“Good” Manufacturing Jobs Aren’t Coming Back

By Hunter Wallace

To sum it up: because of rotten free trade deals, millions of manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas, but only a trickle of jobs have lately come back. This is called “onshoring.”

Of the manufacturing jobs that have come back to the United States, many of these are heavily subsidized by Southern state governments. They are generally low wage, non-union jobs. In 2015, manufacturing workers are making less in wages than in 1985. Manufacturing is no longer the gateway to the middle class that it was in post-WW2 America.

“SPRING HILL, Tenn.—The hulking General Motors factory in this town south of Nashville undermines the complaints by politicians left and right that America doesn’t make things anymore.

A year ago, GM announced it was moving production of its best-selling vehicle, the Cadillac SRX, from Mexico to this plant in Tennessee. Today 3,000 people work on this 6.9 million square-foot campus, and more are being hired. …

But these are not your father’s manufacturing jobs. Many of the companies are locating their new plants in right-to-work states where it’s less likely their workers will join a union, and the prevailing wages are far lower.

In fact, nationally, the average wages of production and non-supervisory employees in manufacturing are lower than they were in 1985, when adjusted for inflation. In September, those employees made an average $8.63 an hour, in 1982 to 1984 dollars, while they made an average of $8.80 an hour in 1985, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Manufacturing wages at non-union automobile plants in the South fell by 14 percent from 2003 to 2013. These plants seem to be making greater use of expendable temporary workers.

In related news, the Chinese Communist Party is weighing whether or not to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership at some point in the future. Also, Donald Trump is taking credit for Ford’s decision not to open a new automobile plant in Mexico and keep production in Ohio. It has been a constant theme in his stump speech for months now.

About Hunter Wallace 11766 Articles
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32 Comments

  1. In some cases, I hear, the plant and skills are long gone. It would be expensive and difficult to bring them back.

  2. A whole generation of rootless, cosmopolitan, politicians and corporate leaders, remind me of Gertrude Steins comment about Oakland, California. “There is no THERE, there” The old time corporate leaders could be, and often were bastards, but they came from SOMEWHERE, and still had some stake in their communities. Todays corporate Genji’s live among the “Land of the Lotus Eaters”. They fly between corporate headquarters, meet ups in fabulous places with equally rootless vapid politicians, and never get real fly over dirt on their expensive shoes. One day, though, if things don’t change, they are likely to get on their faces instead.

  3. Nissan to raise workers’ hourly wages at plants in Tennessee and Mississippi

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/04/11/nissan-to-raise-workers-hourly-wages-at-plants-in-tennessee-and-mississippi/

    Nissan says production workers in Canton now make an average of $24.47 an hour, while maintenance workers make $28.49, on average. In Smyrna, the company says production workers make $26.47 on average, while maintenance workers make $30.49 on average.

    That sounds like a good middle class wage to me. Hooray for the Southern Worker.

  4. From the article:

    “While Nissan will not disclose how many of its workers are temporary, Ed Ensley, a worker who has been at the plant for 30 years, says he thinks only about 30 percent of current full-time workers are Nissan employees.”

  5. What does “think” mean? There needs to be some data to support this. People can sit in their ivory towers and look down on those temporary jobs but I bet the people who have those jobs are grateful for them.

    For the record, I am a temporary worker who makes more in total compensation than my full time coworkers. It’s not as bad as you make it sound.

  6. The American Empire will never have an economic nationalist policy. None of the candidates represent the working class. Only the Global Economy and World Government. The only future for our economy is Southern Nationalism. Deo Vindice !

  7. Jeff
    Nissan says production workers in Canton now make an average of $24.47 an hour, while maintenance workers make $28.49, on average. In Smyrna, the company says production workers make $26.47 on average, while maintenance workers make $30.49 on average.’

    Was listening to Limbaugh this afternoon. He said 51% of Americans in the labor force earn 30K or less. Wow, 1 of 2. Many of them are on some type of gov. assistance.

    Millions upon millions have stopped looking for employment.

    Yet, we are being flooded by third worlders who take our jobs and get welfare, EBT cards.

    Now, there are plans for taking in hundreds of thousands of stone age muslims, many of which could be ISIS.

    Wait until Obamacare kicks in.

    This is intolerable.

  8. Maybe just a dream. Wish that the Southern states would formulate nationalistic economic policies to become as self-sufficient as possible. Cover every industry possible with no outsourcing/onshoring/etc.

