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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Technology is giving rise to a new crop of middle-skill jobs for the millennial generation — but these are without the stability, pay or career ladders of the past.

The big picture: The first wave of automation-fueled job losses hollowed out middle-skill work — manufacturing positions that required some education, but not a college degree, and led to lucrative, lifelong careers. That left behind jobs mostly at the high- and low-skill extremes.

Among these new, middle-skill jobs is the "digital janitor," says Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future. "The more data we produce, the more digital detritus we throw out there," she says. And someone will need to clean it up.

  • Think Facebook content moderators and YouTube video screeners. "As good as AI is and will be, it will require these very human skills of discretion to be able to do that work," says Gorbis.

But these jobs come with issues.

  • Though they are physically safer than the manufacturing jobs of the 20th century, they can be highly stressful, exhausting and even lead to PTSD, as The Verge's Casey Newton reports in an investigation of the lives of Facebook's moderators.
  • Those digital janitors earn $28,200 a year. And such workers are typically hired on a part-time or contract basis.
  • When millennials are earning $15 an hour, or $31,000 a year, they are regarded as middle wage, even though that would not be sufficient to support the accouterments of the traditional middle-class American lifestyle.

But, but, but: These don't have to be "bad jobs" forever for millennials, Gorbis notes. Manufacturing jobs seemed like bad jobs before labor unions and regulators stepped in to improve pay and conditions, she says. "We made them into good jobs."

The bottom line: In the future, "I think there will likely still be lots of jobs for people with less education," says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed. "The bigger questions are: What will those jobs pay? Will they have benefits and a predictable schedule? Will they lead to careers?"

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
13 mins ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
42 mins ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

42 mins ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.