Author: Neil Harrington
Previous articles in this series looked at the North Carolina labor market’s exposure to automation related employment disruptions at the occupation and industry level. This article builds on that work by examining the demographic composition of workers in the most exposed industries. Demographic groups that are overrepresented in exposed industries reflect the subsectors’ high share of these workers and their current education or skills levels. Many of the occupations and industries that face the most exposure to automation have more jobs typically requiring lower levels of educational attainment or formal skills training. This trend generally holds among the demographic groups most overrepresented in exposed industries. Without proper guardrails in place such as robust worker training systems and industry supports, automation could disproportionately impact certain segments of the population, many of which are already vulnerable in the current economy.
By age, younger workers’ share of employment in automation-exposed industries is most out of line with their share of total employment. Young people’s 41 percent share of employment in the Food Services and Drinking Places subsector drives their overrepresentation in exposed industries. For many young folks, restaurants, fast food, or other food service establishments provide their first job and exposure to formal work. These types of businesses have some of the most automatable jobs because many of the tasks are routine and manual in nature.
Youth employment in North Carolina is lower today than historical levels, which already has negative implications for employability and soft skills development, lifetime earnings, and community wellbeing. If automation does eliminate more opportunities for youth employment, it could exacerbate these issues.