The trend is in plain sight in Dalton, Georgia, a manufacturing hub 90 miles (145 km)north of Atlanta. Massive factories that made it "the carpet capital of the world," were slammed by the collapse of the housing bubble. During the recession, with machines idle, they began investing heavily in new technology and are now laying plans to restore some lost jobs.No reason to think this isn't the wave of the future. No reason to say that employers ought to be compelled to hire people instead of buying lower-cost capital improvements that automate the process. As the economy advances in automation and robotics, though, we just don't need as many people.
But the new positions are more skewed to the high and low end, and there will be fewer of them per dollar of output than before the recession, said Brian Anderson, president of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce.
"We can produce a whole lot of new carpet with not a lot more people," Anderson said. Companies have spent between $1.5 and $2 billion on retooling and innovation, reducing demand for labor, while higher than average regional unemployment continued to hold down wages, he said.
The effect is that families -- not poor, but solidly middle class families who were doing well a few years ago -- are rapidly falling towards bankruptcy.
Between 2010 and 2013, as recovery took hold and stock markets soared, the average net worth of families in the top 40 percent of income earners grew. For all others average net worth shrank, declining 19 percent for the middle fifth.I don't think that's going to turn around, not in the next two years and not even after. It's a structural problem, though government has certainly made it worse by forcing industries to shift to part-time work to avoid the impossible obligations of Obamacare. Work is no longer going to be a reliable way to wealth, because work isn't going to be available for everyone. Everybody will be working part-time, and nobody will be making a living, until globalization levels the playing field and American workers' living standards are on par with Bangladesh or China.
Similarly, the average earnings for families in the top 10 percent grew more than 9 percent from 2010 through 2013, while those at other levels stagnated or shrank. For the middle fifth, average earnings fell 4.6 percent.
Over the six years through 2013, the middle fifth's average annual family earnings fell to $47,243 from $53,008 while their average net worth dropped to $170,066 from $236,525.
Even then, when their living standards are low enough that they can live on third-world pay, we may just not need them.