• ITVI.USA
    13,798.790
    84.450
    0.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.660
    -0.270
    -1.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    13,773.890
    87.510
    0.6%
  • TLT.USA
    2.800
    -0.040
    -1.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.480
    -0.170
    -6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.070
    -0.210
    -6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.090
    -6.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.280
    -0.210
    -8.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.900
    -0.070
    -3.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.720
    -0.270
    -9%
  • WAIT.USA
    127.000
    0.000
    0%
  • ITVI.USA
    13,798.790
    84.450
    0.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.660
    -0.270
    -1.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    13,773.890
    87.510
    0.6%
  • TLT.USA
    2.800
    -0.040
    -1.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.480
    -0.170
    -6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.070
    -0.210
    -6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.090
    -6.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.280
    -0.210
    -8.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.900
    -0.070
    -3.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.720
    -0.270
    -9%
  • WAIT.USA
    127.000
    0.000
    0%
American ShipperWarehouse

Commentary: The real threat (and solution) for U.S. jobs

Technology is the fundamental reason why the manufacturing jobs of the 1950s and ‘60s have gone away and won’t come back, not trade deals and currency devaluation, according to American Shipper IT Editor Eric Johnson.

   In mere weeks, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as president, and part of the platform upon which he rode to Washington was the idea that manufacturing jobs can and should return to the United States.
   Let’s leave aside the issue of whether this is possible for the moment and look more closely at the real threat to those jobs. While the outsourcing of manufacturing, increased levels of imported goods, and free trade in general have been vilified as U.S. job killers by some politicians and pundits, that view disregards a much more potent dynamic: technology.
   Technology is the fundamental reason why the manufacturing jobs of the 1950s and ‘60s have gone away and won’t come back – not trade deals and currency devaluation.
   Factories in Los Angeles and New England still churn out good ol’ Made in the U.S.A. apparel, but at prices considered unpalatable to most American budgets. The issue is not whether consumer goods can be made in the U.S., it’s whether American consumers can afford them.
   And this is where technology is really the threat and the solution. Makers of robotics and artificial intelligence are creating automated factories, warehouses, and vehicles that have little regard for hardline trade policies. And that innovation isn’t going to stop for anything.
   Those advances in technology certainly threaten jobs as they exist today, but they also create new, different jobs. After all, a human being is still needed to build, program and maintain all of the various systems and machines required for highly automated functions.
   The real questions to ask are: do these advancements threaten the total number of jobs available in the future; and, more hopefully, can we as an economy adapt our workforce and vocational infrastructure to match the jobs that will be created?
   Let me reemphasize: the handwringing over trade deals is a diversion. Almost every economist worth their salt recognizes free trade lifts economies, though not necessarily evenly or quickly. But there is simply no way for politicians or governments to restrict technology development the way they can trade.
   Rather than complain, people should be figuring out how to ride this incredible (albeit scary) wave of technological innovation, rather than be displaced by it. This goes beyond grandma not being able to work the remote for the television. This is about resetting what work looks like and how people can prosper in a world where automation becomes more ubiquitous than we can imagine. It may sound harsh, but instead of waiting for manufacturing jobs to return from Mexico or overseas, unions and other groups should be looking to identify and train their members for the new jobs created by technological advancement.
   From a supply chain perspective, think about how your role, and that of your department, will be transformed by technologies that exist today, and those that are coming. When the topic of trade and lost or outsourced jobs comes up at the next dinner party you attend, be the person who says, “forget about making trade the pariah, let’s get real about technology.”