U.S. Manufacturing Importing As Many Jobs As It Exports, Says Group
“We say the bleeding has stopped,” says Harry Moser, president of the group. “But the patient is still missing about 1 million workers—like liters of blood.”
A story in today’s Wall Street Journal details some of the difficulties companies find when bringing jobs back. In one case, a crib manufacturer misjudged the willingness of Americans to pay a premium for their U.S.-made goods and has faced far stiffer prices for wood and other raw materials than expected. Another company, a candlemaker headed by Chinese immigrants to the U.S., has struggled to find workers suitable for their assembly lines.
Even industry giants sometimes struggle. When Otis, the elevator division of United Technologies UTX -0.32% Corp., announced it would relocate a plant from Mexico to South Carolina in late 2012, it was hailed as a sign of the rebound of U.S. manufacturing. But the move led to production delays as Otis simultaneously reorganized two other U.S. facilities and narrowed its product line. Company executives have acknowledged that they struggled to set up a new supply chain and had trouble at first hiring a skilled workforce.
Mr. Moser warns producers to watch for such pitfalls. “If you go into most areas of the U.S.,” he says, “the really good skilled workers—the tool builders, those with computer skills—are already employed.” That can make it difficult to recruit staff, even in areas with high unemployment.
One of the companies Mr. Moser’s group works with has found an even bigger problem. Mr. Moser says the company shifted production overseas seven years ago and in the process outsourced the work to foreign producers. In other words, they stopped doing the manufacturing themselves—either in the U.S. or overseas.
“So to a certain extent, the company no longer knows how to make the product,” he says. In cases like this, the company has to redevelop its own capabilities.