Paul Fogleman,

Recent reports and data presented this week at the Emerging Issues Forum in Raleigh offer some insight into the unrest among voters—all voters, Republican, Democrats, independents. It’s about job security and the concerns are well-founded.

While the Democratic and Republican presidential leaders are blaming global trade for jobs losses, the participants at the EIF saw another, more sinister trend. Automation. Five counties in North Carolina are threatened with the loss of 39 percent of their jobs. Even major urban counties, including Wake and Mecklenburg, could see up to 30 percent of their jobs disappear. Counties where manufacturing or hospitality jobs—foodservice included—will feel the impact of automation most significantly.

We’re not looking at a jobless future, as some researchers predict. But the days of walking into a job without experience or training are soon to be gone with the wind.

Mike Walden, an economist with N.C. State University, concludes that the 141,000 people in food preparations and service with an annual wage of $17,950 are most vulnerable. Retail salespersons, about 140,000, with annual income of $25,050, are next. Waiters, waitresses, cashiers, office clerks, are high on the list—more than 300,000 earning $20,000 to $28,000. Manufacturing jobs are at the middle of the list.

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