Friday, July 14, 2017

Driverless Vehicles and Driving Jobs: Our July 2017 Forecast, And Why

Since a year ago, when I released my first look at when automated technology would reach certain saturation points, and at the number of taxi and truck positions, the field, its regulation, its related developments, and people’s reactions to it, along with, consequently, my interpretation of how it will fall out, have all moved along.

First, it is clear that autonomous vehicles will not be dependent on infrastructure improvements.  Although our president talks every so often about the need for large projects there, we’re not seeing much action from either him or our elected representatives.  In the meantime, to some extent as a result, the emphasis of almost all of the development work being done on driverless cars assumes they will need to interpret their environments themselves, with help coming from other vehicles instead of from roadside and related technology. 

Second, the United States is now way out in front at developments in this field, with the largest efforts centering around American companies, American testing grounds, and the cooperation of American cities.  It seems likely that we will lead the world’s way here.  That was made even clearer by serious international political problems, which do not rate to end soon, impeding the country which could have been, all around, more suited for progress here than any other – Qatar. 

Third, autonomous 18-wheel trucks, which can be sent in convoys in the setting best fitting driverlessness, expressways, now look like they will be on the road for production sooner than we expected.  The only real metaproblem they have is people’s fear (imagine the movie Duel with 20 of them), which, though, will eventually subside.

Fourth, as I predicted, capable-seeming consortia are forming, and have lately added a new category of partner with expertise at managing large numbers of vehicles, rental car companies.  We will surely see the likes of bitter breakups, Ford-against-GM-caliber lawsuits, and perhaps alliance components defecting to others for the right price.  Yet, in contrast with July 2016, all know that no company, or even pair of companies, can get it done by themselves. 

Fifth, in general, governments have done the right thing by working constructively with organizations developing this technology, and have been unexpectedly restrained about throwing up roadblocks.

Sixth, for consistency with others I am now using the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration’s levels of autonomous driving.  With the exception that I believe there will be a stage during which multiple driverless vehicles will be loosely controlled by remote human operators, the NHSTA scheme is quite similar to the one I developed.  For definitions of the levels they use, you can find a good summary article, along with a link to the original NHSTA document, at http://www.techrepublic.com/article/autonomous-driving-levels-0-to-5-understanding-the-differences/.

Given all that, here is our new chart:


Continue to follow the Work’s New Age blog to keep you current on the progress of driverless vehicles, and its effect on work opportunities.  We expect many, many more updates, along with a new forecast of the above next summer.

Friday, July 7, 2017

June Employment: Some Improvements, But Per the AJSN We’re Now 17.5 Million Jobs Short

I didn’t know what to expect from this morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data.  The publicized forecasts, which have been getting less and less accurate, called for 178,000 net new nonfarm payroll positions, which is good, but there were disturbing trends popping up last month.  June, though, was better than anyone seemed to expect on the most important fronts. 

Those new positions came in at 222,000, about 90,000 more than our growing population, now over 326 million, can absorb.  The employment-population ratio and the labor force participation rate, the best indicators of how common it is for Americans to actually be working, each recovered half of their 0.2% May drops, and are now at 60.1% and 62.8% respectively.  The count of long-term jobless, those out for 27 weeks or longer, held steady at 1.7 million. 

The other numbers, however, were worse.  The adjusted unemployment rate was up 0.1% to 4.4%, and the unadjusted one rose a mainly but not completely seasonal 0.4% to 4.5%.  Those working part-time for economic reasons, or holding on to less than full-time opportunities while looking thus far unsuccessfully for those, grew 100,000 to 5.3 million.  Average private nonfarm payroll wages were again up only 3 cents per hour and less than inflation to reach $26.25.  Latent demand for work also increased more than seasonally – the American Job Shortage Number, or AJSN, which shows how many more positions could be filled if all knew that getting one was easy and routine, rose over 700,000 to reach almost 17.5 million, as follows:


Since the AJSN is not seasonally adjusted, its increase, given that many more people are working in a typical May than such a June, is not as significant as it seems.  However, while the AJSN is now 665,000 lower than a year before, it had dropped 845,000 between the two most recent Mays.  Its improvement since June 2016 is almost exactly explained by the 900,000 drop in official unemployment, when partially offset by the 700,000 more American-citizen expatriates.  In this past year, the number of those claiming no interest in working has gone up over 700,000, and a surprising 954,000 more are in the armed services, in institutions, or off the grid, but the latent employment demand gain they represent was offset by reductions in several smaller categories made up of people more likely to work.

Overall, how good a month was it?  Despite the preponderance of worsening metrics, we are happy with this morning’s findings.  The 222,000 net new jobs is probably the most important figure, and the participation and employment ratios reversed what could have been a disturbing trend.  In the short-term, we don’t know where American employment is going, but the turtle, as has often been his wont these past few years, took a modest step forward.