The United States today is producing roughly the same amount of goods and services as before the coronavirus pandemic — but with 8.2 million fewer workers, equal to the combined payrolls of every employer in Virginia, Arizona and Iowa.
Greater productivity is the rare silver lining to emerge from the crucible of covid-19. The health crisis forced executives to innovate, often by accelerating the introduction of industrial robots, advanced software and artificial intelligence that reduced their dependence on workers who might get sick.
Even as millions of Americans remain jobless, retailers, food processors, energy producers, manufacturers and railroads all are stepping up their use of machines. Automation may also get a lift from President Biden’s infrastructure plan, which will encourage domestic investment in cutting-edge factories, according to Bank of America.