Automation could widen disparities between high-growth cities and struggling rural areas, and between high-wage workers and everyone else

NIV ELIS, The Hill

Advancing technology and automation are likely to hit rural areas and the middle class hardest, according to a new report by McKinsey.

The report, entitled The Future of Work in America, looked at over 3,000 counties and 315 cities, and found that some 83 percent of the counties expected to see the highest levels of job displacement were rural areas. Those vulnerable areas house 20.3 million people.

Large urban centers and their peripheries would see a lower rate of displacement, and also benefit more from the creation of new jobs that likely require more skills and education.

“Urban areas with more diversified economies and workers with higher educational attainment, such as Washington, DC, and Durham, NC, might feel somewhat less severe effects from automation,” the report said.

The trend will only exacerbate an uneven recovery from the Great Recession, where much of the job growth has been concentrated in cities and hubs, while distressed rural areas still have a net loss of jobs.

Another trend the report said was “worrisome” was the hollowing out of middle-income jobs.

“Our analysis suggests that by 2030, they could decline as a share of national employment by 3.4 percentage points,”

the report found.

“Forging career pathways to help people move up and finding sources of future middle-wage jobs will be essential to sustaining the US middle class,” it continued.

Much of that has to do with what kinds of jobs are created and lost as automation increases.

Office support and food service jobs could decline, but jobs in health, STEM fields, business services and more creative fields would see growth.

“Growth and displacement may occur even within the same occupational category,” the report noted. “In customer service and retail sales, for example, counter attendants and rental clerks may decline, but more workers could be added to help customers in stores or to staff distribution centers,” it added.

The changing face of the American economy is a central issue in many of the political campaigns.

2020 Democratic contender Andrew Yang‘s central campaign promise is introducing a universal basic income to combat automation, which would provide every family with $1,000 a month.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are campaigning on restructuring the economy to help those at the bottom.

In 2016, President Trump ran as an advocate for forgotten rural areas.

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