The Disappearing White-Collar Job | Kanebridge News
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    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,495,064 (-0.25%)       Melbourne $937,672 (-0.06%)       Brisbane $829,077 (+1.01%)       Adelaide $784,986 (+0.98%)       Perth $687,232 (+0.62%)       Hobart $742,247 (+0.62%)       Darwin $658,823 (-0.42%)       Canberra $913,571 (-1.30%)       National $951,937 (-0.08%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $713,690 (+0.15%)       Melbourne $474,891 (-0.09%)       Brisbane $455,596 (-0.07%)       Adelaide $373,446 (-0.09%)       Perth $378,534 (-0.83%)       Hobart $528,024 (-1.62%)       Darwin $340,851 (-0.88%)       Canberra $481,048 (+0.72%)       National $494,274 (-0.23%)   National $494,274                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 7,982 (-85)       Melbourne 11,651 (-298)       Brisbane 8,504 (-39)       Adelaide 2,544 (-39)       Perth 7,486 (-186)       Hobart 1,075 (-37)       Darwin 266 (+11)       Canberra 840 (-4)       National 40,348 (-677)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 7,376 (-100)       Melbourne 6,556 (-154)       Brisbane 1,783 (+12)       Adelaide 447 (+11)       Perth 2,139 (+3)       Hobart 173 (-1)       Darwin 393 (+1)       Canberra 540 (-29)       National 19,407 (-257)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $750 ($0)       Melbourne $550 ($0)       Brisbane $650 ($0)       Adelaide $550 ($0)       Perth $595 ($0)       Hobart $550 ($0)       Darwin $720 (+$40)       Canberra $675 ($0)       National $639 (+$6)                    UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $750 ($0)       Melbourne $550 ($0)       Brisbane $550 ($0)       Adelaide $430 ($0)       Perth $550 ($0)       Hobart $450 ($0)       Darwin $483 (-$38)       Canberra $550 ($0)       National $555 (-$4)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,759 (+74)       Melbourne 5,228 (-159)       Brisbane 2,940 (-7)       Adelaide 1,162 (-13)       Perth 1,879 (-7)       Hobart 468 (-15)       Darwin 81 (+6)       Canberra 707 (+10)       National 18,224 (-111)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,359 (+95)       Melbourne 5,185 (+60)       Brisbane 1,588 (-3)       Adelaide 335 (-30)       Perth 752 (+11)       Hobart 161 (-1)       Darwin 107 (-16)       Canberra 627 (-36)       National 17,114 (+80)   National 17,114                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 2.61% (↑)      Melbourne 3.05% (↑)      Brisbane 4.08% (↑)        Adelaide 3.64% (↓)       Perth 4.50% (↓)     Hobart 3.85% (↑)        Darwin 5.68% (↓)     Canberra 3.84% (↑)      National 3.49% (↑)             UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 5.46% (↑)      Melbourne 6.02% (↑)      Brisbane 6.28% (↑)        Adelaide 5.99% (↓)     Perth 7.56% (↑)        Hobart 4.43% (↓)       Darwin 7.36% (↓)     Canberra 5.95% (↑)        National 5.84% (↓)            HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 1.6% (↑)      Melbourne 1.8% (↑)      Brisbane 0.5% (↑)      Adelaide 0.5% (↑)      Perth 1.0% (↑)      Hobart 0.9% (↑)      Darwin 1.1% (↑)      Canberra 0.5% (↑)      National 1.2% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 2.3% (↑)      Melbourne 2.8% (↑)      Brisbane 1.2% (↑)      Adelaide 0.7% (↑)      Perth 1.3% (↑)      Hobart 1.4% (↑)      Darwin 1.3% (↑)      Canberra 1.3% (↑)      National 2.1% (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND       Sydney 30.9 (↑)      Melbourne 32.6 (↑)      Brisbane 37.7 (↑)      Adelaide 28.7 (↑)      Perth 40.1 (↑)      Hobart 37.6 (↑)        Darwin 36.1 (↓)     Canberra 33.0 (↑)      National 34.6 (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND       Sydney 32.5 (↑)      Melbourne 31.7 (↑)      Brisbane 35.2 (↑)      Adelaide 30.2 (↑)        Perth 42.8 (↓)     Hobart 36.9 (↑)        Darwin 39.6 (↓)     Canberra 36.7 (↑)      National 35.7 (↑)            
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The Disappearing White-Collar Job

A once-in-a-generation convergence of technology and pressure to operate more efficiently has corporations saying many lost jobs may never return

Tue, May 16, 2023 8:15amGrey Clock 6 min

For generations of Americans, a corporate job was a path to stable prosperity. No more.