  9. Maybe if Trump had appeared in the early 90s he could have made a difference, but I think its far too late now. All of those jobs are going to disappear for good, due to robotics and other forms of automation.

  10. According to the article, Nissan used to have more full time workers, but since American workers have so little leverage these days, most have been replaced with temporary workers so they can be paid less.

  11. Eventually, manufacturing will go the way of agriculture due to robotics and automation. It is obvious our leaders don’t have a clue what to do about that except to burn incense to the gods of the “free market.”

  12. If the job is manual and repetitive, it is going to be done by machines. Even forklift operators are rapidly being replaced by robots. Total output of manufacturing is going up, just with a lot fewer people. It is not just the USA this happening. It is happening all over the world. As an example: Ford’s most advanced auto plant is in Brazil. It has about 600 workers with much of the assembly line done by robots. Ford’s most advanced plant in the 1920s was River Rouge. It employed over 85,000 people (granted, it was a vertically integrated plant with its own steel mill). China and India are investing in robotics as well.

    An area that has done well in the USA is chemicals. We have something that is cheap here, natural gas which is an important feed stock from plastics to anti-freeze. Some of these jobs pay really well. When Shell announced they were building a GTL (turn natural gas into diesel fuel and lubricants) the average salary was going to be $89k per year (plus benefits). Those jobs though are going to be held by millwrights, chemical engineers, and other highly skilled labor. Everything else will be automated.

    A similar robotic revolution will come for agriculture. However, cheap illegal labor is cheaper than the machines at the moment.

    Some examples:

    https://youtu.be/MZIv6WtSF9I

    https://youtu.be/RKT351pQHfI

  13. Eventually, manufacturing will go the way of agriculture due to robotics and automation. It is obvious our leaders don’t have a clue what to do about that except to burn incense to the gods of the “free market.”

    Automation and high productivity benefits everyone. It’s the reason why White countries are the wealthiest in the world. Take this as an example. One hundred fifty years ago if you needed a ditch dug you hired a bunch of men who performed back breaking labor for a pittance. Today, you hire someone with a backhoe to perform the same work at a higher wage. One could argue that automation (the backhoe) put many people out of work (he took his jerb!!!!) but I see the backhoe that has increased the productivity of the worker (and raised his wage) and the productive capacity of the country. Additionally, all the labor needed to dig ditches in the past can now be dedicated to producing other goods and services we need.

    Isn’t free markets great?

  14. If you want to see the wonders that the mechanization of agriculture has created, just come to the Mississippi Delta or the Alabama Black Belt. Both regions have been in decline for the last hundred years or more.

    As agriculture became more capital intensive, fewer and fewer workers were needed in the cotton fields. Blacks and Whites began to leave both regions en masse. As the population collapsed, this dried up demand for a whole range of other service jobs – think gas stations, restaurants – which depended on employment in the cotton based economy.

    In the 20th century, some light manufacturing and textile plants fled the North and relocated to the Delta and the Black Belt, attracted by the surplus of cheap, pliable labor. That softened the blow until the textile plants and the light manufacturing industries closed down and relocated overseas because of all the free trade deals. It is cheaper to make t-shirts in places like Guatemala or fishing equipment in Mexico, etc. No taxes, no unions, no worker safety or environmental regulations. Easy access to the American market, etc. It is a no brainer why all the jobs left.

    In Birmingham, it was cheaper to import steel from overseas, which is why the Magic City doesn’t have a steel industry anymore. Travel through the Delta, the Black Belt, or Birmingham and you will be amazed by all the blighted houses which used to be working class neighborhoods. That’s not solely due to the racial demographics of the area. The demographics have changed because Whites who lost their jobs left the area. They are leaving the overwhelmingly White Hill Country too just like the Black Belt.

    In the Black Belt today, you will find much of the region covered by timber plantations. Virtually all the land is owned by a tiny oligarchy. It’s the same way in the Mississippi Delta. Because cotton is now so capital intensive, all the benefits of the cotton crop accrue to a small class of typically non-resident landowners. Just as the timber plantation owners live off their assets in all the decrepit, abandoned towns and cities.

    Blind faith in muh free market and muh free trade is one side of the coin that brought about this regionwide disaster.

    What parts of Alabama are doing well? In Birmingham, the economy is now based on UAB. In Tuscaloosa and Auburn, the economy is based on state universities. Montgomery has the state government and Maxwell Air Force base. Huntsville’s economy is driven by federal spending on NASA and Redstone Arsenal. It is the exact opposite of what libertarian economics would predict.

