EL SEGUNDO, CA — For the first time since offshoring became a trend for manufacturing companies in the US, the number of factory jobs returning to the country matched the number of jobs lost in 2013, reports Don Lee of the LA Times. It marks the highest manufacturing increases in a quarter century.
Citing federal data, Lee said that “US factory payrolls have grown for four straight years, with gains totalling about 650,000 jobs. That’s a small fraction of the 6 million lost in the previous decade, but it still marks the biggest and longest stretch of manufacturing increases.”
The report attributes the “re-shoring” of product manufacturing to US from China and other low-wage countries to rising labor cost overseas and concerns over quality control. while US worker salaries have stagnated and barely kept up with inflation, their Chinese counterparts are rising. Product manufacturing also has become largely automated in big industries, further reducing labor’s weight in the cost equation.
“We got to the point where everything we were bringing in had to be inspected,” the LA Times quoted Lonnie Kane, president of Los Angeles apparel maker Karen Kane. Kane added that his company used to check just 10 percent of goods from China.
“Now prices are escalating, quality is dropping and deliveries are being delayed,” he noted. To date, the company has 80 percent of its product Made in the US.
Over in New York, a similar trend is growing. The city’s historic garment sector has seen an uptick in apparel manufacturing with the founding of Manufacture New York movement in 2012. Bob Bland, an independent designer based in NYC and founder of the movement, has set up a co-working space in Manhattan to furnish designers with a fully equipped industrial sewing room with computers.
“More designers are staying in NYC and benefiting from doing their lines, said Bland. “There seems to be less of a mass exodus of creative talent than there was after the financial crisis of 2008.”
The re-shoring of product manufacturing proportionately revitalised the wholesale marketplace in the US. With factories and supply chains closer to home, US companies are able keep in pace with industry trends, especially with fast-paced product categories such as fashion.
Christina Moon, an assistant professor in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons, said that “what used to be a stable three-month production cycle has collapsed, across much of the industry, to just two weeks.”
“The ‘on-trend’ clothes that were, until recently, only accessible to well-heeled, slender urban fashionistas, are now available to a dramatically broader audience, at bargain prices. A design idea for a blouse, cribbed from a runway show in Paris, can make it onto the racks in Wichita in a wide range of sizes within the space of a month,” Moon added.