That’s what the US Trade Representative says in an editorial in the New York Times today. And he gets the drivers right, mostly. But the results? “The United States lost five million manufacturing jobs. That, in turn, devastated towns and contributed to the breakdown of families, an opioid epidemic and despair.”
That’s just a crazy extrapolation. The US was at 3.1% unemployment prior to Covid-19.
Repeat after me: There. Were. More. Jobs. Than. Qualified. Workers.
For two decades, the no. 1 complaint I’ve heard from US business owners is the lack of manufacturing talent. Even in times of higher unemployment rates (the last two months notwithstanding), managers consistently noted the lack of basic communication and math skills among the workers available.
In his op-ed, USTR Robert Lighthizer adds, “If you want certainty, bring your plants back to America.”
It’s not that simple. You need the whole supply chain. And you need an end-market. The US, at 327 million people, isn’t big enough to sustain a company of any real size; those firms must be able to sell into other (larger) markets too.
And all those other big markets (China, Brazil, EU, etc.) have their own “make local” requirements and incentives.
I wish Lighthizer were right. But I’ll say it again: The US does not have enough worker talent to handle manufacturing at the cost necessary to satisfy the US market.