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Study: Long Island has more than 180,000 jobs at high risk from automation

A menu is displayed at eatsa, a fully

A menu is displayed at eatsa, a fully automated fast food restaurant in San Francisco on Aug. 31, 2015.     Credit: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Long Island has 182,650 jobs that are “highly” vulnerable to automation, meaning that most of the work can be done by machines, according to a study released Tuesday.

Of New York's 10 major regions, the Island ranks second in the state in the number of jobs at high risk to automation, second only to New York City’s 454,010, said the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank that advocates for the creation of middle-class jobs. The study said jobs were highly automatable when 80 percent of the tasks in those jobs can be performed by machines.

The jobs that "offer New Yorkers a foothold in the economy and a gateway to the middle class are the ones most threatened by automation,” the study said.

The job numbers are based on 2016 statistics from the state Labor Department.  

On a percentage basis, 13.8 percent of all of the Island’s jobs are highly automatable, ranking it in the “middle of the pack” among regions across the state. The percentage is higher than New York City’s 10.2 percent and the Hudson Valley’s 12.5 percent, but lower than Central New York’s 16.3 percent and the Mohawk Valley’s 15.3 percent.

Not all the highly automatable jobs will disappear. Some will go away, while a significant number will be transformed in the years ahead and require a greater degree of technological know-how, the group said. Its report, “The State of Work: The coming impact of automation on New York,” is from the center’s Middle Class Jobs Project initiative.

“A new wave of automation is coming down the pike, and it has the potential to transform tens of thousands of jobs across the state,” says Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the center. “State and local officials need to get ahead of this and start preparing New Yorkers now for a more automated economy.”

The coming wave of automation is likely to affect lower-and-middle class jobs the most, the study said.

Some of the most automatable jobs on Long Island involve food preparation and serving, including fast food. Others include bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks; stock clerks and order fillers.

The study estimates that about $26.1 billion in annual wages could be affected.

Employers need to share the productivity gains from automation with workers by improving wages, said Martin Melkonian, associate professor of economics at Hofstra University.

“Productivity has continued to rise in the past 10 years, but very little has been passed on in improvements in real wages,” he said.

Economist Michael Hicks, co-author of an automation study released last year and the head of Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said, “New York will need to send more of its kids to school, see more of them do well in K-12 and have more postsecondary non-college options.” He added that “Business will also have to do a lot more upskilling of workers.”

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