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    Factory Jobs Are Booming Like It’s the 1970s

    U.S. manufacturing is experiencing a rebound, with companies adding workers amid high consumer demand for products.WASHINGTON — Ever since American manufacturing entered a long stretch of automation and outsourcing in the late 1970s, every recession has led to the loss of factory jobs that never returned. But the recovery from the pandemic recession has been different: American manufacturers have now added enough jobs to regain all that they shed — and then some.The resurgence has not been driven by companies bringing back factory jobs that had moved overseas, nor by the brawny industrial sectors and regions often evoked by President Biden, former President Donald J. Trump and other champions of manufacturing.Instead, the engines in this recovery include pharmaceutical plants, craft breweries and ice-cream makers. The newly created jobs are more likely to be located in the Mountain West and the Southeast than in the classic industrial strongholds of the Great Lakes.American manufacturers cut roughly 1.36 million jobs from February to April of 2020, as Covid-19 shut down much of the economy. As of August this year, manufacturers had added back about 1.43 million jobs, a net gain of 67,000 workers above prepandemic levels.Data suggest that the rebound is largely a product of the unique circumstances of the pandemic recession and recovery. Covid-19 crimped global supply chains, making domestic manufacturing more attractive to some companies. Federal stimulus spending helped to power a shift in Americans’ buying habits away from services like travel and restaurants and toward goods like cars and sofas, helping domestic factory production — and with it, job growth — to bounce back much faster than it did in the previous two recessions.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said that the recovery of manufacturing jobs was a result of the unique nature of the recession, which was induced by the pandemic, and the robust federal response, including legislation like the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021.“We had a huge shift away from services and into goods that spurred production and manufacturing and very rapid recovery in the U.S. economy,” Ms. Yellen told reporters during a trip to Detroit this month. The support for local economies and small businesses included in Mr. Biden’s rescue plan, she said, “has been tremendously helpful in restoring the health of the job market and given the shifting in spending patterns, I think that’s been to the benefit of manufacturing.”American manufacturers, like many industries, have struggled to find raw materials, component parts and skilled workers. And yet, they have continued to create jobs at a rate that has surprised even some longtime promoters of American factory employment.“We have 67,000 more workers today than we had in February 2020,” said Chad Moutray, the chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers. “I didn’t think we would get there, to be honest with you.”In recessions over the last half century, factories have typically laid off a greater share of workers than other employers in the economy, and they have been slower to add jobs back in recoveries. Often, companies have used those economic inflection points to accelerate their pace of outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, where wages are significantly lower, and to invest in technology that replaces human workers.The State of Jobs in the United StatesEconomists have been surprised by recent strength in the labor market, as the Federal Reserve tries to engineer a slowdown and tame inflation.August Jobs Report: Job growth slowed in August but stayed solid, suggesting that the labor market recovery remains resilient, even as companies pull back on hiring.Job Market Trends: The labor market appears hot, but the supply of labor has fallen short, holding back the economy. Here is why.Gig Workers: Labor activists hoped President Biden would tackle gig worker issues aggressively. But a year and a half into his presidency, little has been done at the federal level.Black Employment: Black workers saw wages and employment rates go up in the wake of the pandemic. But as the Federal Reserve tries to tame inflation, those gains could be eroded.This time was different. Factory layoffs roughly matched those in the services sector in the depth of the pandemic recession. Economists attribute that break in the trend to many U.S. manufacturers being deemed “essential” during pandemic lockdowns, and the ensuing surge in demand for their products by Americans.Manufacturing jobs quickly rebounded in the spring of 2020, then began to climb at a much faster pace than has been typical for factory job creation in recent decades. Since June 2020, under both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, factories have added more than 30,000 jobs a month.Sectors that hemorrhaged employment in recent recessions have fared much better in this recovery. Furniture makers, who eliminated a third of their jobs in the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath, have nearly returned to their prepandemic employment levels. So have textile mills, paper products companies and computer equipment makers.Manufacturers say the numbers could be even stronger, if not for their continued difficulties attracting and hiring skilled workers amid 3.7 percent unemployment.Fernando Torres, vice president of operations for Greene Tweed, a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of materials and components used by the aerospace and semiconductor industries, said his company has had to become more flexible to attract new workers and offer more attractive salaries and benefits. He has been looking for employees with different backgrounds that the company can train to develop the skills to fill open jobs, and said that it has been hard to retain staff because competitors are aggressively trying to lure them away.But Mr. Torres said that Greene Tweed, which employs just fewer than 2,000 workers, did not plan to give up, considering the demand for his company’s products.