November Bureau of Labor Statistics Report Encouraging, but Automation Advancing

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

December 8, 2017
robot replaces human pizza chef
Robots prepare pizzas quicker than humans.
The November Bureau of Labor Statistics report exceeded expectations, and offered hope that the economy is improved. Wall Street predicted 200,000 new payroll jobs, and the total hit 228,000, well above 2017’s monthly 169,000 average.
But once again, and continuing a troubling trend, wage growth disappointed with average hourly earnings rising 0.2 percent month over month. The labor force participation rate stayed flat at 62.7 percent, a near a 30-year low, and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.1 percent.

The November report showed that employment in professional and business services added 46,000 jobs; manufacturing, 31,000; health care, 30,000, and construction, 23,000.

During many recent months, BLS statistics indicated that job creation has often been strongest in the leisure and hospitality industry---hotels, restaurants and bars. Much of restaurant employment growth comes in fast food chains like McDonalds.

But robotics have cut into the need for human employees, and technology has advanced to a point where soon machines will be the method of choice to pick apples, make pizza, and flip burgers. Yum Brands Chief Executive Officer Greg Creed predicted that, by 2020, robots could replace most workers at the company’s popular Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell franchises. At a Shanghai, China Pizza Hut, a robot greeted a customer and escorted him to his table. McDonald’s has introduced ordering kiosks in their restaurants to reduce labor overhead, and to boost profits by prompting customers to add on extra items.

Watch this eight-minute video which shows how robotics has dramatically altered not only the restaurant business but agriculture as well. Note Stanford adjunct professor and computer scientist Sebastian Thrun’s comment in the video that a farmer can “plant, weed and harvest” fields that will feed 150 people, and “barely has to lift a finger to do so.”

With automation displacing many American workers, especially the under-educated and lower-skilled service employees, issuing one million annual legal immigrants’ lifetime work authorization documents, importing hundreds of thousands of temporary workers on employment-based visas like the H-1B, H-2A and H-2B, and eventually granting the legal immigrants petitioned chain migration families is unconscionable.   

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