1 big thing ... Millennial reckoning: Here come the robots
Millennials will be the first generation to fully face the new age of automation, which could wipe out jobs faster than the economy creates new ones, writes Future Editor Steve LeVine.
- Why it matters: Millennials — who disrupted our culture, stores and workplaces — now face their own coming upheaval.
The millennial generation has the opportunity afforded by more tech than anyone prior.
- But prior technological revolutions have led to decades-long interregnums before real wages returned to prior levels. And those thrown out of work often had trouble finding new jobs.
- The new automation is tech on steroids. As time goes on, it will strike hard at blue-collar millennials — in cities and more rural parts of the country alike.
What's happening: Millennials already face one of the toughest economic landscapes of any generation since World War II: They work for relatively low pay, and college graduates are saddled with an average of $30,000 in student debt.
- Millennials came of age during the Great Recession. Since then, three-quarters of all new U.S. jobs have paid less than a middle-class income, according to Labor Department data.
- These minimum- or lower-wage jobs are the ones that millennials — ages 23-38, born between 1981 and 1996, and the largest generation in the country — are often taking.
- Unlike prior generations, there may not be much of a ladder up from there. Part of that is economics — tech and globalization have hollowed out middle-skill, middle-wage jobs (see story below). And part of it is the continued aftermath of the financial crash.
Real life: John Russell, a 27-year-old farmer from Galena, Ohio, tells Axios that, until now, millennials in his area had three relatively secure jobs — at Walmart, a Walmart warehouse or driving a semi-truck.
- "Warehouses and semi-truck jobs — the most security you can have in the Ohio Valley — are at risk of automation," Russell said during a chat in Storm Lake, Iowa, where he was attending a political event.
- "What's going to happen when they go away? The companies will get a big boost in profit, but the people will have to figure out what to do."
Russell himself, who has a degree in agricultural science from Cornell, works a 21-acre farm bought by his parents. So does a brother who is an arborist.
- Russell said he earns most of his money contracting out to grind up tree stumps.
This was a recurring theme in conversations in rural Iowa: Finding work is a matter of providence, often involving your family.
- David Rossman, a 37-year-old farmer from Harlan, said that between college and returning to his parents' 700-acre organic farm in 2014, he has been a line cook, a rural organizer, a lumberyard worker and a graduate student.
- As time goes on, he said, "guys my age aren't going to be able to farm unless they are an heir or someone will take them under their wing."