“We are looking for lots of employees,” Mr. Torres said. “We are not looking at slowing down.”Chuck Wetherington, president of BTE Technologies, a manufacturer of medical devices based in Maryland, said that he was trying to expand his work force of around 40 by 10 percent. A lack of workers, he said, has become a bigger problem than supply chain disruptions.“Our backlog continues to grow,” Mr. Wetherington said at a National Association of Manufacturers briefing. “I just can’t find the employees.”Mr. Biden has pushed a variety of legislative initiatives to boost domestic manufacturing, including direct spending on infrastructure, tax credits and other subsidies for companies like battery makers and semiconductor factories, and new federal procurement requirements that benefit manufacturers located in the United States. Biden administration officials say those policies could play a decisive role in further encouraging factory job growth in the coming months and years, in hopes of continuing the expansion and possibly pushing factory employment back to pre-2008 levels.Other factors could help hasten more American manufacturing. Delayed deliveries, sky-high shipping prices and other supply chain issues during the pandemic have encouraged some chief executives to think about moving production closer to home. The average price to ship a 40-foot container internationally has fallen sharply in recent months, but it is still three times higher than it was before the pandemic, according to tracking by the freight booking platform Freightos.A container ship at the Port of Los Angeles. As Covid-19 crimped global supply chains, domestic manufacturing became more attractive to some companies.Stella Kalinina for The New York TimesBusinesses are also beginning to question the wisdom of producing so many goods in China, amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and technology. The Chinese government’s insistence on a zero-Covid policy, despite the severe disruptions it has caused for the economy, has especially shaken many executives’ confidence in their ability to operate in China. Mr. Biden has also maintained many tariffs on Chinese imports imposed by Mr. Trump.“The pandemic response by China has definitely prompted more than a rethink on where to put new money. I think we are actually beginning to see action,” said Mary Lovely, a professor of economics at Syracuse University and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. How much of that investment came to the United States was unclear. “I don’t think anyone really knows,” she added.Ed Gresser, the vice president of trade and global markets at the Progressive Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said that the United States had seen a noticeable uptick in new manufacturing establishments since 2019, especially in the pharmaceutical sector, which might be a response to the pandemic. Food and beverage establishments have also continued to grow.But while growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector was strong last year, so were imports of manufactured goods, Mr. Gresser said. That suggests, he said, that the growth of manufacturing probably reflects strong consumer demand in the United States through the pandemic, rather than a shift to production in the United States.While attitudes toward doing business in China have quickly soured, patterns of production have been slower to change. A survey of 117 leading companies released in August by the U.S. China Business Council found that business optimism had reached record lows, but U.S. corporations remained overwhelmingly profitable in China, which is still home to the world’s most expansive ecosystem of factories and a lucrative consumer market.Eight percent of the surveyed companies reported moving segments of their supply chain out of China to the United States in the past year, while another 16 percent had moved some operations to other countries. But 78 percent of the companies said they had not shifted any business away from China.The Biden administration is hopeful that new policies — including a manufacturing competitiveness law and a climate law the president signed this summer — will encourage more companies to leave China for the United States, particularly cutting-edge industries like clean energy and advanced computing.Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, said in an interview that the laws were already changing the calculus for investment and job creation in the United States. In recent weeks, White House officials have promoted factory announcements from automakers, battery companies and others, directly linked to the climate bill.“One of the most striking things that we are seeing now,” Mr. Deese said, “is the number of companies — U.S. companies and global companies — that are committing to build and expand their manufacturing footprint in the United States, and doing so based on their view that not only did the pandemic highlight the need for more resilience in their supply chains, but that the United States is creating a policy environment that makes long term investment here in the United States more attractive.” More

