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April, 1987, Vol. 110, No. 4
Technological change and employment:
some results from BLS research
Technological change and its impact on the work force have become a focus of attention in the United States and abroad. The innovations include advanced communication systems, industrial robots, flexible manufacturing systems, computer-assisted design (CAD), and computer-assisted manufacturing (CAM). These modern technologies incorporate powerful and low-cost microelectronic devices that have the potential to increase productivity in office and factory production tasks. They share widespread appeal and are being diffused throughout the world.
There are, however, conflicting views about the implications of changing technology for employment. Some experts say that the pace of technological change is accelerating and that thousands of workers in plants and offices are affected as laborsaving innovations are diffused more widely. These experts contend that recent innovations represent a sharp departure from earlier changes, and that techniques for maintaining job security will be essential. Other analysts assert that technological change is beneficial for all groups in our society, that the changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary in nature, and that technology ultimately creates more jobs than it eliminates.
Concern about changing technology has been continual over our historyusually increasing during periods of higher-than-average unemployment, and abating somewhat when the economy and employment are expanding. Consequently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been studying technological change and its impact on the work force for a long time.
This excerpt is from an article published in the April 1987 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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