Shoals Area No. 16 on the list of 20 metros most at risk from automation!

October 11, 2017

Shoals Area No. 16 on the list of 20 metros most at risk from automation!!

Dalton, Georgia, has long been known as the “carpet capital of the world.” In the early 2000s, Dalton produced almost half of the world’s carpet. Walking down the city’s carpet row—a stretch of carpet mills that spans a portion of Interstate 75—you could see miles of carpet mills, whirring activity as wool was spun and knots were tied. There were more than enough jobs for anyone who needed work.

Things are very different today. The economic crisis of 2008 hit Dalton’s carpet industry hard. Under the pressure of global competition, its carpet manufacturers laid people off and replaced human labor with robots. Although it still remains the nation’s “Carpet Capital,” that no longer means good jobs that require a low skill level to perform.

If the present is bleak, the future may well be bleaker. According to new analysis by my colleague Shade Shutters, of Arizona State University, more than two-thirds of Dalton’s jobs—37,574 out of 55,400—are at risk from automation, the highest proportion of any metro in the country. Shutters used occupational data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the types of jobs most at risk from automation across all US metros.

If the previous era of “robot shock” struck hardest at manufacturing workers and communities, the next wave promises to hit as hard or harder at even more vulnerable and lower-paid service workers and their communities across the nation. Indeed, the jobs most at risk from future automation are routine service positions like waiters and bartenders, taxi and limousine drivers, and retail jobs in clothing stores, department stores, sporting good and musical instrument shops, and jobs in the motion picture and video industries. Each of these positions are significantly more at risk than blue-collar jobs in the auto industry. Shutters’ findings extend this catalogue of at risk jobs to account for the people and places that are most vulnerable to automation.

While these findings conform to some broad and well-documented geographic patterns—the metros most at risk tend to be in the Rustbelt and the Sunbelt, while those least at risk are on the East and West Coasts—the divides themselves are far more granular. The Bay Area metros of San Francisco and San Jose are amongst the least vulnerable to automation, while Madera, California, just three hours away, and is among the most vulnerable metros. Furthermore, more than half (54 percent) of voters in Madera County voted for Trump, compared to just 9 percent who did so in San Francisco County

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