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A national survey conducted by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found that 8 in 10 (82%) U.S. workers say it is very or somewhat important for the federal government to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI) technologies do not cause U.S. workers to lose their jobs. 

Nearly half (46%) say it is very important, according to the survey, which was released on Wednesday. Additionally, 7 in 10 (71%) U.S. workers say they are very or somewhat concerned about employers using AI in human resources decision-making, 5 in 10 (50%) are concerned about needing more technological skills, and 3 in 10 (30%) worry about their jobs being eliminated (30%). 

The nation’s lowest-income earners — those making less than $50,000 annually (54%) — and workers without a four-year degree (53%) — are more likely than those earning more than $100,000 annually (35%) and workers with a four-year degree (36%) to say they think the government’s actions that would limit the impacts of AI on jobs are very important. 

The Heldrich Center’s probability-based survey of 1,038 U.S. adults — including 737 workers — found widespread uncertainty about the potential impacts of AI on jobs and the labor market. In a year that may be pivotal for federal regulation of AI, the findings demonstrate public support for the development of AI governance and guidance for how employers deploy AI technologies in the workplace. 

President Joe Biden’s executive order signed in late 2023 directs federal agencies to develop guidelines for the responsible use of AI by private companies, academia, and governmental agencies. It also contains a “commitment to supporting U.S. workers,” including assessing job displacement risks due to the application of AI in the workplace. 

Concerns about the impact of new technologies on jobs are not new for workers. The Heldrich Center’s 2018 Work Trends study found that workers living in lower-income households are more likely to express worry about the impacts of technology on work and the economy, compared with workers living in higher-income households. The high level of concern at this early stage in the application of generative AI is noteworthy, the researchers said. 

“As with other major technological changes, generative AI will create opportunities for some and heartbreak for others. Workers — especially those with the least formal education — want safeguards that protect them from disruption and unemployment,” said Carl Van Horn, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Heldrich Center. 

While the survey showed that 71% of the U.S. labor force is concerned about the use of AI in employers’ decision-making about hiring and/or promotions, this concern ranks lower than concerns about the cost of living (94%) or fears of an economic recession in 2024 (83%). 

AI in HR Decisions 

Most U.S. workers say they are not concerned that AI will cause their own jobs to be eliminated but worry about the impact of AI on employers’ hiring and promotion decision-making. Because of the use of AI by employers now or in the future, 71% of the U.S. labor force say they are very (26%) or somewhat (45%) concerned about the possibility that employers use AI when making decisions about hiring and/or promotions.  

Workers of color (34%) are also more likely to say they are very concerned about the use of AI in employer decision-making than white workers (19%). There are no meaningful differences by household income, gender, or educational attainment when asked about the use of AI in decision-making about hiring and promotions. 

Potential Job Losses 

Thirty percent (30%) of U.S. workers say they are very (13%) or somewhat (17%) concerned that their own jobs will be eliminated. Job displacement is a concern for: 

  • Workers living in lower-income households: 45% of workers earning less than $50,000 annually are concerned about their own job being eliminated (23% are very concerned), compared with 18% of workers earning more than $100,000 annually (4% are very concerned). 
  • Workers of color: one in four (24%) workers of color say they are very concerned about their jobs being eliminated due to AI, compared with 1 in 10 white, non-Hispanic workers (6%). 
  • Workers without a college degree: 36% of workers who have completed some college or less say they are very concerned, compared with 20% of workers with a four-year degree. 

While most U.S. workers say they agree that AI will eliminate, rather than create jobs, they are divided when asked about who may be more likely to lose their jobs. Forty-six percent (46%) of U.S. workers agree a lot or a little with the statement “higher-income workers are more likely to lose their jobs because of artificial intelligence, compared to lower-income workers.” Fifty-three percent (53%) say they disagree a little or a lot. 

 Higher-income workers categorically disagree that jobs like their own are more likely to be eliminated, compared with lower-income workers. Five in 10 workers earning less than $100,000 annually agree with the statement (54% less than $50,000 annually and 49% $50,000 to $100,000 annually), compared with 3 in 10 workers living in households earning more than $100,000 annually (33%). Half of workers who have completed some college (53%) agree a lot or a little that higher-income workers will face job displacement. Just 35% of college graduates say the same. 

 Upskilling 

Most workers (66%) say they agree with the statement that, in general, “they will need more technological skills to achieve their career goals.” The Heldrich Center has observed no change in this measure since 2018, providing evidence that workers were no more or no less concerned about upskilling because of technology in general in 2023 than they were in 2018. 

However, because of the application of AI at work, half of the U.S. labor force say they are very (14%) or somewhat (36%) concerned that they will need more technological skills to achieve their career goals. These opinions differ by household income and education: 58% of workers living in households earning less than $50,000 annually and 55% of workers without a four-year degree say they are very or somewhat concerned they will need more skills, while 41% of households earning more than $100,000 annually and 42% of degree holders say the same. 

Workers of color are nearly three times more likely to say they are very concerned they need more technological skills to achieve their career goals compared with white workers, and two times more likely to agree a lot that they need more technological skills to achieve their career goals (22% vs. 8% and 23% vs. 11%).