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    Yellen Embarks on Economic Victory Tour as Midterm Elections Approach

    DEARBORN, Mich. — Emerging from months of inflation and recession fears, the Biden administration is pivoting to recast its stewardship of the U.S. economy as a singular achievement. In their pitch to voters, two months before midterm elections determine whether Democrats will maintain full control of Washington, Biden officials are pointing to a postpandemic resurgence of factories and “forgotten” cities.The case was reinforced on Thursday by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who laid out the trajectory of President Biden’s economic agenda on the floor of Ford Motor’s electric vehicle factory in Dearborn. Mich. Surrounded by F-150 Lightning trucks, Ms. Yellen described an economy where new infrastructure investments would soon make it easier to produce and move goods around the country, bringing prosperity to places that have been left behind.“We know that a disproportionate share of economic opportunity has been concentrated in major coastal cities,” Ms. Yellen said in a speech. “Investments from the Biden economic plan have already begun shifting this dynamic.”Her comments addressed a U.S. economy that is at a crossroads. Some metrics suggest that a run of the highest inflation in four decades has peaked, but recession fears still loom as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates to contain rising prices. The price of gasoline has been easing in recent weeks, but a European Union embargo on Russian oil that is expected to take effect in December could send prices soaring again, rattling the global economy. Lockdowns in China in response to virus outbreaks continue to weigh on the world’s second-largest economy.In her speech on Thursday, Ms. Yellen said the legislation that Mr. Biden signed this year to promote infrastructure investment, expand the domestic semiconductor industry and support the transition to electric vehicles represented what she called “modern supply-side economics.” Rather than relying on tax cuts and deregulation to spur economic growth, as Republicans espouse, Ms. Yellen contends that investments that make it easier to produce products in the United States will lead to a more broad-based and stable economic expansion. She argued that an expansion of clean energy initiatives was also a matter of national security.“It will put us well on our way toward a future where we depend on the wind, sun and other clean sources for our energy,” Ms. Yellen said as Ford’s electric pickup trucks were assembled around her. “We will rid ourselves from our current dependence on fossil fuels and the whims of autocrats like Putin,” she said, referring to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.The remarks were the first of several that top Biden administration officials and the president himself are planning to make this month as midterm election campaigns around the country enter their final stretch. After months of being on the defensive in the face of criticism from Republicans who say Democrats fueled inflation by overstimulating the economy, the Biden administration is fully embracing the fruits of initiatives such as the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021, which disbursed $350 billion to states and cities.At the factory, Ms. Yellen met with some of Ford’s top engineers and executives. During her trip to Michigan, she also made stops in Detroit at an East African restaurant, an apparel manufacturer and a coffee shop that received federal stimulus funds. She dined with Detroit’s mayor, Mike Duggan, and Michigan’s lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist.Detroit was awarded $827 million through the relief package and has been spending the money on projects to clean up blighted neighborhoods, expand broadband access and upgrade parks and recreation venues.Although Ms. Yellen is helping to lead what Treasury officials described as a victory lap, some of her top priorities have yet to be addressed..css-1v2n82w{max-width:600px;width:calc(100% – 40px);margin-top:20px;margin-bottom:25px;height:auto;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;font-family:nyt-franklin;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1v2n82w{margin-left:20px;margin-right:20px;}}@media only screen and (min-width:1024px){.css-1v2n82w{width:600px;}}.css-161d8zr{width:40px;margin-bottom:18px;text-align:left;margin-left:0;color:var(–color-content-primary,#121212);border:1px solid var(–color-content-primary,#121212);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-161d8zr{width:30px;margin-bottom:15px;}}.css-tjtq43{line-height:25px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-tjtq43{line-height:24px;}}.css-x1k33h{font-family:nyt-cheltenham;font-size:19px;font-weight:700;line-height:25px;}.css-ok2gjs{font-size:17px;font-weight:300;line-height:25px;}.css-ok2gjs a{font-weight:500;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}.css-1c013uz{margin-top:18px;margin-bottom:22px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz{font-size:14px;margin-top:15px;margin-bottom:20px;}}.css-1c013uz a{color:var(–color-signal-editorial,#326891);-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;font-weight:500;font-size:16px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz a{font-size:13px;}}.css-1c013uz a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.Learn more about our process.The so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress passed last month, did not contain provisions to put the United States in compliance with the global tax agreement that Ms. Yellen brokered last year, which aimed to eliminate corporate tax havens, leaving the deal in limbo. On Thursday, she said she would continue to “advocate for additional reforms of our tax code and the global tax system.”Despite Ms. Yellen’s belief that some of the tariffs that the Trump administration imposed on Chinese imports were not strategic and should be removed, Mr. Biden has yet to roll them back. In her speech, Ms. Yellen accused China of unfairly using its market advantages as leverage against other countries but said maintaining “mutually beneficial trade” was important.Ms. Yellen also made no mention in her speech of Mr. Biden’s recent decision to cancel student loan debt for millions of Americans. She believed the policy, which budget analysts estimate could cost the federal government $300 billion, could fuel inflation.Treasury Department officials said Detroit, the center of the American automobile industry, exemplified how many elements of the Biden administration’s economic agenda are coming together to benefit a place that epitomized the economic carnage of the 2008 financial crisis. Legislation that Democrats passed this year is meant to create new incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, improve access to microchips that are critical for car manufacturing and smooth out supply chains that have been disrupted during the pandemic.“There will be greater certainty in our increasingly technology-dependent economy,” Ms. Yellen said.But the transition to a postpandemic economy has had its share of turbulence.Ford said last month that it was cutting 3,000 jobs as part of an effort to reduce costs and become more competitive amid the industry’s evolution to electric vehicles. The company also cut nearly 300 workers in April.“People in Michigan can be pretty nervous about the transition to electric vehicles because they actually require by some estimation a lot less labor to assemble because there are fewer parts,” said Gabriel Ehrlich, an economist at the University of Michigan. “There are questions about what does that mean for these jobs.”Republicans in Congress continue to assail the Biden administration’s management of the economy.“Inflation continues to sit at a 40-year high, eating away at paychecks and sending costs through the roof,” Representative Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican, said on Twitter on Thursday. “While in Michigan today, Secretary Yellen should apologize for being so wrong about the inflation-fueling impact of the Biden administration’s runaway spending.”Ms. Yellen will be followed to Michigan next week by Mr. Biden, who will attend Detroit’s annual auto show.The business community in Detroit, noting the magnetism of Michigan’s swing-state status, welcomed the attention.“We’re about as purple as it gets right now,” Sandy K. Baruah, the chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber, a business group.Noting the importance of the automobile industry to America’s economy, Mr. Baruah added: “When you think about blue-collar jobs and the transitioning nature of blue-collar jobs, especially in the manufacturing space, Michigan has the perfect optics.” More

