Decades after automation began taking and transforming manufacturing jobs, artificial intelligence is coming for the higher-ups in the corporate office. The list of white-collar layoffs is growing almost daily and include jobs cuts at Google, Duolingo and UPS in recent weeks. While the total number of jobs directly lost to generative AI remains low, some of these companies and others have linked cuts to new productivity-boosting technologies like machine learning and other AI applications. Company executives and management consultants are also signaling that generative AI could soon upend a much bigger share of white-collar jobs. Unlike previous waves of automation technology, generative AI doesn’t just speed up routine tasks or make predictions by recognizing data patterns. It has the power to create content and synthesize ideas—in essence, the kind of knowledge work millions of people now do behind computers. That includes managerial roles, many of which may never come back, the corporate executives and consultants say. They predict the fast-evolving technology will revamp or replace work now done up and down the corporate ladder in industries ranging from technology to chemicals. “This wave [of technology] is a potential replacement or an enhancement for lots of critical-thinking, white-collar jobs,” said Andy Challenger, senior vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Some of the job cuts taking place already are a direct result of the changes coming from AI. Other companies are cutting jobs to spend more money on the promise of AI and under pressure to operate more efficiently. Meanwhile, business leaders say AI could affect future head counts in other ways. At chemical company Chemours, executives predict they won’t have to recruit as many people in the future.
“As the company grows, we’ll need fewer new hires as opposed to having to do a significant retrenchment,” said Chief Executive Mark E. Newman. Since last May, companies have attributed more than 4,600 job cuts to AI, particularly in media and tech, according to Challenger’s count. The firm estimates the full tally of AI-related job cuts is likely higher, since many companies haven’t explicitly linked cuts to AI adoption in layoff announcements.
Full commentary : AI Is Starting to Threaten White-Collar Jobs. Few Industries Are Immune.