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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new paper shows that as automation has reduced the number of rote jobs, it has led to an increase in the proportion and value of occupations that involve decision-making.

Why it matters: Automation and AI will shape the labor market, putting a premium — at least for now — on workers who can make decisions on the fly, while eroding the value of routine jobs.

By the numbers: David Deming, a political economist at the Harvard Kennedy School, analyzed labor data over the past half-century and found that the share of all U.S. jobs requiring decision-making rose from 6% in 1960 to 34% in 2018, with nearly half the increase occurring since 2007.

  • Partially as a result, a greater share of wages is going to management and management-related occupations, more than doubling since 1960 to 32% — a trend that is more pronounced in high-growth industries.

Details: This shift has also reinforced generational disparity in the labor market.

  • Getting better at making decisions requires experience, and experience requires time on the job.
  • Largely as a result, career earnings growth in the U.S. more than doubled between 1960 and 2017, and the age of peak earnings increased from the late 30s to the mid-50s.

Between the lines: As automation and AI take up more of the decision-making in jobs like trucking and warehouse logistics, workers in those occupations won't get the chance to build up the cognitive skills employers increasingly value.

What they're saying: "One implication is that AI leads to lots of angry, frustrated, left-wing young people, and a cementing in of the gerontocracy," economist Tyler Cowen commented in a blog post.

The bottom line: In the current economy, what you know matters less than how adept you are at learning — at least until AI learns how to do that, too.

Go deeper

Why it's too early to celebrate July's jobs report

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The July U.S. jobs report was a blockbuster, but there’s still progress to be made in the labor market and the recent spike in COVID-19 cases means it’s too early to celebrate.

Why it matters: The U.S. economy continues to show great momentum, which puts more pressure on the Federal Reserve to scale back its emergency monetary policies. However, doing so too early risks having the economy backslide.

Mike Allen, author of AM
7 mins ago - Economy & Business

Charted: GOP surged as Biden slumped

Expand chart
Reproduced from Gallup. (Independents were asked their party leaning.) Chart: Axios Visuals

Gallup polling found a huge shift in party preference over the course of 2021, from a 9-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a 5-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter.

Why it matters: It's the biggest swing in one calendar year for Gallup's 30 years of tracking.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
27 mins ago - Science

A new NASA astronaut corps for the next era in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA's next crewed missions to the Moon will need a larger, differently-trained and multi-skilled astronaut corps to deliver on the agency's ambitions.

Why it matters: NASA has plans to fly astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2025 and ultimately establish a long-term presence there. That goal requires a robust corps with new, specialized training in what it takes to live and work on the Moon — and NASA needs to start planning now.