It's been a matter of debate for a long time whether new technology eliminates jobs overall, contributing to the "hollowing out" of the middle class. You can easily find anecdotal examples of whatever point one is trying to make. This topic is pertinent to community colleges because of our role in training individuals for the jobs of the future.
Please have a look at this thoughtful and incisive piece by James Bessen, an economist and lecturer at the Boston University School of Law, in The Atlantic. He is the author of the book Learning by Doing: The Real Connection Between Innovation, Wages, and Wealth.
The writer cites his own and others' research—not mere impressionistic information—and in an engaging way, bringing up community colleges toward the end of the piece.
As is so often the case, the empirical answer to the question is "it depends." ATM machines have reduced the need for bank tellers, but this allows banks to open new branches and hire more staff to guide customers in financial decisions. There are no telephone operators anymore, but look at the robust competition among cell phone providers in the field of customer service.
Overall, it's a wash, the author says. Certainly no one makes buggy whips anymore, but there are opportunities out there with cause for optimism, but numerous challenges persist also.
The smart task is in providing exactly the right training for new entry-level jobs as the landscape changes. A lot of what Dr. Bessen says is common sense, but it's good to see data behind a paradigm of how this should work. Enter community colleges. From the piece:
Learning new skills is a significant social challenge as well. My research suggests that the jobs that get transferred to other occupations tend to be predominantly low-pay, low-skill jobs, so the burdens of automation fall most heavily on those least able and least equipped to deal with it. And often the new skills need to be learned on the job, so experience matters. To meet this challenge, some community colleges are collaborating with local employers to create work-study programs that allow trainees to learn on the job as well as in the classroom. Some trade groups are promoting skill-certification programs, which allow employers to recognize skills acquired through experience. These are the kinds of policies that can help overcome the real burden of automation. They deserve more attention than any panic about a supposed robot apocalypse.