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Automation is Reshaping Work Across America. A New Report Explores the Impact – and How Communities Might Respond.

Press Kit

Change is the only constant.

The history of work in America certainly proves the point. The Industrial Revolution sent people streaming from the countryside into cities. The rise of mass production brought work indoors and onto the assembly line. As events constantly reshape work, society makes adaptive changes, from compulsory high school education to the GI Bill to the establishment of land grant universities.

Now automation promises to radically reshape the next generation of work in America. Some see automation as a threat — the source of widespread job displacement. Others see it as an opportunity — the source of higher-skilled, higher-paid jobs as technology takes over tedious and repetitive tasks. All agree that automation has arrived and is quickly changing the American workplace.

America at Work: A National Mosaic and Roadmap for Tomorrow examines resiliency, or the capacity to respond to change — in this case, automation. The report examines more than 3,000 counties in the United States with the goal of helping communities plan for their individual situations and develop responses that will position them to survive and thrive in a changing economy.

Counties are broken into eight community archetypes: Urban Centers & Core Suburbs, Urban Periphery, Smaller Independent Economies, Americana, Distressed Americana, Rural Service Hubs, Great Escapes and Resource-Rich Regions.

Strong transportation infrastructure is just one of several characteristics that make Clackamas County, Oregon, a success story in the Urban Periphery archetype.

Effective responses will require an integrated approach and cooperation across a range of stakeholders. The report includes an interactive map which allows readers to dive into challenges and opportunities on a county-by-county basis.

The research is anchored in Walmart’s efforts to address the needs of our business, including preparing our workforce for the future. We are committed to helping strengthen the systems on which our success depends: a sustainable workforce, strong local talent development, and thriving communities with a solid customer base. Ninety percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store.

We partnered with McKinsey & Company to develop the fact base for the report, using methodologies and data from the McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey’s extensive research into workforce transitions and work in the public sector, along with our knowledge of human capital development and experience from Walmart Giving’s Retail Opportunity Program. We’ve also sought feedback and insight from many external stakeholders, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Aspen Institute, the National Association of Counties, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governors Association, the National League of Cities, the National Skills Coalition, New America, members of the Retail Opportunity Network and the United States Conference of Mayors.

Together, we have produced perspectives on responses to automation trends that can help policy makers, employers, educational institutions, community leaders, and others plan for the future.

Collaboration often happens least in the communities that need it most. Our hope is that America at Work: A National Mosaic and Roadmap for Tomorrow inspires dialogue and action to secure a bright economic future for hardworking Americans across the country.