Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Manufacturing in the U.S. faces a labor shortage at a scale not seen in decades, as the country's economy expands and aging workers retire — only half of whom will be replaced by new ones.

Why it matters: For the U.S. to stay competitive, experts say it must take a page from the Chinese playbook. As we’ve reported, China is investing billions in factory robots as wages rise and labor becomes more expensive.

By the numbers: A study released Wednesday by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute paints a dire picture of the manufacturing labor shortage.

  • In the next 10 years, they expect 4.6 million new manufacturing jobs to be created, 2.4 million of which will remain unfilled because of a skills shortage.
  • Nearly half of those openings will result from retirement, as baby boomers leave the workforce en masse.
  • Over the course of the decade, this shortage could cost the U.S. economy $2.5 trillion.

Companies are making short-term changes, like offering higher salaries and relaxing hiring requirements, to attract skilled workers, the study found.

  • Perks like remote work could lure new workers — like women and college graduates — who typically shy away from manufacturing jobs, said Paul Wellener, who leads the U.S. industrial products and construction practice at Deloitte.
  • The study also calls for companies to implement training programs and hire gig economy workers to help make up the shortage.

The bottom line: In the long term, automation will help close the gap — but it will take immediate investment in robotics to get there, according to a recent report on manufacturing competitiveness from Boston Consulting Group and Carnegie Mellon University.

  • "The US urgently needs a more aggressive approach to developing and adopting robotic technologies for manufacturing," the report’s authors wrote.
  • Robots will help counteract several forces threatening to hold back manufacturing in the U.S.: the labor shortage, decreasing productivity, rising barriers to trade and China's swift robotization.

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In pictures: Storm Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

Debris on the streets as then-Hurricane Zeta passes over in Arabi, Louisiana, on Oct. 28. It's the third hurricane to hit Louisiana in about two months, after Laura and Delta. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Tropical Storm Zeta has killed at least two people, triggered flooding, downed powerlines and caused widespread outages since making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday.

The big picture: A record 11 named storms have made landfall in the U.S. this year. Zeta is the fifth named storm to do so in Louisiana in 2020, the most ever recorded. It weakened t0 a tropical storm early Thursday, as it continued to lash parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle with heavy rains and strong winds.

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Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing" and the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus for the achievement, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China