Automation and the Workforce: A Firm-Level View from the 2019 Annual Business Survey


  • This paper provides a comprehensive description of the adoption of automation technologies by US firms across all economic sectors by leveraging a new technology module introduced in the Census Bureau’s 2019 Annual Business Survey. The module collects data from over 300,000 firms on the use of five advanced technologies: AI, robotics, dedicated equipment, specialized software, and cloud computing. We document that the adoption of these technologies remains low (especially for AI and robotics), varies substantially across industries, and concentrates on large and younger firms. However, because larger firms are much more likely to adopt them, 12 to 64 percent of US workers and 22 to 72 percent of manufacturing workers are exposed to these technologies. Firms report a variety of motivations for adoption, including automating tasks previously performed by labor. Consistent with the use of these technologies for automation, adopters have higher wages and lower labor shares. The use of these technologies is associated with a 15 percent increase in labor productivity, which accounts for 20 to 30 percent of the higher labor productivity achieved by the largest firms in an industry. Adopters report that these technologies raised skill requirements and led to greater demand for skilled labor, but brought limited or ambiguous effects to their employment levels.

fecha de publicación

  • 2022


  • National Bureau of Economic Research