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Robots more likely to replace US workers in these 10 areas

Megan Henney

The labor market may be humming right now, but there may be a dark cloud looming ahead.

Over the course of the next decade, up to 800 million jobs globally could disappear due to advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, according to research from the McKinsey Global Institute, a top consulting firm. An estimated one-third of the 2030 workforce in the U.S. may need to learn new skills and find work in new occupations.

The changes won’t hit the country equally. It will vary for groups of workers -- manufacturing industries have been the most adversely affected by automation over the past decade -- and could threaten some metropolitan areas more than others.

Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana, California, were the most exposed to robots and automation, according to a report published by the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank headquartered in New York City.

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Those metropolitan areas were followed by Chicago, Naperville and Joliet in Illinois. Still, job losses from automation possibly won’t affect overall employment, as displaced workers could find other jobs -- particularly in a strong economy with low unemployment. The study analyzed the impact of robots in the years after the financial crisis, a period of significant economic growth during which the use of robots in the American workforce more than doubled.

Houston, Baytown and Sugar Land, Texas, came in third with respect to the so-called “robot intensity.” After that came Phoenix, Mesa and Scottsdale in Arizona, and in fifth place, was Detroit, Warren and Dearborn, Michigan.

Milwaukee, Waukesha and West Allis, Wisconsin, placed sixth, followed by Philadelphia, Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware.

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Other areas of California may also be impacted by robots, including San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, which came in seventh.

Two Midwest areas -- Indianapolis and Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio -- rounded out the list.

Still, the adoption of robots since the recession has benefited some groups of workers, including young, less educated men and less educated adult women, according to the study. Some groups, like less educated women and less educated minority men and women, actually saw wage gains, thanks to robots.

“Our findings suggest that, at the current stage and pace of robot growth, and with the right economic conditions in place, some workers without a college degree may benefit from robotization,” the report said. “This is perhaps due to robots stimulating demand for goods, creating new markets, and spurring wage growth.”

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