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Are we still competitive?

Most people know the economy has become globalized and the United States is in direct competition with other countries for jobs and production. Some say we are losing this race; others say no. What do the numbers say about where we stand against other countries in attracting business?

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

“We do. … Each year an organization called The World Economic Forum — it is a very well-respected international organization — publishes something called a global competitiveness index for 133 countries. And this index is based on hundreds of factors that go into making up the competitiveness of a country.

“The good news is that for 2010, the current year, the U.S. ranked number two in the world among these 133 countries in global competitiveness. Switzerland was number one. And last year we were actually number one. What hurt us this year was our recession and our problems in the financial markets.

“If you look behind the overall number, the U.S. gets very high marks for its innovation, for its market size, for flexibility of labor — meaning that workers can move easily from one kind of job and occupation to another — for our higher education institutions, and for our infrastructure.

“On the other hand, where we seem to be most challenged is in primary education and most recently in the stability of our macro economy.”

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