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The Workweek: A Round-Up of Labor Market Links for the Week Ending 8/18/17

‘America First’ could vaporize jobs

One of President Trump’s top campaign promises was to renegotiate trade pacts to keep jobs in America, and the US is now sitting down with Mexico and Canada to review the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But an American manufacturer of ceiling fans with the unlikely name Big Ass Fans shows how this strategy could backfire. The Kentucky company gets many of its parts from a global supply chain, including motors from Mexico. Trade barriers could boost the cost of imported fan components and make it harder to export, cutting into sales and destroying US jobs. [NYT]

More British Workers Are Staying Put

Since 2000, the number of people in the UK moving to take a job has declined by a quarter, according to research by the Resolution Foundation. Young people, renters and graduates are driving the trend—just the groups that historically have been quickest to pick up stakes. Even London has lost some of its allure. The British drop in mobility mirrors the US pattern, where interstate movement is half what it was in the 1980s. Economists can’t say for sure why Brits and Americans aren’t relocating. But those who stay put are less likely to find well-paid jobs that fully utilize their skills. [Financial Times]

High-tech factories offer few jobs for workers with old-fashioned skills

In the past seven years, US factories have added nearly a million jobs. But manufacturing jobs aren’t what they used to be—instead of operating machine tools, workers on the factory floor now need to control robots and computerized equipment. Many blue-collar workers lack the necessary skills, and on-the-job training opportunities are limited. In such countries as Germany and Japan, education and skills-training are top priorities. In Virginia Beach, VA, Germany’s Stihl Inc. is setting an example by operating an active robotics apprenticeship program. [AP News]

Ecommerce is roiling the retail job market

Traditional brick-and-mortar retail jobs are melting away. According to Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute, since 2007, traditional retailers have lost 140,000 jobs, while ecommerce companies have added 400,000 full-time jobs. However, it remains to be seen how stable some of those new jobs are, given the rampant automation in ecommerce. What’s more, some department store salespeople may not be able to take advantage of opportunities in ecommerce and could end up being forced into low-paying service sector jobs with poor benefits and working conditions. [Boston Globe]

Robots haven’t taken over everywhere—but they’ve come close in Toledo

Robots aren’t evenly dispersed throughout the economy. More than half of the nation’s industrial robots are found in 10 Midwestern and Southern states, led by Michigan. The entire West accounts for only 13% of all US industrial robots. Many of the states with high concentrations of robots are centers of auto manufacturing, an industry that accounts for almost half of all factory robots. Among cities, Toledo, OH, is first in number of robots per worker, with nine robots making welds or performing similar chores for every person in the labor force. Detroit occupies second place. [Brookings]