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Weekend edition March 17, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Robots are not taking jobs in Knoxville

This month's Economic Conditions Outlook from the Knoxville Chamber and First Horizon Bank asked businesses where they stood on automation, hiring, and production.

The robots aren’t coming, they’re already here, and they’re not taking over our jobs just yet.

The key word here is automation, and how it’s playing a role in local businesses. According to those businesses, it’s really not.

The Knoxville Chamber surveyed business owners about automation for its latest Economic Conditions Outlook (ECO), financed by First Horizon Bank.

Ninety percent of survey participants responded that they have not recently automated any of their business operations. Forty-four percent indicated that the reason for not utilizing automation is due to the nature of their business (e.g. regulatory restrictions). Other reasons for not automating include technological capabilities and irrelevance to some operations such as professional relationship-related services.

All the respondents who did recently automate operations said that no jobs were eliminated. Respondents mentioned main manufacturing processes and front desk operations have been automated.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be a place for automation in the future, depending on the industry.

Results from the 2022 McKinsey Global Industrial Robotics Survey indicate that automated systems will account for 25 percent of industrial companies’ capital spending over the next five years.

Among the industries surveyed there, 23 percent of the retail and consumer goods sector respondents plan to spend more than $500 million on automation over the next five years. Sectors planning on spending $100 million or more on automation include 38 percent of life sciences, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals, 30 percent of food and beverages, 27 percent of logistics and fulfillment, and 23 percent of automotive.

You can read the McKinsey report findings here.

Get all the details from the ECO report including local housing market information, inflation rates, labor market statistics, and more here.

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