Which Metro Areas Are Most at Risk of Automation

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Updated on Wednesday, July 31, 2019

metro areas risk of automation

The rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics has disrupted the manufacturing industry in many ways. A June 2019 report by Oxford Economics estimates that robots could replace up to 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide by 2030. An estimated 260,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared since 2000. However, although the risk of automation for a job may be increasing, that doesn’t mean the job will disappear entirely. Many times, automation frees up workers to be productive in other areas.

We studied how vulnerable the largest U.S. metro areas are to technological change and automation. We looked at the top 100 largest metropolitan cities in the U.S. and compared the data on risk of automation of certain occupations to the number of people working in those fields. Using this method we were then able to estimate the number of jobs at risk of automation.

Key findings

  • Las Vegas topped the charts with roughly 67% of its jobs facing the risk of computerization.
  • Florida seems to be one of the most vulnerable states. It has four metro areas in the top 10, each with at least 64% of jobs at risk of automation.
  • No metro area is entirely safe. Even last-ranked San Jose has about 50% of its jobs facing a chance of automation in the future.
  • The most at-risk jobs tend to be lower-paying ones that typically do not require formal education, like cashiers, combined food preparers, servers and retail salespeople. Each of the occupations face an automation risk above 90%. Nearly 12 million people are employed between these three jobs.
  • Not all low skill jobs face the same risk of automation. Customer service representatives, for example, have a 55% risk of automation.
  • Within the medical field there are quite a few jobs requiring working with people that are less vulnerable to automation. Recreational therapists and mental health social workers are two occupations with less than a 1% chance of automation.
  • People with only a high school degree who are looking for work with a low chance of automation will want to check out how to become a first-line supervisor of mechanics. More than 470,000 people are employed in this occupation and it has a less than 1% risk of automation. First-line supervisors of police and detectives are also paid well and face little risk of automation.

15 places with the highest number of at-risk jobs

Through our research, eight states and 15 metropolitan areas ranked highest in number of jobs at risk of automation.

Telemarketers, insurance underwriters, cargo and freight agents, tax preparers, and library technicians were among the most at-risk jobs, all with an over 98% chance of being replaced by computers. We found that professions in the manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, and data entry/processing fields ranked highest. Many of these metro areas have a high concentration of employees working in these fields, as well as jobs that don’t carry educational requirements above a high school diploma.

Las Vegas, Nevada, a hotspot for entertainment, ranked No. 1 in our rankings of the places with the highest risk of automation. Here, there is a 94% probability of automation for hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks, janitorial staff, and coin, vending, amusement machine servicers and repairers.

A past MagnifyMoney study found that Las Vegas ranked 49 out of 50 in cities where a college degree equates to higher wages. Las Vegas fell behind Riverside, Calif., among cities where a degree matters the least. In the study for this article, Riverside ranked No. 4 in highest risk of automation. Riverside has over 56,000 people working as processing clerks or in the data entry field, both of which have a 98% chance of automation.

Perhaps the state with the most at-risk jobs is Florida. It has five metropolitan areas included in the top 15: Lakeland-Winter Haven (No. 3), Daytona Beach (No. 6), Cape Coral-Fort Myers (No. 7), Sarasota (No. 9) and Orlando (No. 12). Many of these Florida metro areas count hospitality and tourism as one of their main industries. Hotel clerks, ushers, tellers, and order clerks all had over a 94% chance of automation. Cashiers, which make up 4% of Orlando jobs, face a 97% chance of being replaced as automation continues to grow.

Previously ranked last in a MagnifyMoney study on the biggest boomtowns in the U.S., is Scranton, Pa. According to U.S. Census data, the most common jobs in Scranton fall into the Office & Administrative Support category. These occupations are also most common in Allentown, Pa. and Winston-Salem, N.C., ranked No. 11 and No. 14, respectively, in our study of metro areas at risk of automation.

Full ranking of places at risk of automation

Our analysis shows that these 100 metropolitan areas are most likely to be affected by automation in the coming years.

