Do we need humans for that job? Automation booms after COVID

National News

Baylee Bowers pays for her lunch using her cell phone at Bartaco in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. The restaurant is using an automated app for ordering and payments. Instead of servers they use “food runners” to get orders to tables. “I like it,” says Bowers of the automation, “it was easy. I’m a flight attendant so as long as automation doesn’t come for my job I’m ok with it.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The pandemic didn’t just threaten Americans’ health when it slammed the U.S. in 2020 as it may also have created a long-term threat to many of their jobs.

Faced with worker shortages and higher labor costs, companies are starting to automate service sector jobs that economists once considered safe because they provided customers with human contact.

Past experience suggests that such automation waves eventually create more jobs than they destroy, but in the meantime, the growing pains for the U.S. economy could be severe.

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