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Eighty million U.S. jobs at risk from automation, central bank official says

Bank of England

Eighty million U.S. jobs are at risk from automation, a central bank official said Thursday.

Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane, speaking at the Trades Union Congress in London, said 80 million U.S. and 15 million U.K. jobs are in danger of being taken over by robots.

In October, the U.S. employed close to 143 million people outside the farm sector.

Haldane added the jobs that are most at risk from automation tend to have the lowest wage. “In other words, technology could act like a regressive income tax on the unskilled. It could further widen income disparities,” he said.

He did allow that, in past experience, technological advances end up boosting demand for new goods from new industries requiring new workers.

“Yet the smarter machines become, the greater the likelihood that the space remaining for uniquely-human skills could shrink further,” Haldane said. He said what was previously unthinkable even a decade ago is now reality, like a driverless car.

Being a central banker, Haldane further pointed out that the narrowing of slack is having less impact on wages than in the past. “That might arise because technology has made it easier and cheaper than ever before to substitute labor for capital, man for machine,” he said.

He said the case for raising interest rates in the U.K. “is still some way from being made.”

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