Romano: Robots Are Not To Blame For Weak Job Growth

THAT WOULD BE THE WEAK ECONOMY’S FAULT … By ROBERT ROMANO ||  The Senate Budget Committee Republicans tweeted out an interesting piece from the New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller, which in part notes a dramatic drop in labor force participation in the U.S. economy. It quoted a key portion…


By ROBERT ROMANO ||  The Senate Budget Committee Republicans tweeted out an interesting piece from the New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller, which in part notes a dramatic drop in labor force participation in the U.S. economy.

It quoted a key portion of the piece: “More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s,” and “30 percent of women are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s.”

Normally, out of context, one might simply assume the story was about the jobless recovery that has followed the 2008 financial crisis. In terms of growth, jobs, and everything else, this is the worst post-recession recovery since World War II.

And yet context is critical. The story Senate Republicans quoted has little to do with the post-financial crisis or the Obama economy if you read it. It’s actually about how robots may ultimately take all of our jobs, with the headline, “As robots grow smarter, American workers struggle to keep up.”

No, this is not science fiction. Technological automation has long been a worrying future prospect ever since the Industrial Revolution’s Luddite movement. Why?

At its core, the economy depends on people producing something of value, and being compensated for their value via income. Their income, in turn, is used to purchase goods and services, to save and invest, buy a home, and to provide for one’s family.

It all works because there is an incentive to work. But are we reaching the point technologically where there is less of a need to work? And what would that mean for the future?

It is certainly true that two factors, automation and globalization, have meant that jobs once performed by the low skill labor pool have long since been mechanized and/or outsourced.

Technology definitely put most people off of farms. Now, far fewer farmers produce more output than ever due to machines.

So, off people went to factories. But eventually, China and others have simply figured out how to do it exponentially cheaper with de facto slave labor. Here, robots have in fact taken over U.S. manufacturing floors.

Yet, on the other hand, if innovation and automation were supposed to kill jobs, they certainly have not as of yet.

Consider the 25-54 aged population since 1948 has increased 109 percent to roughly 124 million, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of jobs has more than kept pace, increasing 159 percent to 95.8 million. In 1948, the employment-population ratio for that age group was 62.6 percent, and today it’s 76.9 percent.

(To continue reading this piece, press the “Read More …” icon below).

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.  This piece (reprinted with permission) originally appeared on

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Flip Coscoe December 22, 2014 at 11:42 am

Excellent article. Not ‘robots’- the generational welfare mentality has infected poor whites that used to be considered ‘lower’ middle class’.

Manray9 December 22, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Blame the victims.

Flip Coscoe December 22, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Victims of what?

VictimHood December 22, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Victims of productivity and/or skill.


FastEddy23 December 22, 2014 at 12:17 pm

True enough: In any industry that has converted to automatic manufacturing, machine vision, robotics, the total number of human employees has risen.

Of course a majority of the “robot” factories are not being set up in the USA. The high USA operating costs and costs of taxation are forcing many automated factories to be built offshore.

(Mexico is a favorite of US auto makers, Japanese auto makers, too. High tech is still headed got China, although not as much as a decade ago.)

Centrist View December 22, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Robert Romano sounds like he has never set foot on a manufacturing floor.

vicupstate December 22, 2014 at 12:35 pm

The author compares the US labor market in 1948 to today yet does not take into account 1) Europe was still rebuilding from WWII in 1948 and 2) India, Mexico and China, among others, were not competitors to the US either back then. Too many variables to make an Apples to Apples comparison.

Bible Thumper December 22, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Romano doesn’t state that they are not working by choice. Some have unearned income, some are wealthy, some are supported by their spouses, there may be more receiving social security disability and some may be discouraged workers.

Econ 101: Increased productivity delivers a combination of more goods and more free time, therefore fewer workers.

Sure, l believe there exist under-employment, but it is not do to robots or cheap foreign labor.

There is nothing here. Move on.

Anonymous December 22, 2014 at 8:32 pm

The author is making an incredibly flimsy case by arguing that the number of jobs and the labor force participation rate have grown since 1948. Um okay, that’s nice.

This website rants constantly about the fall of the labor force participation rate in recent years, and this is due in part to increasing automation.

The harsh reality is that many people in this country today cannot keep up with the pace of technological change. They do not have the education or training to use the new technological advances in a highly productive fashion, or even a moderately productive fashion. Some question whether they would even have necessary the intelligence, if education were an unlimited commodity.

The modern American economy just does not need as many workers as it once did, and our population has not adjusted to reflect that reality, leaving many people with nothing to do all day. Hopefully we will figure out a solution soon…

GrandTango's Ego Ideal December 22, 2014 at 9:13 pm Reply
Native Ink December 23, 2014 at 12:29 pm

No so long ago, a future with less work was considered the ideal. This was back when people were comfortable with a somewhat even distribution of society’s wealth. If we were still comfortable with that concept, we’d reduce the workweek to 30 hours, raise the tax rate on the rich, and all have much more leisure time to spend as we see fit.

Instead we now have a winner-take-all society where the rich reap the benefits of technological advances, the middle class shrinks, and the unemployed poor are blamed for not finding jobs that no longer exist.


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