Manufacturing Joblessness

Thanks to Randy Sargent for calling out this video piece, “Back to ‘Made in America‘” by the New York Times’ Poh Si Teng. This four minute piece concentrates on cotton and textile manufacturing, showing how the resurgence in the american textile manufacturing industry is largely due to two interlinked forces: the rising prices of employment in developing countries, and the falling prices of automated manufacturing here in the U.S. There is nothing nefarious about these trendlines, but the result on national and global employment is clear.  Says Jason Randall, Engineering Division Chairman of Surry Community College:

When you can have one robot do the work 24-7 of 20 people, and there’s no backaches, no breaks, no vacation, no calling sick, it’s just advanced manufacturing and very high skilled people. When you right size like that with automation, they [companies] are able to stay here.

The forward march of progress can help the U.S. reclaim lost industries, that much is clear. But who will ultimately benefit from that win?


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