MARCH 4 2011 20:13h
Retail jobs losing to automation
As shoppers adjust to self-service, the loss of retail positions could hamper efforts to bring down the nation's lingering high jobless rate, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
In an industry that has long been considered a predictable job generator in which nearly one in 10 Americans work, companies increasingly turn to technology to sell more products with fewer employees.
Shipping and warehousing jobs are going to robots that can process packages more quickly, virtual assistants are replacing customer-service representatives, and kiosks and self-service machines are reducing the need for checkout clerks.
There were 14.5 million U.S. retail workers in January, 1.1 million fewer than in January 2008.
Automation expert Martin Ford calls the trend worrisome, noting low-skill retail jobs have become the employment of last resort for many Americans.
Now it appears even those positions could disappear, he said.
"We have a service economy, and the service sector is starting to automate," Ford said. "We've seen that technology does destroy jobs in those sectors."
LOS ANGELES, March 4 (UPI) -- Automation is causing retail jobs to disappear as robots, vending machines and touch-screen kiosks are increasingly replacing human workers, U.S. analysts say.