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    Biden Administration Releases Plan for $50 Billion Investment in Chips

    The Commerce Department issued guidelines for companies angling to receive federal funding aimed at bolstering the domestic semiconductor industry.WASHINGTON — The Department of Commerce on Tuesday unveiled its plan for dispensing $50 billion aimed at building up the domestic semiconductor industry and countering China, in what is expected to be the biggest U.S. government effort in decades to shape a strategic industry.About $28 billion of the so-called CHIPS for America Fund is expected to go toward grants and loans to help build facilities for making, assembling and packaging some of the world’s more advanced chips.Another $10 billion will be devoted to expanding manufacturing for older generations of technology used in cars and communications technology, as well as specialty technologies and other industry suppliers, while $11 billion will go toward research and development initiatives related to the industry.The department is aiming to begin soliciting applications for the funding from companies no later than February, and it could begin disbursing money by next spring, Gina Raimondo, the secretary of commerce, said in an interview.The fund, which was approved by Congress in July, was created to encourage U.S. production of strategically important semiconductors and spur research and development into the next generation of chip technologies. The Biden administration says the investments will lessen dependence on a foreign supply chain that has become an urgent threat to the country’s national security.“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a once-in-a-generation opportunity, to secure our national security and revitalize American manufacturing and revitalize American innovation and research and development,” Ms. Raimondo said. “So, although we’re working with urgency, we have to get it right, and that’s why we are laying out the strategy now.”Trade experts have called the fund the most significant investment in industrial policy that the United States has made in at least 50 years.It will come at a pivotal moment for the semiconductor industry.Tensions between the United States and China are rising over Taiwan, the self-governing island that is the source of more than two-thirds of the most advanced semiconductors. Shortages of semiconductors have also helped to fuel inflation globally, by increasing delivery times and prices for electronics, appliances and cars.Semiconductors are crucial components in mobile phones, pacemakers and coffee makers, and they are also the key to advanced technologies like quantum computing, artificial intelligence and unmanned drones.With midterm elections fast approaching, the Biden administration is under pressure to demonstrate that it can use this funding wisely and lure manufacturing investments back to the United States. The Commerce Department is responsible for choosing which companies receive the money and monitoring their investments.In its strategy paper, the Commerce Department said that the United States remained the global leader in chip design, but that it had lost its leading edge in producing the world’s most advanced semiconductors. In the last few years, China has accounted for a substantial portion of newly built manufacturing, the paper said.The high cost of building the kind of complex facilities that manufacture semiconductors, called fabs, has pushed companies to separate their facilities for designing chips from those that manufacture them. Many leading companies, like Qualcomm, Nvidia and Apple, design chips in the United States, but they contract out their fabrication to foundries based in Asia, particularly in Taiwan. The system creates a risky source of dependence for the chips industry, the White House says.The department said the funding aimed to help offset the higher costs of building and operating facilities in the United States compared with other countries, and to encourage companies to build the larger type of fabs in the United States that are now more common in Asia. Domestic and foreign companies can apply for the funds, as long as they invest in projects in the United States.To receive the money, companies will need to demonstrate the long-term economic viability of their project, as well as “spillover benefits” for the communities they operate in, like investments in infrastructure and work force development, or their ability to attract suppliers and customers, the department said.Projects that involve economically disadvantaged individuals and businesses owned by minorities, veterans or women, or that are based in rural areas, will be prioritized, the department said. So will projects that help make the supply chain more secure by, for example, providing another production location for advanced chips that are manufactured in Taiwan. Companies are encouraged to demonstrate that they can obtain other sources of funding, including private capital and state and local investment.The Commerce Department is setting up two new offices housed under the National Institute of Standards and Technology to set up the programs.One of the department’s biggest challenges will be ensuring that the government funds add to, rather than displace, money that chip making companies were already planning to invest. Companies including GlobalFoundries, Micron, Qualcomm and Intel have announced plans to make major investments in U.S. facilities that may qualify for government funding.The chips bill specifies that companies that accept funding cannot make new, high-tech investments in China or other “countries of concern” for at least a decade, unless they are producing lower-tech “legacy chips” destined to serve only the local market.The Commerce Department said it would review and audit companies that receive the funding, and claw back funds from any company that violates the rules. The guidelines also forbid recipients from engaging in stock buybacks, so that taxpayer money doesn’t end up being used to reward a company’s investors.“We’re going to run a serious, competitive, transparent process,” Ms. Raimondo said. “We are negotiating for every nickel of taxpayer money.”In addition to the new prohibitions on investing in chip manufacturing facilities in China, officials in the Biden administration have agreed that the White House should take executive action to scrutinize outbound investment in other industries as well, Ms. Raimondo said.But she added that the administration was still working through the details of how to put such a policy in place.Earlier versions of the chips bill also proposed setting up a broader system to review investments that U.S. companies make abroad to prevent certain strategic technologies from being shared with U.S. adversaries. That provision, which would have applied to cutting-edge technologies beyond the chips sector, was stripped out of the bill, but officials in the Biden administration have been considering an executive order that would establish a similar review process.The United States has a review system for investments that foreign companies make in the United States, but not vice versa.The Biden administration has also taken steps to restrict the types of advanced semiconductors and equipment that can be exported out of the United States.In statements last week, Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices, both based in Silicon Valley, said they had been notified by the U.S. government that exports to China and Russia of certain high-end chips they produce for use in supercomputers and artificial intelligence were now restricted. These chips help power the kind of supercomputers that can be used in weapons development and intelligence gathering, including large-scale surveillance. Ms. Raimondo declined to discuss the export controls in detail but said the department was “constantly evaluating” its efforts, including how best to work with allies to deny China the equipment, software and tooling the country uses to enhance its semiconductor industry. More

