Many times in conversations I am presented with a concern that begins with ‘well we KNOW that….’ What follows is usually a statement that has been made and repeated enough times in the media that it is now accepted as fact. But sometimes what we think we know to be true may not be true forever.
For example, many people express concern that the US has lost manufacturing jobs at a rapid pace over the last decade, and believe we will no longer be a significant, global economic player. In the past, the strong US dollar made it difficult to export our products at favorable exchange rates, and lower wages in China and other countries made our labor costs uncompetitive, so the number of manufacturing plants in the US did decline; but that may no longer be the case.
The booming Chinese economy, which created a middle class whose population is an attractive target market for companies like P&G and McDonalds, has also had the consequence of raising labor rates in the country. According to the May 12 issue of The Economist, pay for factory workers in China soared by 69% between 2005 and 2010. This wage growth in China, combined with the relatively slow growth of wages in the US, may no longer make locating factories in China the savings ‘slam dunk’ that it once was. Caterpillar, a heavy equipment manufacturer, is moving production back to Texas, while NCR is moving its ATM machine manufacturing to the state of Georgia. Several other examples are cited in the article.
It’s a great lesson to learn. Every negative cited in the news – falling housing prices, the decline in the US dollar, the high US unemployment rate – has a corresponding impact in other areas of the economy we may not even be aware of today. There are too many forces at work on the market for us to know for certain what will happen next, so don’t accept conventional wisdom at face value. What you ‘KNOW’ to be true may already be changing.
Jeannette A. Jones, CPA, CFP®