The jobs lost in a months long cascade of white-collar layoffs triggered by over hiring and rising interest rates might never return, corporate executives and economists say. Companies are rethinking the value of many white-collar roles, in what some experts anticipate will be a permanent shift in labor demand that will disrupt the work life of millions of Americans whose jobs will be lost, diminished or revamped partly through the use of artificial intelligence.

“We may be at the peak of the need for knowledge workers,” said Atif Rafiq, a former chief digital officer at McDonald’s and Volvo. “We just need fewer people to do the same thing.”

Long after robots began taking manufacturing jobs, artificial intelligence is now coming for the higher-ups—accountants, software programmers, human-resources specialists and lawyers—and converging with unyielding pressure on companies to operate more efficiently.

Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees after the Facebook parent’s latest round of layoffs that many jobs aren’t coming back because new technologies will allow the company to operate more efficiently. International Business Machines CEO Arvind Krishna recently said the company could pause some hiring to see what kind of back-office work can be done with AI. Leaders in many industries say they expect the new technology will augment some existing roles, changing what people do on the job. AI could allow employees to better contribute to their companies by doing more meaningful work, said Mr. Rafiq, author of a new book on management.

For the year ended in March, the number of unemployed white-collar workers rose by roughly 150,000, according to an analysis from Employ America, a nonpartisan research group. That included workers in professional services, management, computer occupations, engineering, and scientists.

“I can’t think of any job where it’s like AI by itself,” said Rodney McMullen, chief executive of grocery chain Kroger, which has about 430,000 employees. “I can think of a lot of jobs that are being affected by AI.”

That underlying dynamic has been accelerated by the binge hiring of recent years. Company leaders say they have become saddled with bloated managerial layers that slow decision making. The retailer Gap said in April that its new round of corporate job cuts would trim what has become an inefficient corporate bureaucracy.

Lyft’s new CEO, David Risher, told investors this month that the ride-sharing company had cut the number of management layers from eight to five. Lyft said in April it would eliminate roughly 1,000 white-collar jobs in its latest round of layoffs. The flattened corporate structure means that Lyft “can innovate faster,” Mr. Risher said.

Jobs go through boom-and-bust cycles. In previous downturns, executives pledged to make streamlining efforts stick, only to replenish or grow their corporate ranks when business conditions improved. Many executives say the forces now at play suggest this time is different.

During past periods when higher interest rates pitched the U.S. economy into recession, job losses were often led by industries most sensitive to rate changes, such as manufacturing and construction. “It seems like we’re not seeing that right now. It could be the structure of the economy has changed,” said Preston Mui, an economist at Employ America, who has been studying white-collar job losses.

“A real question is: The Fed raises rates and softens the economy, where is that going to show up?” he said. The evidence is pointing to white-collar jobs, he said.

After 14 months of interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve, job openings dropped to their lowest level in nearly two years in March, the most recent month of Labor Department data. Layoffs in the information sector were up 88% in March from a year earlier and up 55% in finance and insurance, the data show. For manufacturing, they were up 25% over the same period.

Companies are for the moment focused on keeping blue-collar employees—restaurant servers, warehouse workers, drivers and the like—who remain in short supply, according to economists and human-resources specialists. For C-suite executives under pressure from investors, that exposes middle managers and other white-collar workers to layoffs.

Whole Foods and Walt Disney announced layoffs in recent weeks that largely hit corporate staff while sparing such customer-service jobs as grocery clerk and hourly theme-park attendant. Retail workers, including salespeople and cashiers, were among the most in-demand roles in the first quarter of the year, according to the jobs site LinkedIn, along with nurses and drivers.

