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What Does Work Look Like in 2026? New Statistics Shine Light on Automation’s Impacts

October 25, 2017

If you're looking to make a career change, you might want to consider medicine, energy, or mathematics—and stay away from manufacturing. On Tuesday the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its biennial report, in which the agency laid out the its predictions for changes in the workforce coming over the next 10 years. The fingerprints of automation and AI can be clearly seen throughout.

It's no secret that automation is expected to continue eliminating jobs, and the report reflects that. Jobs for workers like electronics assemblers and word processers, which are highly susceptible to automation, are anticipated to drop by 45,300 and 25,000, respectively, by 2026.

But automation is also creating a great need for new positions. The bureau anticipates a rise in demand for statisticians, mathematicians, and software developers—occupations that will build the algorithms to control the machines that replace traditional manufacturing workers. Fulfillment jobs for online retailers will continue to grow in number, too, helping to blunt the impact of losing so many manufacturing roles.

The impact of technological innovation varies quite a lot from one job sector to the next. The information sector—which includes areas like telecommunications and software publishing—has five of the 20 fastest-growing industries in terms of real output, but it is expected to require ever fewer workers to produce that output. On the other hand, farms are getting larger as a result of precision agricultural technologies, and overall numbers of agricultural workers are expected to go up, too.

In terms of percentage, the two fastest-growing occupations are in renewable energy: solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians. But since these areas employ a small number of workers to begin with, the total number of new jobs is relatively low.

So where is the biggest growth in total number of jobs expected? That would be the field of medicine, with hundreds of thousands of positions for personal care and home health aides forecast to be created in the coming decade.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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