California claims 10 metropolitan areas likely to be affected by automation. This includes the major hotspots of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, as well as areas like Fresno and Oxnard. According to the data and our analysis, California could stand to lose 7.5 million jobs to automation. This could be due to the fact that as a state, California has a poverty rate of 15.1%, and many of the jobs at risk of automation are low-paid, low-skill level positions. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 14% of people that are considered to be living in poverty in the U.S. have a high school diploma and no college education.

Florida metro areas account for eight of the 100 ranked cities, with over 2.3 million jobs at risk of automation. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, restaurant and food service jobs account for 7.41% of Florida jobs. This equates to over 668,000 jobs, many of which could be replaced by automation. Cashiers, hosts, and counter attendants (cafeteria, concession, and coffee shop) have over a 90% chance of becoming automated.

Other states that show up frequently in the top 100 include:

  • Texas, with six metro areas, over 4.8 million jobs at risk
  • North Carolina, with six metro areas, over 1.3 million jobs at risk
  • Ohio, with six metro areas, over 2.1 million jobs at risk
  • Pennsylvania, with five metro areas, over 2.5 million jobs at risk

How to get training for in-demand jobs

Don’t let the data scare you, though. There are plenty of ways to get ahead of the trend, change careers, or learn new, in-demand skills. Whether it’s growing into a new position within your industry or pivoting to something new – education and training may be more within reach than you think.

Online programs

There are a number of free online resources that can help, such as:

  • Alison: It offers certificates and diplomas ranging from web development to caregiving for patients with dementia. All the online materials and coursework are free to access once you sign up. However, in order to make your certificate or degree official there is a cost.
  • Coursera: It offers online courses from top universities and companies. All the lectures and materials are free to view, but in order to take graded-tests and earn an official diploma or certificate, you’ll pay a fee.

Sites like Udemy and Skillshare also offer low-cost ways to get started learning new skills.

Certificate programs

Certificate programs can offer a cheaper way to grow or change careers without going back to school for a four-year degree. Unlike associate’s degree programs, certificates do not require a core class curriculum and pertain to one professional or technical field. Many can be completed in less than a year, although this varies depending on the field.

Certificate programs have become increasing popular in the IT field because of the salary boost that can come along with them. According to the 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report by Global Knowledge, the average salary difference between certified and non-certified employees within North America is 22%, or $15,913. It’s worth noting that some employers will cover the cost of certificate programs for their employees.

College program

If you’re craving a more traditional education, it’s never too late to consider a bachelor’s or master’s degree program. While they can be expensive, the lifetime earning potential may outweigh the costs.

According to 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree is $1,173 compared to high school graduates with no college experience whose median weekly earnings are $712. Bachelor’s degree holders can expect to earn over $2.1 million over the course of their career, compared to high school graduates who will earn $1.2 million. Someone who holds a master’s degree can expect to earn $2.5 million.

Paying for an educational program

Although the earning potential for a traditional degree or other program can be alluring, paying for an education can be a daunting experience. Before turning to student loans, look into grants or scholarships that may be available to you. Some employers may also offer to cover some or all the expenses of additional education and training.

After exhausting your options for money, federal student loans may be your next-best option if you don’t have the funds to cover an eligible degree or certificate program. These types of loans come with borrower protections, including income-driven repayment plans and forbearance.

If you’ve exhausted federal aid but still need to cover education costs, you may consider private student loans. These loans can be a relatively expensive borrowing option, and your credit will affect your eligibility and the rates you receive. However, they can be good for a last-ditch effort for funds when you want a fixed-rate loan.


In order to estimate the number of jobs at risk of automation, we compared the risk of automation for every occupation to the number of people working in that occupation in each of the largest 100 metro areas. Using this method we could then estimate the number of jobs at risk of automation.

Data on number of occupations comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for 2018. Data on automation risk comes from Carl Frey and Michael Osborne’s 2013 report “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?”