Robots: Where They Are & What To Know

A recent Denver Post article points to the role robots play in Colorado and poses an important question as we move toward an age of automation: Will robots replace us?

While it might sound like science fiction to some, it’s the cold, hard reality for workers whose jobs may be threatened.

In a study released earlier this year, two leading economists from MIT determined adding industrial robots to local economies reduced jobs and lowered wages. The research shows for every new robot added per 1,000 workers, 6.5 workers lost their jobs and wages fell by about three-quarters of a percent. Data from the Brookings Institution shows Colorado has fewer industrial robots than other states: 0.7 industrial robots per 1,000 workers, putting Colorado at 38th nationally. Michigan leads the nation with 7.4 industrial robots per 1,000 workers, which makes sense, give most industrial robots are used in auto manufacturing.

When we look more closely at regions within Colorado, we find there are fewer robots at work than in other parts of the U.S. Among the largest 100 metro areas, Colorado Springs ranks 80th and the Denver, Aurora, Lakewood metro area ranks 88th with 0.7 and 0.5 robots per 1,000 workers respectively.

This study is not without controversy. Our friends at the Economic Policy Institute released a paper arguing while industrial robots might have some impact, the broader effects of automation are likely to be positive for the overall economy including job and wage growth. For example, the Denver Post article highlights several Colorado companies that are designing and manufacturing these robots, presumably leading to new jobs in those firms.

However, the local effects of industrial robots on jobs and wages appear to be well documented. If that’s the case, we want to know what parts of Colorado will be affected the most.

We are examining the effects of increasing automation on Colorado’s economy, workers, and businesses as part of our research on the levers promoting opportunity in Colorado. This data, and much more, will be part of that analysis.