A.I. and Automation Will Hit Low-Skill Jobs and Trump Swing States Hardest

January 24, 2019, 2:13 PM UTC

Artificial intelligence and automation are a big threat to a quarter of U.S. workers—36 million people—according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. Another 36% of workers, or 52 million people, will face medium exposure to automation threats by 2030.

Jobs where 70% of the responsibilities are “predictable physical and cognitive tasks” will most at risk, said the report. They include positions in office administration, production, transportation, and food preparation. That means the people hit first and hardest will be in the lowest wage roles.

“That population is going to need to upskill, reskill or change jobs fast,” lead report author Mark Muro told the Associated Press.

Although the timeline for change could be “a few years or it could be two decades,” according to Muro, the next economic downturn will accelerate the trend. Facing difficult times, businesses are more likely to replace employees with automation where possible.

The 19 heartland states have a higher percentage of employment tasks that could be automated. The threat also effectively splits along political party lines. Almost all the states that voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election have the highest exposures to job loss risk. In particular, states that have a heavy manufacturing labor base—Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa—that swung the election for Donald Trump have 27% of the jobs that could be automated in the near term, according to Reuters.

The amount of retraining and education necessary to prevent enormous levels of unemployment would take massive efforts that aren’t currently planned.