

These innovations would make people at check out counters, and people physically stationed at store entrances (who are really there to note the details of would be shoplfiters/act-as-a-deterrent) unnecessary. Only the customer-service representative would still be there if robots stocked the shelves. I doubt that the savings will be passed along to the consumer however, just the preferred-stock shareholders.

Engineer-Poet said at May 16, 2010 9:08 AM:

RFID tags can be defeated with aluminum foil.  We're not going to see the end of shoplifting any time soon.

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