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Will robots take your job? 44 percent of Utah jobs at risk of being replaced by automation

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By SHEILA WANG • Standard-Examiner staff

Roughly 44 percent of Utah jobs are at high risk of being replaced by automation in perhaps a decade or two, a data analysis reveals.

Robots are coming after our jobs, enabled by the ever-advancing technology. In Utah, the threat of automation is more imminent to some than others, according to a widely-cited study published by researchers at Oxford University.

The widely-cited study examined 702 common occupations in the US and placed nearly half of them as at high risk of automation.

More than 600,000 Utahns would lose their jobs to robots for the foreseeable future, according to a data analysis based on the study and employment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These Utah workers made around $20.5 billion in wages as of 2016.

The study did not specify how soon this would happen, but it suggested the higher probability of automation, the sooner certain occupation would be replaced by automation.

In Utah, nine jobs were at greatest risk of being taken over robots, with 99 percent probability of automation. Meanwhile, there were also a large number of occupations were very unlikely to be automated any time soon.

A graph below shows the least safe 10 jobs (the first nine jobs were 99 percent probability, and the last was 98 percent) and safest 10 jobs in Utah based on the probabilities of automation (all close to zero probability).

Jobs the most and least at risk of automation

ECONOMIC IMPACT OF AUTOMATION

With automation looming ahead, retails would be one of the hardest-hit industries in Utah.

Retail supports more than 393,000 jobs in Utah and contributes more than $21 billion to the state’s economy, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

More than 40,000 Utahns worked as retail salespersons, and they collectively made nearly $1 billion in wages in 2016, fourth highest among all occupations across the state.

However, their jobs were very likely to be automated soon, 92 percent of probability.

Restaurant and food services, another driving force in Utah’s economy, would lose a substantial number of jobs to automation as well.

The graphic below illustrates how likely the most common and the highest economic-impact jobs would be replaced by automation.

IS YOUR JOB AT RISK?

Not all jobs are created equal. Your jobs might be at higher or lower risk of being taken over by robots, depending on what you do, how much you make, and the minimum education required by your profession.

Generally speaking, the higher a job pays, the safer it is from being taken over by automation, but with a few exceptions.

Use the interactive tool below to find out how likely you would lose your job to robot automation for the foreseeable future.

The bubble graph above demonstrates the correlation between the annual median income of all occupations and their likelihoods of automation. (Note: Any occupation with a wage equal to or greater than $100 per hour or $208,000 per year was not included.)

It shows chief executives in the upper left corner were the highest paid occupation in Utah, with an annual median wage of $181,210. Their jobs were only two percent likely to be taken over by robots.

On the other end of the spectrum, blue-collar jobs were jammed together in the bottom right, mostly with an annual median wage below $40,000. A lot of these jobs were at high risk of automation.

Outliers are noticeable as well. In the upper right corner, compensation and benefit managers, who are responsible of planning or coordinating compensation and benefits activities of an organization, were one of the highest-paying jobs in Utah, but they also were very likely to be replaced by automation, 96 percent probability, even higher than a lot of blue-collar jobs.

When factoring education attainment into the future of employment, the bubble chart reveals another tendency: Occupations with higher education requirement are safer from automation.

The typical entry-level education for each occupation falls in eight categories in accordance with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

An occupation in blue color means it requires at least an Associate’s degree. The darker the color is, the higher level of education is required.

An occupation in orange color indicates the job requires less than an Associate’s degree. The darker the color is, the lower level of education is required.

Postsecondary nondegree award refers to a certificate is awarded by the educational institution and is the result of completing formal postsecondary schooling. Occupations like nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians (EMT's) and paramedics usually fall into this category, according to the BLS.

The lowest-level education requirement is no formal education credential, which means a high school diploma or postsecondary certificate is not typically needed for entry into the occupation. Examples include janitors, cleaners and cashiers.

The graph shows occupations requiring higher level education such as lawyers and financial managers tend to concentrate toward the left, where the likelihood of automation is lower.

Blue-collar jobs, such as cashiers and fast food workers, tend to concentrate toward the right, as their jobs are more likely to be replaced by automation.

However, a higher education requirement does not provide a safety net for all occupations from being taken over by robots. 

For example, accountants and auditors that require at least a Bachelor’s degree to be employed are among the high-risk jobs. Likewise, low-paid workers like electricians, first-line supervisors, and social workers that only need a high school diploma are very safe from automation. 

To identify a specific occupation, type it into the search bar in the graph above.

Contact Reporter Sheila Wang at 801-625-4252 or swang@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook @JournalistSheilaW or on Twitter @SheilaWang7.

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