A more competitive U.S. workforce

Annual data show how American workers’ costs have changed compared to foreign workers. The newest report was recently released, and N.C. State University economist Mike Walden shares the highlights.

“It’s a very interesting report. … It showed for 2011 – these data obviously come out with some lag – but for 2011, U.S. labor costs and manufacturing rose the smallest percentage of any major country in that year, with one exception.  The exception was Greece.  And, of course, there are a lot of issues in Greece.

“It also showed that on a manufacturing labor cost basis – and putting that on an hourly basis also – our manufacturing labor costs are now less than those are in all the European countries and Japan with one exception, and that’s the United Kingdom.

“Now we don’t have, unfortunately, comparable numbers … for China and India, two of our biggest competitors on the world stage, but the latest available data we do have for those countries show that, yes, their labor costs and manufacturing are lower (than) in the U.S., but they are rising very very rapidly.

“So, the bottom line here is that there’s some good news on manufacturing for the U.S. in terms of the labor component. We are becoming much more competitive.”


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