The Daily Yonder's coverage of rural economic issues, including workforce development and the future of work in rural America, is supported in part by Microsoft.
The Daily Yonder has been documenting how the manufacturing sector in the U.S. collapsed during this recession — especially in rural counties in the Carolinas and Georgia. The Washington Post reports this morning that the blame for the 15% unemployment around Hickory, North Carolina, is due to globalization. Peter Whoriskey reports: “The region has lost more of its jobs to international competition than just about anywhere else in the nation, according to federal trade-assistance statistics, as textile mills have closed, furniture factories have dwindled and even the fiber-optic plants have undergone mass layoffs.”
The federal remedy for jobs lost to global trade is retraining. But the Post finds that people can’t afford to go to class. They have mouths to feed and insurance bills to be paid. One woman who lost her job in a furniture factory went back to school to learn how to work in a doctor’s office. She lost her house and her health insurance. (See a good slide show on this.)
Free trade advocates say that as unprofitable businesses close due to competition from low-wage countries, workers will shift to more productive activities. The Post finds that reality is having a hard time catching up to theory. “The people in the think tanks keep saying we are going to become — what’s the term? — an ‘information and services’ economy,” said Allan Mackie, manager of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission office. “That doesn’t seem to be working out too good.”