Across the Divide 4/20/18: The Robots are Coming!

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Across the Divide

New ideas from around the world that could impact your business here in La Plata County!
Brought to you by your La Plata County Economic Development Alliance

April 20, 2018

The Robots are Coming!






And Sweden, for one, is happy to welcome their new mechanical overlords:

The article looks at different elements that might contribute to Sweden’s comfort with automation: a generous social welfare state, effective workforce training, strong unions, and a corporate/employee culture that embraces efficiency as a benefit for everyone.  “No one feels like they are taking jobs away,” says one union leader, “it’s about doing more with the people we’ve got.”

The article also points out that the United States is generally more pessimistic about automation: almost three-quarters of Americans are concerned about robots taking jobs done by people.

How much are we at risk of losing our job to Arnold Schwarzenegger?  The US Department of Labor runs a database called the Occupational Information Network, or O-NET.  One of the analyses O-NET provides is the degree of automation by each job occupation in the United States.  The more automated the job, the easier it is to be replaced by a machine.  The three occupations at highest risk to automation according to O-Net are farmworkers, claims examiners, and travel agents.  About 3% of jobs in the United States, or 3.6 million in total, appear to be “highly automated” and could be subject to machination.

Another important question is:  How much are we here in La Plata County at risk to automation?  Using the O-NET database and workforce data from the Office of Economic Development for Colorado (OEDIT), the Alliance took a look at jobs in La Plata County by automation level:






Of the nearly 28,000 jobs in La Plata County tracked by OEDIT, about 70% of them are either “not automated” or “slightly automated”.  Moreover, the share of jobs in La Plata County that are “not automated” is 15% higher than the national average (1.15 on the righthand axis), while the share of jobs that are “highly automated” is 13% below the national average (.87 on the righthand axis).

Moreover, La Plata County has seen better job creation in the “not automated” or “slightly automated” categories since the end of the recession.  Since 2011, almost three-quarters of all new jobs have come in these two categories.  In contrast, there have been only 35 new jobs total in “highly automated” job categories. That is less than 1% of all new local jobs.

There are jobs at risk of automation in La Plata County.  However, we are less at risk of Terminators than the nation overall, and more of our local jobs are moving toward work that is hard for machines to replicate.  It doesn’t make us immune from automation, but suggests we have more time to see if Sweden’s optimism is warranted.

-Roger Zalneraitis, Executive Director

Hat tip to Stuart Jenkins at Senator Michael Bennett’s office for sending us the New York Times article!

If you come across an article on business, politics, or economics that can have an impact here in the Four Corners, send it over to and we will give you a special thank you courtesy of the investors in the Economic Development Alliance!