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Are Robots Taking Our Jobs, or Making Them?

September 9, 2013

Neo-Luddites are once again blaming technology for job loss but the evidence shows they are wrong.

With U.S. unemployment remaining stubbornly above 7 percent and job growth anemic, many have latched on to a compelling explanation: “the robots are taking our jobs.” In other words, a “neo-Luddite” narrative has taken hold. According to this line of thinking, high productivity driven by increasingly powerful IT-enabled machines is the cause of U.S. labor market problems, and accelerating technological change will only make those problems worse. There’s only one flaw in this narrative: it is completely wrong and not supported by data, scholarly evidence or logic. This report analyzes the “robots are killing our jobs” arguments, shows how they are constructed on faulty analysis, examines the extensive economic literature on the relationship between employment and productivity, and explains the logic of how higher productivity leads to more jobs. We show that more technology benefits not just the economy overall, but workers: more and better technology is essential to U.S. competitiveness and higher living standards. The claim that increased productivity eliminates jobs is misguided speculation.

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