AI

New reports hint at what generative AI has meant for employment

Upwork says the tech could augment jobs, not replace them.
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Francis Scialabba

3 min read

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Will generative AI replace human jobs or spur economic growth? It’s not that black and white, but new reports reveal some hints about how the job market is responding to the buzzy new technology.

Recent data from Indeed showed that job postings in June related to generative AI grew around 14% year over year. Conversely, a recent Verge investigation detailed how the boom around generative AI has led to an expansion in the use of gig workers to perform the mundane, low-wage tagging work that provides the data to train AI, and “artificial intelligence” was cited as a reason for nearly 4,000 job cuts in May, according to a report from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

But the numbers aren’t all pointing to long unemployment lines:  A survey of 1,400 business leaders from Upwork found that 64% of C-suite respondents said generative AI will lead them to hire “more professionals of all types.”

“We saw [C-suite executives] actually seeing this much more of an augmentation play with their workforce as opposed to automation,” Kelly Monahan, managing director of Upwork’s research institute, told Tech Brew. “And so we actually are expecting an increase in hiring…because it’s a brand-new technology and brand-new need within organizations.”

And workers are interested in riding the AI hype wave, the Indeed data showed: Job-seeker searches for “generative AI” increased a whopping 17,000% in the last year, though Indeed CEO Chris Hyams said those trends are largely driven by what happens to be in the news at a given moment.

“Really, it’s just an indicator of what’s happening in the world,” he said.

Given the amount of attention around AI automation, Monahan said she was surprised at how many of the business leaders surveyed by the company vowed to increase hiring.

“We’re even seeing, within our platform as well, much more of an uptick in queries of searching for generative AI in job postings as well,” Monahan told us.

The Upwork report also noted a disconnect around AI between different rungs of the corporate ladder. Around 73% of C-suite executives said their companies were embracing generative AI, “compared to only 54% of VPs, 52% of directors, and 53% of senior managers.” That’s consistent with another recent survey that queried workers of varying seniority levels about their feelings toward the tech.

“What we saw more pronounced when you start thinking about directors and VPs within organizations was a lot more uncertainty,” Monahan said. “So how is this technology going to be used? Do we have the right guardrails in place to effectively operationalize this within our organization?”

Monahan said while some companies are inevitably going to use the tech to cut costs rather than grow, that calculus is ultimately “short-sighted.”

“The companies that are going to win in the long run are going to be those that actually create new revenue streams, new business models, and opportunities to create growth,” she said.

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.