A manufacturing jag

I guess I'm on a little bit of a manufacturing jag because of being so discouraged about last week's jobs numbers. Just to give you an idea of what I mean, Pennsylvania lost 97,600 "goods-producing" jobs between August 2009 and August 2008. During that same period, 93,900 service jobs were lost. Of the 97,600 goods-producing jobs, 73,500 were in manufacturing. Just to give you an idea, that's about 10,000 more jobs more than the entire populations of Norristown, Doylestown, West Chester and Media combined-- the local suburban county seats. Nationally, manufacturing lost 51,000 jobs in the month of September, alone.

"Pennsylvania has lost more than one-quarter of its manufacturing jobs in eight years and 50,000 factories in the last decade," Scott N. Paul, executive director of Alliance for American Manufacturing, told the Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board on Monday. One problem, he said, is that students coming out of schools are not prepared to take on skilled manufacturing jobs.  Well, if the jobs aren't there, why train for them? However, if the workforce isn't there, the investment won't be either.

One solution might be to require public works projects to use American-made goods, even if it does come with a higher price tag. But how should one then balance the interests of taxpayers in lower taxes against the interests of businesses that would benefit by getting lucrative contracts? That was a question from one of our editorial board members. It was a good question. Paul's answer was that there should be some kind of cap -- if the difference between a foreign-made item and a local item is more than 20 percent, for example, then the requirement would be waived.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing is a combined management and union enterprise advocating for manufacturing.