    Across the state, there are private foreign manufacturing plants, but the only reason they are here is because of stipulations in the trade agreements and how much money the state government shells out in incentives to subsidize job creation in Alabama. They can also count on the Alabama Supreme Court to rule 100% of the time in favor of business.

  15. Hunter,

    What level of industrialization of agriculture do you consider to be proper? Should all farm equipment be made illegal in order to have full employment?

  16. “What level of industrialization of agriculture do you consider to be proper? Should all farm equipment be made illegal in order to have full employment?” – Agricultural demand is inelastic. the same is not true for manufacturing demand, which is why manufacturing(even with decades of free trade) has not been knocked down to just 2% of our economy.

  17. In the long term, the mechanization of agriculture was unavoidable. In manufacturing, there will similarly be a long term trend toward greater automation and use of robotics, regardless of our present trade policies which exacerbate unemployment. That’s also unavoidable.

    My point is that 1.) it simply isn’t true that there are no losers under libertarian economics and 2.) that the magic of the “free market” will respond and produce better outcomes for everyone is a myth. Even the most cursory tour of large swathes of the South is enough to confirm that in many cases when manufacturing jobs are shipped overseas and workers are fired they are not replaced by better middle class jobs. Not everyone who worked for US Steel in Birmingham became an insurance executive or everyone who assembled fish finding equipment became an owner of a large timber plantation.

    These trade deals might be a win-win for foreign workers and corporate shareholders while being nothing but a loser for employees in small Southern towns who can’t relocate with their families to Vietnam or Mexico. If our national economic strategy is to be blind faith in the “free market” and “free trade,” all the loses will fall on the working class and middle class while all the benefits of “productivity” and “growth” will flow upward to large capitalists.

    We should have a national economic strategy that works to the advantage of the White majority, not a leisured class who live off their assets like the Rich Kids of Instagram.

  18. Hunter,

    I would contend that industrialization is a win-win situation. The more goods that can be produced benefits people at the low end of the wage scale. For example, food is incredibly cheap. Hunger and starvation are not a concern in this country. In fact, poor people in this country overwhelmingly suffer from obesity.

    The reason why White countries are materially wealthier than black African countries (even though they are rich in natural resources) is because we can produce more goods and services with less labor. In Africa, to get something as basic as water women must manually retrieve it from a well or drag buckets to and from a source of water. White countries had aqueducts over 2000 years ago. Today, we have pumping stations, pumping towers, water cleaning systems, and complex piping networks to deliver water to each home. In Africa they don’t have any advanced farming techniques. White countries have turned agriculture into a science. Whites have designed farm equipment that can perform more work in one day than hundreds of African laborers. A single White man on a backhoe can dig more ditches in a day than a 100 Africans equipped with wooden shovels.

    When it comes to job losses, are we our own worst enemy? You correctly noted that most agricultural work is capital intensive. If most industrial work is as capital intensive that means labor is a relatively small factor of production. Therefore, differences in wage rates may play a small role in determining where to build. There are likely other considerations, particularly the regulatory environment. Back in the 1950s, there was no OSHA or EPA to deal with. How many jobs have been loss due to the regulatory burden imposed by the Federal government? Here is way an Intel CEO said about semiconductor manufacturing in the US

    http://www.cnet.com/news/intel-ceo-u-s-faces-looming-tech-decline/

    Take factories. “I can tell you definitively that it costs $1 billion more per factory for me to build, equip, and operate a semiconductor manufacturing facility in the United States,” Otellini said.
    The rub: Ninety percent of that additional cost of a $4 billion factory is not labor but the cost to comply with taxes and regulations that other nations don’t impose. (Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers elaborated on this in an interview with CNET, saying the problem is not higher U.S. wages but antibusiness laws: “The killer factor in California for a manufacturer to create, say, a thousand blue-collar jobs is a hostile government that doesn’t want you there and demonstrates it in thousands of ways.”)
    “If our tax rate approached that of the rest of the world, corporations would have an incentive to invest here,” Otellini said. But instead, it’s the second highest in the industrialized world, making the United States a less attractive place to invest–and create jobs–than places in Europe and Asia that are “clamoring” for Intel’s business.

    Why not address tax and regulatory policies rather than blame labor rates?

    I don’t have blind faith in the free market economy. It’s just that I have zero confidence in any centrally planned economy.

