While intellectual types are writing all sorts of grand treatises on how automation is going to take all the jobs and leave most people unemployed, the folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics who actually collect the data haven't gotten the message. They released data today on productivity growth (this is the measure of the rate at which automation is reducing the need for labor) for the 4th quarter of 2016. 

The data showed that productivity grew at a 1.3 percent annual rate in the 4th quarter and is now 1.0 percent higher than it was a year ago. This is roughly the same pace that productivity has grown for the last decade. It is an extremely slow rate of productivity growth. Productivity had grown at close to a 3.0 percent rate from 1995 to 2005 and also in the long Golden Age from 1947 to 1973.

In other words, instead of automation moving along at an incredibly rapid rate leading to mass displacement of workers, it is actually advancing very slowly. We can put the threat of automation in the alternative facts category, albeit in the category of alternative facts that appeals to intellectual-types.

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