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Outsourcing: An Update

Among the many histrionics of election year 2004 was the concern that free trade in general, and "outsourcing" in particular, would soon rid America of high-paying jobs.

Paul Craig Roberts, you might recall, joined with Sen. Charles Schumer to lead the chorus of those predicting that the alleged out-of-date ("no-think") opposition to protectionism would doom America to third-world status.

But now comes this report, entitled "Firms’ New Grail: Skilled Workers," in today’s Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required).  Here are the opening lines:

Difficulty in finding enough skilled workers is hampering the ability of many U.S. manufacturers to serve their customers.

Eighty-one percent say they face "moderate" or "severe" shortages of qualified workers, according to a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers and Deloitte Consulting LLP. More than half of manufacturers surveyed said 10% or more of their positions are empty for lack of the right candidates.

The shortfall is especially acute in skilled trades, for positions such as welders and specialized machinists.

And then a bit further on in the report:

The recent survey, based on responses from 815 U.S. companies of varying sizes, found that companies see the biggest shortfall in skilled production workers. Eighty percent of respondents expect those workers to be in short supply over the next three years, while 35% expect a shortage of scientists and engineers. More surprising, 25% said they expect a shortage of unskilled workers over the next three years.

So, those who predicted that high-skilled jobs are history are mistaken — as are those who predict that entry-level, low-skill jobs are history.

Looks like Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and we other "no-think" free traders still stand on solid ground.


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