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China and automation ARE driving US worklessness

A new study from the University of Maryland confirms what many workers have long believed: foreigners and robots ARE taking their jobs.

The authors note that if Americans were working at the same rates they were in 1999, over 3.5 million more people would be employed than are now. This chimes with something I wrote about last year (for The Heritage Foundation).

The authors find that about half of that decline is due to increased trade with China, while another 25% is due to automation. Translating that into raw numbers, that means they find about 2.75 million people are completely out of the labour force because of these two trends.

Another 250,000 people are out of the labour force because of a trend that its proponents have argue would counteract the China/automation etc trends – the trend towards an increased minimum wage. That comports with traditional economics, which holds that, on the margin, people whose marginal productive value is lower than the new minimum would be unemployed.

Many things beyond economic despair explain the rise in blue-collar, “right-wing” populism – seen in America and elsewhere. Ignoring these economic findings means ignoring the real anger that changes votes, however, and, ultimately, alters political economy. Turns out that listening to the unheard might be a good thing.