10 US towns where jobs are most vulnerable to future automation

Small towns will unfortunately see the biggest downsides to automation in the future, according to a SmartAsset report.

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SmartAsset released an innovative study of automation and its potential effects on the job security of millions of Americans. The study uses a 2013 paper from Oxford on automation and cross references it with a survey of employment opportunities across the US in 2019.
 
Unfortunately, both the original paper and the SmartAsset study revealed that low and middle income jobs will take the brunt of damage from the first wave of full automation. 
 
Subsequently, their list of cities that will be hit the hardest by automation is littered with small towns already struggling to stay afloat. 
 
All but one of the top 10 places with the biggest percentage of jobs at risk to automation rank in the bottom third of the metropolitan areas in terms of median annual income, as reported by the Census Bureau.
 
Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise and Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island were at the top of the list of places that are most vulnerable to computerization.
 
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The SmartAsset study showed that nearly two in three jobs in Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach are vulnerable to automation within the next decade or two, with about 98,107 jobs at risk now.
 
Nevada ranked first in their study on states that will be most affected by automation. The study said almost 600,000 jobs are at risk in the Las Vegas metro area alone. Florida has four metro areas in the top 10.
 
Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas was identified as one of the towns struggling the most because of automation. SmartAsset said 2018 the median income in Brownsville-Harlingen was just $24,550 and about 60% of the jobs there were susceptible to computerization.
 
"Given the negative relationship between computerization probability and wages and the low median income in Brownsville-Harlingen, it is unsurprising that many of the jobs in Brownsville-Harlingen are at risk of automation," they wrote. 
 
The Oxford paper, written six years ago by researchers Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, said 47% of jobs in the U.S. are vulnerable to automation. More recent studies have bumped that number up to about 60%. 
 
Frey and Osborne said industries like tax preparers, real estate brokers, cashiers and secretaries and administrative assistants are the most vulnerable to automation. 
 
Food preparation and transportation are also industries that are slated to be affected the most by automation, according to the study.
 
"For many of the places where jobs are most susceptible to automation, retail salespersons, cashiers and waiters and waitresses are popular jobs," the report said. "All three occupations have over a 90% chance of automation and require no advanced education."

Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told CNBC in January that almost half of all jobs that do not require a Bachelor's degree are facing the spectre of being taken over by automation.

"If your job is boring and repetitive, you're probably at great risk of automation," Muro said. "Virtually all jobs are going to begin to experience some pressure from automation."

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By Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.