Checkout lines at the Kroger grocery store in Cincinnati, Ohio. PHOTO: ASA FEATHERSTONE, IV FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“Companies realise they over-hired in the middle,” said Nick Bunker, an economist at jobs site Indeed. “They’re paring things back.”

The number of employees working and the number of hours they worked in white-collar sectors such as professional services and medical and veterinary roles contracted in late April compared with January, according to data from Homebase, which provides software services to small businesses for scheduling hourly workers.

Sudden fall

Colton Pace, chief executive of Ownwell, a property-tax analysis company based in Austin, Texas, said he was filling more open roles with temporary contractors to give the startup flexibility in an uncertain economy. He also sees technology soon doing more company tasks.

“I want to be a little more cautious in how we hire,” Mr. Pace said. “In addition to that, it makes more sense because we’re not sure. Some of these roles will be automated away.”

A year ago, roughly 15% of the company was made up of contractors or seasonal workers. Those workers now make up a quarter of Ownwell’s roughly 85-person workforce. Mr. Pace said he could see AI and other tools eventually shouldering a greater share of the work in customer support, operations and sales.

There is no firm definition of white-collar employee in government data. The term broadly applies to people who work in offices and have higher education, such as a bachelor’s degree or some college. In recent decades, hiring in management and professional jobs rapidly outpaced other categories. The number of employees in management and professional occupations increased nearly 150% in the past 40 years, and nearly 36% since the end of the 2007-09 recession, according to Labor Department data. By comparison, service occupations such as barbers, child care workers and casino employees have risen 72% since 1983, the earliest available data, and 3.5% since June 2009.

Over the years, higher demand for skilled workers and higher pay for college-educated workers widened the economic gap with blue-collar workers. Yet following the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, wages rose fastest among low-earners, reducing the college wage premium and reversing about a quarter of the rise in wage inequality since 1980, according to a study by economists including David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Payroll data from more than 300,000 small- and medium-size businesses showed that wages for new hires had generally declined in April from a year ago but fell most rapidly in white-collar professions, such as finance and insurance, according to Gusto, a payroll, benefits and human-resource management software maker. They rose most quickly in such services and blue-collar industries as tourism, construction and recreation, Gusto found.

Digital smarts

As companies look to cut costs, some employers have said middle managers will have to give up their teams and return to being just another worker. Others, including McDonald’s, have asked staffers to accept reduced compensation if they want to stay at the company.

Artificial intelligence also is expected to eliminate some positions entirely. Mr. Krishna, of IBM, has said in recent weeks that he could see 30% of IBM’s roughly 26,000 non-customer-facing roles being replaced by automation or AI over a five-year period.

An IBM spokesman said the company was still hiring for thousands of positions. “There is no blanket hiring ‘pause’ in place,” he said. “IBM is being deliberate and thoughtful in our hiring.”

The Labor Department projects that of the 20 occupations that will create the most jobs through 2031, about two-thirds will be blue-collar jobs that pay around $32,000 a year, including home-health and personal-care aides, restaurant cooks, fast-food workers, wait staff and freight movers.

The professions with the best prospects for growth that require a college degree include software developers, operations managers and registered nurses. Those jobs pay around $100,000 a year and are forecast to be better protected than other white-collar work from AI displacement.

Some employers are already figuring out exactly how many fewer white-collar workers they will need in the future. The business- and government-consulting firm Guidehouse in McLean, Va., which employs about 16,500 people, had expected to triple its head count in the coming years to reach its goal of roughly tripling its revenue to $10 billion, said CEO Scott McIntyre. Not anymore, he said.

Mr. McIntyre expects that with the help of AI and increased automation, Guidehouse may need to hire 40,000 people instead of 50,000 to reach its growth target. “The smarter you are with enabling technology and technology that creates productivity, the smarter you can be about hiring,” he said.


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China’s EV Juggernaut Is a Warning for the West

Competitive pressure and creativity have made Chinese-designed and -built electric cars formidable competitors

Thu, Jun 8, 2023 4 min

China rocked the auto world twice this year. First, its electric vehicles stunned Western rivals at the Shanghai auto show with their quality, features and price. Then came reports that in the first quarter of 2023 it dethroned Japan as the world’s largest auto exporter.

