Greater productivity is the rare silver lining to emerge from the crucible of covid-19. The health crisis forced executives to innovate, often by accelerating the introduction of industrial robots, advanced software and artificial intelligence that reduced their dependence on workers who might get sick.
Even as millions of Americans remain jobless, retailers, food processors, energy producers, manufacturers and railroads all are stepping up their use of machines. Automation may also get a lift from President Biden's infrastructure plan, which will encourage domestic investment in cutting-edge factories, according to Bank of America.
Employers' embrace of automation has survived the economy's move from recession to rebound and is getting new life now that many companies are struggling to attract enough workers to meet surging demand.