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    Biden Signs Industrial Policy Bill Aimed at Bolstering Competition With China

    WASHINGTON — President Biden on Tuesday signed into law a sprawling $280 billion bill aimed at bolstering American chip manufacturing to address global supply chain issues and counter the rising influence of China, part of a renewed effort by the White House to galvanize its base around a recent slate of legislative victories.Standing before business leaders and lawmakers in the Rose Garden, Mr. Biden said the bill was proof that bipartisanship in Washington could produce legislation that would build up a technology sector, lure semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States and eventually create thousands of new American jobs.“Fundamental change is taking place today, politically, economically and technologically,” Mr. Biden said. “Change that can either strengthen our sense of control and security, of dignity and pride in our lives and our nation, or change that weakens us.”The bipartisan compromise showed a rare consensus in a deeply divided Washington, reflecting the sense of urgency among both Republicans and Democrats for an industrial policy that could help the United States compete with China. Seventeen Republicans voted for the bill in the Senate, while 24 Republicans supported it in the House.While Republicans have long resisted intervening in global markets and Democrats have criticized pouring taxpayer funds into private companies, global supply chain shortages exacerbated by the pandemic exposed just how much the United States had come to rely on foreign countries for advanced semiconductor chips used in technologies as varied as electric vehicles and weapons sent to aid Ukraine.Read More on the Relations Between Asia and the U.S.Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan has exacerbated tensions between the United States and China, which claims the self-governing island as its own. The visit could also undermine the Biden administration’s strategy of building economic and diplomatic ties in Asia to counter Beijing.Reassuring Allies: Amid China’s military exercises near Taiwan in response to Ms. Pelosi’s visit, the Biden administration says its commitment to the region has only deepened. But critics say the tensions over Taiwan show that Washington needs stronger military and economic strategies.CHIPS and Science Act: Congress passed a $280 billion bill aimed at building up America’s manufacturing and technological edge to counter China. It is the most significant U.S. government intervention in industrial policy in decades.In a sign of how Beijing’s rise drove the negotiations for the legislation, Mr. Biden explicitly mentioned China multiple times during his remarks at the bill-signing ceremony.“It’s no wonder the Chinese Communist Party actively lobbied U.S. business against this bill,” the president said, adding that the United States must lead the world in semiconductor production.The bill is focused on domestic manufacturing, research and national security, providing $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for companies that manufacture chips in the United States. It also includes $200 billion for new manufacturing initiatives and scientific research, particularly in areas like artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing and other technologies.The legislation authorizes and funds the creation of 20 “regional technology hubs” that are intended to link together research universities with private industry in an effort to advance technology innovation in areas lacking such resources. And it provides funding to the Energy Department and the National Science Foundation for basic research into semiconductors and for building up work force development programs.“We will bring these jobs back to our shores and end our dependence on foreign chips,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, who pumped his fists as he stepped toward the lectern. More

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    How a New Corporate Minimum Tax Could Reshape Business Investments

