Is Your Job ‘Routine’? If So, It’s Probably Disappearing

Employees work at an assembly line in the Toyota manufacturing plant located in Chachoengsao province, east of Bangkok. Mr. Siu thinks jobs have been taken away by automation, more than by outsourcing. While some manufacturing jobs have clearly gone overseas, “it’s hard to offshore a secretary.” CHAIWAT SUBPRASOM/REUTERS

The American labor market and middle class was once built on the routine job–workers showed up at factories and offices, took their places on the assembly line or the paper-pushing chain, did the same task over and over, and then went home.

New research from Henry Siu at the University of British Columbia and Nir Jaimovich from Duke University shows just how much the world of routine work has collapsed. The economists released a paper today, published by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, showing that over the course of the last two recessions and recoveries, a period beginning in 2001, the economy’s job growth has come entirely from nonroutine work…



  • BillyHW

    Most people are actually useless.

    • Reader

      And almost all politicians.

  • Dana Garcia

    How is this brave new economy supposed to work when human workers are mostly obsolete? The masters of the universe don’t seem to have thought of that.

    • Specialised workers (engineers, repairmen, techs of some sort) will be alright. It’s work that can be automated or given to a Chinese worker that will disappear further from North America.

  • simus1

    Most literate definitions of middle class involve a breadwinner who is a member of a productive profession, often self employed, or the owner of a successful business employing staff.
    Middle class lifestyle, such as civil servants cohabiting in a big brick veneer plywood palace in the ‘burbs or something cutesy in the Annex courtesy of the efforts of their union and leftist spendaholic employers, is not the same thing.

  • Gary

    Lets not overlook the Human Rights Commissions and the Law suits launched by employees and endless Government rules and costs to just open the doors every morning and hope to make a profit and avoid the Protesters and Boycott thugs.
    I wanted to build products here in Ontario that were ECO-friendly and mainly for the Disabled. But I could not believe the paper work and layers of Government along with ECO studies that would take almost 7 years to get a factory approved to build it which was at least 2 years and then train the employees.
    Dalton created the condition that made it easier for me to build my products in China and Import them into Canada while these foreign workers suffer the low wages and pollution issues as we also see in Mexico .

    Tool bad we can’t just have an Election where we vote for what we want done and the actual Policy is fulfilled by off-shore Contracted Services where people can be fired or jailed for any fraud while we save $millions with smaller Government and no more Cash-4-Life Pensions and pay-off’s to criminals in the Government that currently get rewards for their crimes .

    Toronto has very few business that produce wealth by an actual product that have values , so for now we just see a growth in Social workers, lawyers, Cops, and paper-pushers in Public jobs where they use 6 people to do the work that normally take just 2 workers in the private sectors.
    We can’t build wealth from the retail jobs at Dollar Stores on imported car sales and selling the same house over a 40 year period.

    • El Martyachi

      Wealth, value, private sector.. these aren’t things to be discussed in polite company today.

  • Jay Currie

    What’s a secretary?

  • Editor

    I remember watching a tv show called “Here come the ’70s” when I was a kid that suggested I pick up a hobby because the leisure society was upon us and with the advent of computers, we’d soon all be looking for stuff to do to keep busy. I’m still waiting . . .