Companies Replace Jobs With Machines As Workplaces Struggle to Fill Positions

Now, more than ever, companies are desperate for employees. 1.8 million workers have opted out of returning to work, claiming they make enough with unemployment. Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which cost $1.9 trillion, extended the $300 per week enhanced unemployment benefits through September 6.

Some states opted out of the extension and were sued by workers. In Texas, over 30,000 workers receiving unemployment are suing Governor Abbott, citing, “He exceeded his power…for ending the programs before they are slated to expire. Unlike judges in Maryland and Indiana, a judge in Texas rejected the request, suggesting the group may not have legal standing to sue.”

While some workers are hoping to ride it out on unemployment and then return to their job, that may not be possible. Companies needing to stay afloat during the pandemic struggles have made some permanent shifts to automation. The Wall Street Journal reported, “Output nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2021 — down just 0.5% from the end of 2019 — even though U.S. workers put in 4.3% fewer hours than they did before the health crisis.”

Host Hotels & Resorts is not using housekeepers due to the labor shortage. Instead, they’re moving to an opt-in model for housekeeping instead of the traditional opt-out model. The company is also operating with 30% less management staff in their food and beverage department, and that change is permanent.

Raytheon, which supplies aerospace supplies, said most of its 4500 contract employees let go in 2020 would not be rehired. Raytheon was already exploring plans to automate factories, and the pandemic sped up their process.

Restaurants are also feeling the strain brought on by labor shortages. Instead of closing their businesses, they are pivoting to technological solutions. Dave & Busters, a hybrid restaurant/entertainment complex, use tablets to order food and drink, thus reducing the number of servers and staff. Applebee’s Restaurant has also implemented tablets for customers to pay their bill without flagging down a server. According to John Peyton, CEO of Applebee’s parent Dine Brands Global Inc., “The hand-held screens provide a hedge against labor inflation.”

Amazon has opened a cashier-less grocery store that tracks your items and then charges your Amazon account. McDonald’s is also piloting a voice automated drive-thru that no longer requires a person. They think it will be rolled out to most franchises in the next five years.

With technology growing and becoming more efficient, we no longer have to worry about when we will be replaced–it’s already happening. While businesses are still advertising help wanted signs, it’s best advised to jump at the opportunity. Rising inflation isn’t going anywhere, but your job might.

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