Changes in the job market

In the US, the labor market is slowing down. Around 250,000 workers found new jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, last April.

However, few jobs are hiring at the moment. Employers are looking for highly skilled individuals and cutting unnecessary jobs. Some of the industries hiring are professional and business services, health care, leisure, and hospitality. There is also high demand for specialized construction contractors and food service experts. Professional and business services had the biggest increase, adding 43,000 jobs. Employees in this industry made an average of $40.20 per hour.

Embracing change

Humans find it difficult to adapt to change and this is evident in how technological advances are viewed. This is nothing new because even Socrates, the architect of Western philosophy, wasn't too excited about the introduction of writing, as he felt people would become more forgetful.

It may be natural to fear change, but we have to realize that by nurturing this kind of fear, we are resisting innovations that could improve our quality of life, productivity and connectivity. 

The fear of technological change shows a lack of trust. As it stands, Americans don’t trust each other, our corporations or our public institutions. The absence of trust means a lot of damage has been done and the only way to fix this is to ensure everyone has the information that is essential to building trust back up.

The History of Planned Obsolescence

On December 23, 1924, a group of international businessmen gathered in Geneva for a meeting that would change the world for decades. Delegates from all major lightbulb manufacturers were present, including the Netherlands’ Philips and the United States’ General Electric. While revellers celebrated Christmas elsewhere in the city, the group founded the Phoebus cartel, a supervisory body that would carve up the global incandescent lightbulb market.

How to paint 50,000+ miles of lines

Without white and yellow lines on streets and roads, we wouldn't know where the lanes are, or where to turn or stop or walk, etc. Car accidents would be much more frequent, many with fatalities.

A specialized sector of the construction industry paints lane markings on roads. One company in Michigan, PK Contracting, estimates that one worker paints about 400,000 ft (122,000 m) of lines every day. Over the 6-month construction season, the company stripes and re-stripes about 50,000 mi (80,500 km) of roads. Put those markings end-to-end and you could cross America 16 times.

Crafts boost tourism

In Takaoka, craft tourism adds to the city’s historical festivals and sights that, according to Toyama Prefecture, are already in the top 10 destinations in terms of increases in tourist numbers in the region. Although there are no official figures on Takaoka’s overall drive to promote local industries, the new Nousaku foundry alone has welcomed approximately 110,000 visitors since it opened.

The Nousaku outreach project is just one of many contributions to Takaoka industrial tourism, an initiative that the city has ramped up over the past decade with open-factory tours, hands-on workshops and the introduction of new contemporary goods. And it appears to be hitting the right notes.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

We are now experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), a period of rapid change driven by progress in science and technology. The main drivers of 4IR are AI, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Japan will play a leading role in global innovation with a new World Economic Forum (WEF) center devoted to maximizing the potential of the 4IR, says Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman.

“Japan is not sufficiently recognized for its innovative capabilities,” Schwab said in a recent interview with Forbes Japan. “The world is speaking about what’s happening in Silicon Valley and Shenzhen, but it is not aware that Japan has created a very successful startup community.”

Rare earths discovered in Japan

Every day, we use products that are built using “rare earths”—a group of 17 elements that are, as the name suggests, very rare. They’re used to make everyday items such as rechargeable batteries, LED lights and display panels, as well as larger products such as wind turbines.

Now, it turns out, Japan has an estimated 16 million tons of the stuff on its turf. Researchers claim the trove might be enough to supply the world with metals such as yttrium and europium on a “semi-infinite basis.”

This is good news for Japan’s industrial sector. The world’s biggest source of rare earths is by far China, which has in the past halted exports to Japan when the two countries have been at odds.

Kobe Steel falsified data

The Japanese government is urging steelmaker Kobe Steel to clarify the extent of manipulation of data on steel, aluminum and other metals used in a wide range of products, reportedly including rockets, aircraft and cars.

A government spokesman on Wednesday criticized the apparently widespread falsification of data as "inappropriate," saying it could undermine product safety.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami told reporters that about 200 of Kobe Steel's customers were affected.

Kobe Steel, Japan's third-largest steel maker, announced Sunday that between Sept. 1, 2016 and Aug. 31 of this year it had sold aluminum and copper materials using falsified data on such things as the products' strength.

The company said the materials included aluminum flat-rolled products, aluminum extrusions, copper strips, copper tubes and aluminum castings and forgings.

Amazon cuts Whole Foods prices Inc. spent its first day as the owner of a brick-and-mortar grocery chain cutting prices at Whole Foods Market as much as 43 percent.

In a sign of how the retailer is changing, the Amazon Echo, a voice-activated electronic assistant, was also for sale, for $99.99—a sharp pivot into electronics for a company known for kale and quinoa. The Echo Dot, a smaller version, was advertised for $44.99.

When will robots replace workers?

The falling cost of industrial robots will allow manufacturers to use them to replace more factory workers over the next decade while lowering labor costs, according to new research.

Robots now perform roughly 10 percent of manufacturing tasks that can be done by machines, according to the Boston Consulting Group. The management consulting firm projected that to rise to about 25 percent of such "automatable" tasks by 2025.

In turn, labor costs stand to drop by 16 percent on average globally over that time, according to the research.

The shift will mean an increasing demand for skilled workers who can operate the machines, said Hal Sirkin, a senior partner at Boston Consulting.

Factory workers "will be higher paid but there will be fewer of them," Sirkin said.