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Why tech jobs may disappear due to automation

Yahoo Finance’s Emily McCormick explains why more Americans are in jeopardy of losing their jobs to automation.

Video Transcript

[WHOOSHING]

JULIE HYMAN: With the job losses that have been the result of the pandemic, it sort of overshadowed other sort of labor trends that we were monitoring before. One of them has been the loss of lower-level tech jobs because of automation. In this case, automation might be things like artificial intelligence.

And our Emily McCormick has been watching that trend. And, Emily, I guess it hasn't gone away, even as we are seeing the bigger trend of what's happening because of the pandemic.

EMILY MCCORMICK: Absolutely, Julie. And just taking a look at that question of whether software and namely artificial intelligence machine learning are getting to the point where they're able to actually make redundant some of these lower-level software development and coding jobs, this is an especially timely question now because a number of studies have really pointed to the fact that automation tends to accelerate during economic downturns as companies look to cut costs and make work more efficient, so a downturn like the one that we're in now induced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, taking a look at a report from McKinsey from September found that of 800 executives that were surveyed, nearly half of them noted that their use of automation had accelerated moderately, and about 20% of them reported significantly increasing automation during 2020. Now, a lot of times, when we think of automation, we think about the lower-wage service workers-- like cashiers and truck drivers-- who might be fully displaced by some of these developments. But there's also been progress made that have allowed companies to make work more efficient in the work of data scientists and software developers and the coders themselves to the point that they might not need to hire the volume of workers typically required to perform a task.

Now, this has really accelerated in the past couple of years with what we call the low-code or the no-code movement. A number of companies, including the big tech players, have come out with work in this area. We had Amazon actually just this year launching a program called Honeycode through AWS that lets users build web and mobile applications without using code. There's a venture-backed startup called Bubble that offers a similar service, and it's used by employees at companies like the Boston Consulting Group and Dannon. And then other existing programs are more complements rather than substitutes for entire job titles.

Now, we have Amazon's CodeGuru that uses machine learning to automate coding reviews and recommend coding improvements for developers. So that's more of something that streamlines existing workloads. And Amazon's SageMaker builds and trains machine learning models for its tens of thousands of customers. And through Google, Cloud AutoML actually offers a similar service.

Now, at the same time, I do want to point out that government data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics does show that software development employment is actually expected to grow 22% between 2019 and 2029, so that's far greater than the average growth rate of 4% across all occupations. Now, a lot of times, anecdotally, we hear about the shortage of high-skilled tech labor, but speaking with a lot of these researchers, one of the things that they pointed out is, it's actually the shortage of high-skilled tech labor that has made it more urgent for the ones who are out there to create tools to plug the deficit between that supply and demand. So a couple of trends to really watch here, especially as we watch some of these entry-level data scientists and programming roles and where growth actually exists for the future for them.

JULIE HYMAN: Yes, most definitely, Emily. Thank you so much. Really interesting to keep an eye on those trends.