Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Clothing factories are coming back in U.S., but jobs are still hard to come by due to mechanization

Textile plants, which migrated overseas in the 1990s to save money, have begun returning to the U.S., and their output in this country has been steadily climbing, Stephanie Clifford reports for The New York Times. "In 2012, textile and apparel exports were $22.7 billion, up 37 percent from just three years earlier. While the size of operations remain behind those of overseas powers like China, the fact that these industries are thriving again after almost being left for dead is indicative of a broader reassessment by American companies about manufacturing in the United States." And about 15 percent of American companies that manufacture overseas have already decided to move some production to the U.S., and 33 percent are considering the move.

Americans love buying products made in America. A Times survey conducted in January "found that 68 percent of respondents preferred products made in the United States, even if they cost more, and 63 percent believed they were of higher quality," Clifford writes. "Retailers from Walmart to Abercrombie & Fitch are starting to respond to those sentiments, creating sections for American-made items and sourcing goods domestically. But as manufacturers find that American-made products are not only appealing but affordable, they are also finding the business landscape has changed. Two decades of overseas production has decimated factories here. Between 2000 and 2011, on average, 17 manufacturers closed up shop every day across the country, according to research from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation."

"Now, companies that want to make things here often have trouble finding qualified workers for specialized jobs and American-made components for their products," Clifford writes. "And politicians’ promises that American manufacturing means an abundance of new jobs is complicated — yes, it means jobs, but on nowhere near the scale there was before, because machines have replaced humans at almost every point in the production process." (Read more)

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