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Retail Jobs at High Risk, Study Finds

The workforce in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area most vulnerable to automation can be found in the retail sector, according to research commissioned by an Illinois manufacturing company. The study conducted for Kempler Industries Inc. showed that out of 6.1 million jobs, about 27.7 percent were at risk for loss due to automation. Out of that number, about 155,000 were retail salespeople and another 143,310 were cashiers, while combined food prep and serving workers, including fast food restaurants, totaled about 141,700 vulnerable jobs. Statewide, 26.8 percent of all California jobs are conidered at-risk to automation-related job loss. Kempler, in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove Village, used data for the study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and University of Oxford’s study on “The Future of Employment.” Tricia Harte, an outreach manager with Digital Third Coast in Chicago, which helped with the analysis and handled the media outreach of the study, said that Kempler did it as part of a series of educational studies. “They primarily work with manufacturing industries, so when they set out to do this piece it was to gain additional insight because when everyone hears automation they associate it with manufacturing and this study revealed a bit of a different result,” Harte said. The study found that South Dakota, Nevada and Florida are the states most vulnerable to job loss, with Las Vegas, Orlando and Miami as the metro areas most vulnerable. The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro market tied for 23rd with the San Diego-Carlsbad area. “They were slightly above the state average with the percentage of the workforce considered vulnerable,” Harte said. For the study’s purposes, automation was defined as replacing a human position with a computer or software program, she added. A lot of people hear automation they assume or visualize a factory where line workers are replaced by computers or robots. But increasingly, and as borne out by the Kempler study, retail jobs are threatened by people shopping online or cashiers losing their jobs because people use a kiosk or a self-checkout counter, Harte said. “Most people don’t think of those as automation that replaces a position, but in these cases it does” Harte said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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