New York Times on Structural Unemployment

There’s a good article in the New York Times about structural unemployment:

For the last two years, the weak economy has provided an opportunity for employers to do what they would have done anyway: dismiss millions of people — like file clerks, ticket agents and autoworkers — who were displaced by technological advances and international trade.

Of course, the article accepts the convention wisdom which says that this story is only going to occur in select areas of the workforce (file clerks, travel agents, etc.) and that it will be temporary as most workers will eventually adapt by re-training, etc.  What if it is not temporary? What if the trend accelerates and begins to impact a broader and broader segment of the workforce as advancing technology makes even highly skilled jobs obsolete?

As the article suggests, very often the job of last resort in cases like this is a part-time position at Wal-mart. What happens when Wal-mart begins to automate? Do people really believe that will never happen? Wal-mart management was already starting to think about it back in 2005.

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