A recent Wall Street Journal article reminds us of where work is headed in the future, and that is in the direction of knowledge, and not routine work. Ashtabula County’s economy must evolve away from routine manufacturing to advanced manufacturing and other industries where knowledge drives business.
The WSJ article explains why this is happening. Economists believe it’s because jobs that are highly routine are the most susceptible to being replaced by automation and technology—Excel spreadsheets replace bookkeepers and sophisticated robots replace people on the assembly line. Especially during periods of recession, many workers in routine occupations lose their jobs and aren’t hired back as the economy recovers. We saw this happen in Ashtabula County during and after the last recession. (The definitions of these categories come from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.)
While routine jobs have gone nowhere over the past three decades, the number of people in knowledge work jobs has more than doubled, and there are no signs of that trend slowing. This strongly suggests that even though technology is eliminating some jobs, it’s creating even more in different fields. This related WSJ article is also a must read on why routine work is dying.