“Robots or Workers? A Macro Analysis of Automation and Labor Markets” by Dr. Zheng Liu
Dr. Zheng Liu
Senior Research Advisor and Director
Center for Pacific Basin Studies
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
We study the implications of automation for labor market fluctuations in a DMP framework, generalized to incorporate automation decisions. If a job opening is not filled with a worker, a firm can choose to automate that position and use a robot instead of a worker to produce output. The threat of automation strengthens the firm’s bargaining power against job seekers in wage negotiations, depressing equilibrium real wages in a business cycle boom. The option of automation also increases the value of a vacancy, raising the incentive for job creation, and thereby amplifying fluctuations in vacancies and unemployment relative to the standard DMP framework. Since automation improves measured productivity, aggregate output rises more than wages and employment in good times, leading to a counter-cyclical labor income share.