How is China in contention to lead the world’s most lucrative and prestigious consumer goods market, one long dominated by American, European, Japanese and South Korean nameplates? The answer is a unique combination of industrial policy, protectionism and homegrown competitive dynamism. Western policy makers and business leaders are better prepared for the first two than the third.

Start with industrial policy—the use of government resources to help favoured sectors. China has practiced industrial policy for decades. While it’s finding increased favour even in the U.S., the concept remains controversial. Governments have a poor record of identifying winning technologies and often end up subsidising inferior and wasteful capacity, including in China.

But in the case of EVs, Chinese industrial policy had a couple of things going for it. First, governments around the world saw climate change as an enduring threat that would require decade-long interventions to transition away from fossil fuels. China bet correctly that in transportation, the transition would favour electric vehicles.

In 2009, China started handing out generous subsidies to buyers of EVs. Public procurement of taxis and buses was targeted to electric vehicles, rechargers were subsidised, and provincial governments stumped up capital for lithium mining and refining for EV batteries. In 2020 NIO, at the time an aspiring challenger to Tesla, avoided bankruptcy thanks to a government-led bailout.

While industrial policy guaranteed a demand for EVs, protectionism ensured those EVs would be made in China, by Chinese companies. To qualify for subsidies, cars had to be domestically made, although foreign brands did qualify. They also had to have batteries made by Chinese companies, giving Chinese national champions like Contemporary Amperex Technology and BYD an advantage over then-market leaders from Japan and South Korea.

To sell in China, foreign automakers had to abide by conditions intended to upgrade the local industry’s skills. State-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group developed the manufacturing know-how necessary to become a player in EVs thanks to joint ventures with Toyota and Honda, said Gregor Sebastian, an analyst at Germany’s Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Despite all that government support, sales of EVs remained weak until 2019, when China let Tesla open a wholly owned factory in Shanghai. “It took this catalyst…to boost interest and increase the level of competitiveness of the local Chinese makers,” said Tu Le, managing director of Sino Auto Insights, a research service specialising in the Chinese auto industry.

Back in 2011 Pony Ma, the founder of Tencent, explained what set Chinese capitalism apart from its American counterpart. “In America, when you bring an idea to market you usually have several months before competition pops up, allowing you to capture significant market share,” he said, according to Fast Company, a technology magazine. “In China, you can have hundreds of competitors within the first hours of going live. Ideas are not important in China—execution is.”

Thanks to that competition and focus on execution, the EV industry went from a niche industrial-policy project to a sprawling ecosystem of predominantly private companies. Much of this happened below the Western radar while China was cut off from the world because of Covid-19 restrictions.

When Western auto executives flew in for April’s Shanghai auto show, “they saw a sea of green plates, a sea of Chinese brands,” said Le, referring to the green license plates assigned to clean-energy vehicles in China. “They hear the sounds of the door closing, sit inside and look at the quality of the materials, the fabric or the plastic on the console, that’s the other holy s— moment—they’ve caught up to us.”

Manufacturers of gasoline cars are product-oriented, whereas EV manufacturers, like tech companies, are user-oriented, Le said. Chinese EVs feature at least two, often three, display screens, one suitable for watching movies from the back seat, multiple lidars (laser-based sensors) for driver assistance, and even a microphone for karaoke (quickly copied by Tesla). Meanwhile, Chinese suppliers such as CATL have gone from laggard to leader.

Chinese dominance of EVs isn’t preordained. The low barriers to entry exploited by Chinese brands also open the door to future non-Chinese competitors. Nor does China’s success in EVs necessarily translate to other sectors where industrial policy matters less and creativity, privacy and deeply woven technological capability—such as software, cloud computing and semiconductors—matter more.

Still, the threat to Western auto market share posed by Chinese EVs is one for which Western policy makers have no obvious answer. “You can shut off your own market and to a certain extent that will shield production for your domestic needs,” said Sebastian. “The question really is, what are you going to do for the global south, countries that are still very happily trading with China?”

Western companies themselves are likely to respond by deepening their presence in China—not to sell cars, but for proximity to the most sophisticated customers and suppliers. Jörg Wuttke, the past president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, calls China a “fitness centre.” Even as conditions there become steadily more difficult, Western multinationals “have to be there. It keeps you fit.”


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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