Where have all the manufacturing jobs gone? If you ask Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the answer is clear: China! But there is another, more plausible explanation. To paraphrase Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, “It’s the robots, stupid”.
The U.S. has lost 5 million factory jobs since 2000. And trade has indeed claimed production jobs - in particular when China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. Nevertheless, there was no downturn in U.S. manufacturing output. As a matter of fact, U.S. production has been growing over the last decades. From 2006 to 2013, “manufacturing grew by 17.6%, or at roughly 2.2% per year,” according to a report from Ball State University. The study reports as well that trade accounted for 13% of the lost U.S. factory jobs, but 88% of the jobs were taken by robots and other factors at home.
And it isn't going to slow down anytime soon.
Port of L.A.’s automated terminal: Future of commerce or blue-collar job-killer?
Such automation allows the terminal to handle greater volumes of goods in a tighter, more efficient space, Owens said. The electric- and hybrid-powered equipment also produces lower emissions.
Labor advocates, however, see no beauty in this gargantuan choreography. For the union representing dockworkers, new-age terminals are job killers that threaten Southern California’s shrinking blue-collar class.
It's a brave new world. Complicating this issue is the increasingly prohibitive cost of getting the education and training that will be necessary to get the jobs that can't be replaced by robots in the future.