One in three jobs in Metro Phoenix are at high risk of automation by 2030, according to a report by New America researchers in partnership with market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies.
Those 649,040 people represent 35 percent of the total jobs in Phoenix, with another 537,110 jobs (29 percent) at moderate risk of automation, and only 36 percent at low risk.
In regards to high risk jobs, Phoenix matches the national average. However, Phoenix has one percent more moderate-risk jobs, leaving one percent fewer low-risk jobs as well.
In terms of low paid jobs (under $35,000), the most at-risk occupations include:
• Retail Salespersons
• Food Preparation and Serving Workers
• Waiters and Waitresses
• Restaurant Cooks
• Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers
• Receptionists and Information Clerks
Middle paid jobs (from $35,000 to $60,000) at high risk of automation include:
• General Office Clerks
• Secretaries and Administrative Assistants (except legal, medical, and executive)
• Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
• Construction Laborers
• Billing and Posting Clerks
Not many high paying jobs ($60,000 to $90,000) are at high risk. The only ones noted were Accountants and Auditors, and Loan Officers.
Looking at the bigger picture, there are several populations rendered most vulnerable by advancing technology. Less-educated workers are one such group, with 45 percent of employees with a high school degree in high-risk jobs, and only 18 percent in low-risk jobs. In contrast, workers possessing a BA or higher represent half of the low-risk jobs demographic.
This is especially a problem in Phoenix because levels of secondary education attainment are lower than the national average. Nationally, 87 percent of people above 25 have a high school degree and 30 percent have a BA, but in Phoenix that drops to 81 percent and 27 percent, respectively.
Workers who earn less are another vulnerable subgroup. On average, the salary for low-risk workers is double the salary of high-risk workers. In Phoenix, 56 percent of employees earning less than $25,000 are in high-risk jobs.
Women represent an especially threatened sector of the workforce because they dominate high risk occupations like food and retail industries. For example, cashiers, office clerks, and secretaries and administrative assistants total 44,000, 36,000, and 29,000 employees in Phoenix, respectively, yet each position has more than a 95 percent risk of automation.
Furthermore, there are a few reasons why Phoenix may be more vulnerable to automation when compared to national averages. First of all, Phoenix has 10 percent more workers in office and administrative support, which are medium to high risk positions, and six percent more workers in high-risk jobs involving sales.
Phoenix employees are also less well-represented in low-risk occupations. For instance, Phoenix has 32 percent fewer workers in education, training, and library positions.
However, Phoenix has a few things going for it as well. Positions in management or business and finance are at a low risk of automation, and Phoenix has 20 percent more employees in the former and 9 percent more in the latter.
Phoenix also has 21 percent more workers in medium-risk positions in computers and math. In terms of high-risk positions, Phoenix has 51 percent fewer employees in manufacturing, and 13 percent fewer in transportation and material moving.
As the authors of the study note, it’s important to remember that automation doesn’t necessarily indicate job displacement. Technology predications are highly variable, and there is a wealth of legal, financial, or social factors that could shift adoption rates.
In addition, while some tasks may be automated, the job itself may expand or change. Employees in at-risk occupations are encouraged to upskill to stay on top of evolving job requirements.
Though automation is usually a grim forecast, it doesn’t have to be a foreboding sign for Phoenix workers. While half of job tasks are estimated to have the possibility of automation, only 5 percent of jobs are expected to be removed entirely. And half of job growth from 1980 to 2010 came from the creation and expansion of new jobs, so improving technology may simply move the workforce forward.