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Pandemic May Permanently Replace Some Human Jobs With Machines

  • Fed study finds layoffs higher in jobs that can be automated
  • To avoid virus spread, automation has jumped in some sectors
Robotic arms, manufactured by Kuka AG, operate on the production line at the Nampak Ltd. Bevcan Springs manufacturing plant in Springs, South Africa, on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Manufacturing production, mining output and retail sales plunged in South Africa in the three months through June as the country imposed a strict lockdown on March 27 that shuttered almost all activity except essential services for five weeks.
Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to permanently replace some humans with machines, according to a new study on Monday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Layoffs have been higher among workers in industries that can be automated, which increases the risk those jobs will become permanently obsolete, according to the study by economists Lei Ding and Julieth Saenz Molina. At the same time, the spread of Covid-19 has accelerated automation in industries that have been hit hard by the virus or that don’t permit remote work.