    With a new corporate minimum tax, Democrats would be adding complexity to an already byzantine tax system.WASHINGTON — At the center of the new climate and tax package that Democrats appear to be on the verge of passing is one of the most significant changes to America’s tax code in decades: a new corporate minimum tax that could reshape how the federal government collects revenue and alter how the nation’s most profitable companies invest in their businesses.The proposal is one of the last remaining tax increases in the package that Democrats are aiming to pass along party lines in coming days. After months of intraparty disagreement over whether to raise taxes on the wealthy or roll back some of the 2017 Republican tax cuts to fund their agenda, they have settled on a longstanding political ambition to ensure that large and profitable companies pay more than $0 in federal taxes.To accomplish this, Democrats have recreated a policy that was last employed in the 1980s: trying to capture tax revenue from companies that report a profit to shareholders on their financial statements while bulking up on deductions to whittle down their tax bills.The re-emergence of the corporate minimum tax, which would apply to what’s known as the “book income” that companies report on their financial statements, has prompted confusion and fierce lobbying resistance since it was announced last month.Some initially conflated the measure with the 15 percent global minimum tax that Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has been pushing as part of an international tax deal. However, that is a separate proposal, which in the United States remains stalled in Congress, that would apply to the foreign earnings of American multinational companies.Republicans have also misleadingly tried to seize on the tax increase as evidence that President Biden was ready to break his campaign promises and raise taxes on middle-class workers. And manufacturers have warned that it would impose new costs at a time of rapid inflation.In a sign of the political power of lobbyists in Washington, by Thursday evening the new tax had already been watered down. At the urging of manufacturers, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona persuaded her Democratic colleagues to preserve a valuable deduction, known as bonus depreciation, that is associated with purchases of machinery and equipment.The new 15 percent minimum tax would apply to corporations that report annual income of more than $1 billion to shareholders on their financial statements but use deductions, credits and other preferential tax treatments to reduce their effective tax rates well below the statutory 21 percent. It was originally projected to raise $313 billion in tax revenue over a decade, though the final tally is likely to be $258 billion once the revised bill is finalized.The new tax could also inject a greater degree of complexity into the tax code, creating challenges in carrying out the law if it is passed.“In terms of implementation and just bandwidth to deal with the complexity, there’s no doubt that this regime is complex,” said Peter Richman, a senior attorney adviser at the Tax Law Center at New York University’s law school. “This is a big change and the revenue number is large.”What’s in the Democrats’ Climate and Tax BillCard 1 of 6A new proposal. More

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    Congress Is Giving Billions to the Chip Industry. Strings Are Attached.

    Industrial policy is back in Washington, as a vast semiconductor and science bill gives the government new sway over a strategic industry.WASHINGTON — Amid a global semiconductor shortage, and as lawmakers dithered over a bill to boost U.S.-based chip manufacturing, Intel went to the Biden administration with a proposal that some officials found deeply alarming.Intel told Commerce Department officials that it was considering expanding its manufacturing capacity for chips by taking over an abandoned factory in Chengdu, China. The new facility, the company said, could help ease a global chip crunch that was shuttering car and electronics factories and beginning to fuel inflation.Intel ultimately shelved the plan. But for lawmakers and the administration it became a vivid example of the need to pass legislation aimed at luring the global chip industry back to the United States. It was also an argument for giving the federal government significant influence over the industry, according to lawmakers, congressional aides and administration officials, many of whom requested anonymity to discuss private deliberations.The sprawling bill that Congress finally passed last week, the CHIPS and Science Act, gives the federal government a primary role in deciding which chip makers will benefit from the legislation’s funding. The bill contains $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for any global chip manufacturer that chooses to set up new or expand existing operations in the United States, along with more than $200 billion toward scientific research in areas like artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum computing.With concerns growing about China’s economic and technological ambitions, the bill includes strict new guardrails for firms considering expanding into China. Chip manufacturers that want to take U.S. funding cannot make new, high-tech investments in China or other “countries of concern” for at least a decade — unless they are producing lower-tech “legacy chips” destined only to serve the local market.The legislation will hand significant power over the private sector to the Commerce Department, which will choose which companies qualify for the money. Already the department has said it will give preference to companies that invest in research, new facilities and work force training, rather than those that engage in the kind of share buybacks that have been prevalent in recent years.“This is not a blank check to these companies,” Gina Raimondo, the secretary of commerce, said in an interview. “There are a lot of strings attached and a lot of taxpayer protections.”Ms. Raimondo’s department also has the authority to review future company investments in China and to claw back funds from any firm that it deems to have broken its rules, as well as the ability to make certain updates to the rules for foreign investment as time goes by.To the bill’s supporters, these provisions represent the benefits of big government spending. The new legislation will not only subsidize advanced research and manufacturing that has withered in the United States in recent decades but also give Washington a bigger role in writing the rules that shape cutting-edge industries globally.It’s an embrace of industrial policy not seen in Washington for decades. Gary Hufbauer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who has surveyed U.S. industrial policy, said the bill was the most significant investment in industrial policy that the United States had made in at least 50 years.8 Signs That the Economy Is Losing SteamCard 1 of 9Worrying outlook. More

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    Who’s to Blame for a Factory Shutdown: A Company, or California?

