Artificial intelligence is poised to upend the labor market and eliminate thousands of white collar and managerial jobs, experts have warned.
Since last May, companies have cited AI as the reason for 4,628 job cuts, though the true number is likely much higher, according to data from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has been blunt in his predictions that AI will radically alter the labor market, and eliminate some kinds of jobs.
‘A lot of people working on AI pretend that it’s only going to be good; it’s only going to be a supplement; no one is ever going to be replaced,’ he told The Atlantic in an interview last July.
‘Jobs are definitely going to go away, full stop,’ added Altman.
In recent weeks, AI-related white collar layoffs have escalated, with job cuts announced at Google-parent Alphabet, Duolingo, and UPS, among others.
‘The impact of rapidly advancing artificial intelligence adoption is beginning to be felt from a jobs perspective, particularly in Media and Tech, but truly across sectors,’ said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
‘That said, companies are not outright blaming AI for many layoff decisions,’ he added, noting that most companies simply refer to ‘cost-cutting’ to explain job cuts, making the role of AI difficult to determine.
Generative AI programs such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT have the ability to quickly produce written and visual content that rivals the quality of human-created work.
In the same way that automation and robotics radically changed the nature of manufacturing work, AI could soon remake knowledge and information work, experts say.
‘This wave [of technology] is a potential replacement or an enhancement for lots of critical-thinking, white-collar jobs,’ Challenger recently told the Wall Street Journal.
Last month, the popular language learning app Duolingo cut about 10 percent of its workforce, saying it would rely on AI to create much of its content.
Google also said it would lay off hundreds, saying it planned to cut costs in hardware and internal software and shift investments toward AI.
Companies are often circumspect in admitting that job cuts are due to advances in AI, even as they seek to convince investors that the technology will boost efficiency.
In late January, UPS announced 12,000 job cuts, the largest layoffs in the company’s history.
CEO Carol Tomé touted AI as a driver for cost cutting, citing as an example that the technology would allow sales staff to assemble proposals without consulting pricing experts.
The company later backpedaled, publicly insisting that AI is not replacing workers, according to Bloomberg.
One study led by Princeton professor Ed Felten lists the jobs most exposed to replacement by AI.
They include management analysts, lawyers, professors, teachers, judges, financial advisers, real-estate brokers, loan officers, psychologists, and human-resources and public-relations roles.
However, with the rise of AI, other job categories could flourish.
According to LinkedIn, the number of job postings mentioning AI has more than doubled since 2021, while the technology contributed to more than 4,000 jobs lost in May of last year, according to a separate report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
LinkedIn job posts that mention AI or generative AI have seen a 17 percent growth in the last two years over job posts that don’t mention artificial intelligence.
Jobs in the U.S. that are likely to have a high risk of being replaced by AI include budget analysts, technical writers, and web developers, while careers as barbers, firefighters, and pipelayers have the lowest risk, according to a Pew Research Center report.
Falling in the middle for the most at-risk jobs positions are chief executives, veterinarians, interior designers, and sales managers.
Meanwhile, jobs that will have increasing demand are technology-based occupations including machine learning engineers, natural language processing (NLP) scientists, software developers, and data scientists.
‘We’re seeing demand for AI skills increasingly appear across a wide range of industries and geographies,’ Olivier Sabella, vice president of LinkedIn Talent Solutions, told CNBC.
‘These job posts vary from roles where professionals will directly work on AI development, such as AI engineer, to job postings where AI is listed as a required skill.’
Barbara Terrio is a seasoned business journalist, delving into the world of finance, startups, and entrepreneurship. With a knack for demystifying complex economic trends, she helps readers navigate the business landscape. Outside of her reporting, Barbara is an advocate for financial literacy and enjoys mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs.