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August 30. 2012 12:13AM

NH has lost more jobs to China than any other state, 2.94% of total workforce

New Hampshire has lost more than 20,000 jobs in the past decade because of the nation's growing trade deficit with China, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

According to the report, the job losses added up to 2.94 percent of the state's total work force, which put New Hampshire at the top of the list of 50 states, based on jobs lost as a share of state employment.

The states showing the biggest net losses were California (474,700 jobs) and Texas (239,600 jobs), with other large states such as New York, Illinois and Florida showing large losses as well.

“The growing trade deficit with China has been a prime contributor to the crisis in U.S. manufacturing employment,” said the report's author, who claims that between 2001 and 2011, the trade imbalance eliminated or displaced more than half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost over that period.

“The EPI report offers convincing evidence that unless China's trade violations and currency manipulations are challenged forcefully, our growing trade deficit will continue to cripple the fledgling U.S. jobs recovery,” said Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Chris Way, the state's interim director of economic development, said the study wasn't based on actual job counts, but the dollar value of trade, and assumes that a certain amount of trade translates into a certain number of jobs.

“It's an estimate and it may be accurate or it may not be accurate,” he said. “We don't have anything to compare to it, because we don't have that formula. We don't really have a number that compares apples to apples.”

Way said he does not doubt that manufacturing jobs have been lost in the 10-year period.

“I think the manufacturing jobs that were lost were mostly when the computer bubble burst,” he said. “So when we had the Dells and the HPs, a lot of the work they did was contract manufacturing. Those are jobs that were lost to overseas, where there were lower costs and it was easier to ship those jobs away.”

As it becomes more difficult to compete for assembly-line manufacturing jobs, Way said New Hampshire is focused on developing what he called “knowledge-based manufacturing jobs,” in fields such as biomedical, aerospace and environmental science.

He points to Watts Water Technologies in Franklin, which recently announced an expansion project expected to create 100 new manufacturing jobs.

The company had previously manufactured some of its water control products in China, but transferred that operation to New Hampshire. The company broke ground in March on a 30,000-square-foot building to manufacture products that help customers comply with lead-free requirements taking effect in 2014.

Watts employs 6,000 people at 70 plants around the world, but the Franklin foundry, with 400 employees, is its largest manufacturing facility in North America. “It makes me proud, as a New Hampshire resident and an American, that you have been able to bring your product lines back from China and bring jobs back from China,” said Franklin Mayor Kenneth Merrifield at the March ground-breaking.

The EPI report, released on Aug. 23, echoes Way's observation regarding electronic and high-tech manufacturing. “Among specific industries, the trade deficit in the computer and electronic products industry grew the most. ... As a result, many of the hardest-hit congressional districts were in (states) where jobs in that industry are concentrated.”

The Washington-based organization describes itself as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to broaden discussions about economic policy to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers.”

dsolomon@unionleader.com



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