    VERNON, Calif. — Teresa Robles begins her shift around dawn most days at a pork processing plant in an industrial corridor four miles south of downtown Los Angeles. She spends eight hours on her feet cutting tripe, a repetitive motion that has given her constant joint pain, but also a $17.85-an-hour income that supports her family.So in early June, when whispers began among the 1,800 workers that the facility would soon shut down, Ms. Robles, 57, hoped they were only rumors.“But it was true,” she said somberly at the end of a recent shift, “and now each day inches a little closer to my last day.”  The 436,000-square-foot factory, with roots dating back nearly a century, is scheduled to close early next year. Its Virginia-based owner, Smithfield Foods, says it will be cheaper to supply the region from factories in the Midwest than to continue operations here.“Unfortunately, the escalating costs of doing business in California required this decision,” said Shane Smith, the chief executive of Smithfield, citing utility rates and a voter-approved law regulating how pigs can be housed.Workers and company officials see a larger economic lesson in the impending shutdown. They just differ on what it is. To Ms. Robles, it is evidence that despite years of often perilous work, “we are just disposable to them.” For the meatpacker, it is a case of politics and regulation trumping commerce.The cost of doing business in California is a longtime point of contention. It was cited last year when Tesla, the electric-vehicle maker that has been a Silicon Valley success story, announced that it was moving its headquarters to Texas. “There’s a limit to how big you can scale in the Bay Area,” said Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, mentioning housing prices and long commutes.As with many economic arguments, this one can take on a partisan hue.Around the time of Tesla’s exit, a report by the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution at Stanford University found that California-based companies were leaving at an accelerating rate. In the first six months of last year, 74 headquarters relocated from California, according to the report. In 2020, the report found, 62 companies were known to have relocated.Dee Dee Myers, a senior adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, counters by pointing to California’s continued economic growth.“Every time this narrative comes up, it’s consistently disproven by the facts,” said Ms. Myers, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. The nation’s gross domestic product grew at an annual pace of 2 percent over a five-year period through 2021, according to Ms. Myers’s office, while California’s grew by 3.7 percent. The state is still the country’s tech capital.Still, manufacturing has declined more rapidly in California than in the nation as a whole. Since 1990, the state has lost a third of its factory jobs — it now has roughly 1.3 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — compared with a 28 percent decline nationwide.The Smithfield plant is an icon of California’s industrial heyday. In 1931, Barney and Francis Clougherty, brothers who grew up in Los Angeles and the sons of Irish immigrants, started a meatpacking business that soon settled in Vernon. Their company, later branded as Farmer John, became a household name in Southern California, recognized for producing the beloved Dodger Dog and al pastor that sizzled at backyard cookouts. During World War II, the company supplied rations to U.S. troops in the Pacific.Leo Velasquez, 62, started working at the plant in 1990. He had hoped to stay there until he was ready to retire.Mark Abramson for The New York TimesAlmost 20 years later, Les Grimes, a Hollywood set painter, was commissioned to create a mural at the plant, transforming a bland industrial structure into a pastoral landscape where young children chased cherubic-looking pigs. It became a sightseeing destination.More recently, it has also been a symbol of the state’s social and political turbulence.In explaining Smithfield’s decision to close the plant, Mr. Smith, the chief executive, and other company officials have pointed to a 2018 statewide ballot measure, Proposition 12, which requires that pork sold in the state come from breeding pigs housed in spaces that allow them to move more freely.The measure is not yet being enforced and faces a challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. If it is not overturned, the law will apply even to meat packed outside the state — the way Smithfield now plans to supply the local market — but company officials say that in any case, its passage reflects a climate inhospitable to pork production in California.Passions have sometimes run high outside the plant as animal rights activists have condemned the confinement and treatment of the pigs being slaughtered inside. Protesters have serenaded and provided water to pigs whose snouts stuck out of slats in arriving trucks.In addition to its objections to Proposition 12, Smithfield maintains that the cost of utilities is nearly four times as high per head to produce pork in California than at the company’s 45 other plants around the country, though it declined to say how it arrived at that estimate.John Grant, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, which represents Ms. Robles and other workers at the plant, said Smithfield announced the closing just as the sides were to begin negotiating a new contract. “They’re kicking us out with no answers,” said Teresa Robles, who has worked at the factory for four years.Mark Abramson for The New York Times“A total gut punch and, frankly, a shock,” said Mr. Grant, who worked at the plant in the 1970s. He said wage increases were a priority for the union going into negotiations. The company has offered a $7,500 bonus to employees who stay through the closing and has raised the hourly wage, previously $19.10 at the top of the scale, to $23.10. (The rate at the company’s unionized Midwest plants is still a bit higher.)But Mr. Grant said the factory shutdown was an affront to his members, who toiled through the pandemic as essential workers. Smithfield was fined nearly $60,000 by California regulators in 2020 for failing to take adequate measures to protect workers from contracting coronavirus.“After all that the employees have done throughout the pandemic, they’re now all of a sudden going to flee? They’re destroying lives,” said Mr. Grant, adding that the union is working to find new jobs for workers and hopes to help find a buyer for the plant.Karen Chapple, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, said the closing was an example of “the larger trend of deindustrialization” in areas like Los Angeles. “It probably doesn’t make sense to be here from an efficiency perspective,” she said. “It’s the tail end of a long exodus.”Indeed, the number of food manufacturing jobs in Los Angeles County has declined 6 percent since 2017, according to state data.  And as those jobs are shed, workers like Ms. Robles wonder what will come next.More than 80 percent of the employees at the Smithfield plant are Latino — a mix of immigrants and first-generation native-born. Most are older than 50. The security and benefits have kept people in their jobs, union leaders say, but the nature of the labor has made it hard to recruit younger workers who have better alternatives.On a recent overcast morning, the air in Vernon was thick with the smell of ammonia. Workers wearing surgical masks and carrying goggles and helmets walked into the plant. The sound of forklifts hummed beyond a high fence.Massive warehouses line the streets in the area. Some sit vacant; others produce wholesale local baked goods and candies. Mario Melendez, who has worked at the plant for a decade, says he feels betrayed by the company.Mark Abramson for The New York TimesMs. Robles started at the Smithfield plant four years ago. For more than two decades she owned a small business selling produce in downtown Los Angeles. She loved her work, but when her brother died in 2018, she needed money to honor his wish to have his body sent from Southern California to Colima, Mexico, their hometown. She sold the business for a couple of thousand dollars, then started at the factory, making $14 an hour.“I was proud,” she said, recalling the early months at her new job.Ms. Robles is the sole provider for her family. Her husband has several health complications, including surviving a heart attack in recent months, so she now shoulders the $2,000 mortgage payment for their home in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Sometimes her 20-year-old son, who recently started working at the plant, helps with expenses.“But this is my responsibility — it is on me to provide,” she said.Ms. Robles has long recited the Lord’s Prayer every night before bed, and now she often finds herself repeating it throughout the day for strength.“They’re kicking us out with no answers,” she said.Other workers, like Mario Melendez, 67, who has worked at the plant for a decade, shares that unmoored feeling.It’s an honor to know his labor helps feed people across Southern California, he said — especially around the holidays, when the factory’s ribs, ham and hot dogs will be part of people’s celebrations.But the factory is also a place where he contracted coronavirus, which he passed along to his brother, who died of the virus, as did his mother. He was devastated.A truck carrying pigs entering the plant. Animal rights activists have sometimes protested outside.Mark Abramson for The New York Times“A terrible shock,” said Mr. Melendez, who says he feels betrayed by the company.So does Leo Velasquez.He started on the night shift in 1990, making $7 an hour to package and seal bacon. A few years later, he moved to days, working 10-hour shifts.“I’ve given my life to this place,” said Mr. Velasquez, 62.Over the years, his body began to wear down. In 2014, he had shoulder replacement surgery. Still, he had hoped to continue at the factory until he was ready to retire.“That’s not going to happen,” he said. “Where I go from here, I do not know.” More