  19. Jeff,

    1.) If these trade deals were really a win-win for American workers, then both the working class and middle class would be much better off today than in the 1970s. The greater benefits of cheap food and imported electronics would outweigh all the lost jobs and wages of displaced American workers.

    Yet that is not the case. Both the American middle class and working class are sinking. They are far weaker than in the 1970s while the benefits of globalization – all that “growth” and “productivity” – have overwhelmingly flown to the ultra wealthy for the past thirty years.

    That matches the visual evidence we see of devastated regions like the Delta and the Black Belt which have not “progressed” but have actually declined in prosperity. Because our comparative advantage with China is the export of scrap metal, that’s why you see so many poor Whites scouring rural areas for scrap metal and blacks doing destructive things like tearing down power lines to get at the copper. They also do that in Africa.

    2.) Do I have to point out how heavily subsidized agriculture is in the US? Just look at the Farm Bill.

    3.) Pity the poor corporation which has to move its factories to Mexico because worker safety and environmental standards in the US negatively impact profitability. Is that what we want as a society? The labor, worker safety and environmental standards of a place like Mexico or India?

  20. Saying there will be jobs for people after robotics, is like saying there will be work for horses, after mass production of cars. Once technology reaches a certain point, the economic systems that have served us for thousands of years are going to stop functioning.

    This is an overly pessimistic prediction:

  21. Intel is a multinational corporation.

    It has no loyalty to the United States. It is only loyal to its shareholders which demand the highest profits. As Intel’s former chairman Craig Barrett said, “Intel can move where it must to thrive, but I sometimes wonder how my grandchildren will make a living.”

    That’s the “free market” approach to our posterity.

  22. Here in the Alabama Black Belt, we have some of the poorest counties in the United States. Take for example nearby Bullock County, AL. It is the home of a Wayne Farms chicken processing plant.

    Even though Bullock County is one of the poorest places in the United States, Wayne Farms employs tons of illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America. It is not just because the county is majority black either. There are other chicken plants in Alabama cities like Enterprise, Dothan, Albertville, and Russellville in the Wiregrass and Hill Country.

    The one constant in all of these chicken plants is cheap, pliable illegal alien labor. See also Gainesville, GA and Shelbyville, TN.

  23. I met a guy in the Ironbound section in Newark. After the war his father opened up a small metal fabrication business. They would make various types of metal parts. The father pasted the business on to his son. It broke the mans heart to have to close the business his father had work so many years to build and then gave to his son to carry on. It is among the biggest shameful disgraces America has perpetrated on its hardest working most industrious people.

  24. Richard,

    It is a worrisome trend. That’s why we need a national strategy in place to deal with the entirely foreseeable consequences of automation and robotics in manufacturing putting millions out of work. Instead, we have leaders and political pundits who promised we were entering an “information age” where the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google would employ millions of Americans. They said to trust the magic of the “free market” to work it all out.

  25. BTW the god does not exist at the end of the above video, has nothing to do with Christianity. Its to do with his ideas on the current state of physics. He makes the case that modern physicists invent ghosts and goblins to make their theories work. You would have to watch his video series to understand it.

  26. HW, so why are you against Trump, when he says that ‘foreign-made’ cars, etc. would have a 30% import duty? The ‘American’ car manufacturers would be hit with this, IF their factories are overseas, and ANY part of that made it back to the USA.

    Forced compliance of BIG BIZ to be REAL Americans, is part of the ‘Make America Great’ strategy. The corrollary of ‘They ALL have to go” is, ‘YOU have to make it, HERE.’

    It’s that simple. American Jobs for Americans. Duh.

  27. I don’t like his tax plan.

    I’ve said all along the jury is still out on his trade policy. He has talked a lot about it on the campaign trail, but the details are not out yet. I’m guessing we will hear a lot more about it tonight.

  28. Hunter Wallace
    ‘Eventually, manufacturing will go the way of agriculture due to robotics and automation.’

    True.

    Regarding agriculture we are always told that we need to keep importing millions of Latinos to harvest crops and work fields or we will starve to death.

    Not so.

    Ann Coulter ?@AnnCoulter 3h3 hours ago
    Ann Coulter Retweeted Brian Finbow
    Only 3% of immigrant workers are in agriculture. They’re taking all your jobs, gov benefits, social security, etc.

    Brian Finbow @FinbowBrian
    ‘@AnnCoulter If you don’t let them in who will pick the lettuce for your salad?

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