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Are moves to add jobs to US factory floors a harbinger, or outliers?

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In remarks to Bloomberg News last week, Michael Marks, former CEO of Flextronics International Ltd., the second-largest electronics manufacturer in the world, said the Apple announcement represented “a trend that will start in little ways … and will pick up steam as suppliers move here. But this does not herald a booming return of high-volume manufacturing to the United States.”

Still, there are some encouraging signs. Since January 2010, the US has gained 496,000 manufacturing jobs, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's fewer than one-quarter of the 2.3 million jobs the manufacturing sector lost during the Great Recession, which officially ended in June 2009. Manufacturing employment has remained relatively stable since last spring, according to a new BLS report, released Friday. While the food and chemical manufacturing sectors experienced losses, they were offset by job gains in motor vehicles and parts and wood products.

High fuel and energy costs worldwide, increased consumer and government scrutiny, the declining value of the US dollar relative to other currencies, and rising labor costs abroad are collectively making it more expensive for companies to outsource manufacturing, a point Obama emphasized at Detroit Diesel on Monday. 

“When you factor in everything, it makes sense to invest right here, in America,” he said.

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