A coronavirus recession will mean more robots and fewer jobs


Automated delivery bots are already working in the small town of Milton Keynes, England.

All economic downturns increase automation. This one will be worse.

The novel coronavirus pandemic is certainly not good for the labor market. Recent weeks have seen unemployment claims surge to record levels as businesses and entire industries shutter in order to stop the spread of the Covid-19. As a result, the economy has plummeted, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 down more than 20 percent from their February highs.

While social distancing measures may be temporary, this economic downturn’s effect on the labor market will have long-lasting effects. In a joint post with his colleagues, Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, recently wrote, “any coronavirus-related recession is likely to bring about a spike in labor-replacing automation.”

Economic downturns, he argues, bring about increased levels of automation, which is already an existential threat to many jobs. And a coronavirus recession, due to its breadth and scale, could cause even more automation.

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