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    America’s Safety Net for Workers Hurt by Globalization Is Falling Apart

    A 60-year-old program that provides retraining to workers whose jobs are eliminated because of foreign competition has expired, leaving many at risk.WASHINGTON — In September, the lighting factory in Logan, Ohio, where Jeff Ogg has clocked in nearly every day for the last 37 years, will shut its doors, driven out of business by a shift from fluorescent lighting toward LED technology that is often made cheaply in China.At 57, Mr. Ogg is not yet ready to retire. But when he applied to a national retraining program that helps workers who have lost their jobs to foreign competition, he was dismayed to see his application rejected. A follow-up request for reconsideration was immediately denied.The program that Mr. Ogg looked to for help, known as Trade Adjustment Assistance, has for the past 60 years been America’s main antidote to the pressures that globalization has unleashed on its workers. More than five million workers have participated in the program.But a lack of congressional funding has put the program in jeopardy: Trade assistance was officially terminated on July 1, though it continues to temporarily serve current enrollees. Unless Congress approves new money for the $700 million program, it will cease to exist entirely.Established in 1962, trade assistance was intended to help workers whose factory and other jobs were increasingly moving overseas as companies chased cheap labor outside the United States. It provides services like subsidies for retraining, job search assistance, health coverage tax credits and allowances for relocation.But the benefits have been gradually scaled back given a lack of funding, including limiting who qualifies for assistance. A year ago, the program was restricted to workers who make goods, even though jobs in services have also undergone a wave of offshoring as companies set up call centers and accounting departments overseas. In addition, only those whose jobs shifted to countries that have a free-trade agreement with the United States — like Canada and Mexico, but not China — were eligible for assistance.On July 1, the program stopped reviewing new applications and appeals from workers whose applications have been rejected, and it will be phased out.While often criticized as inefficient and bureaucratic, the program has been the country’s primary answer to trade competition for decades. Its disappearance may leave thousands of workers without critical support as they seek new jobs. In 2021, the Department of Labor certified 801 petitions for trade adjustment assistance from various workplaces, covering an estimated 107,454 American workers.The decision over whether to reauthorize the program has become a casualty of an intense fight in Congress over what to include in a sprawling bill aimed at making America more competitive with China. The centerpiece of the legislation is $52 billion in funding for semiconductor manufacturing in the United States, but lawmakers have been clashing over whether to include other provisions related to trade, such as funding for worker retraining.House Democrats had proposed including other trade provisions as well, including measures to increase scrutiny on investments that might send American technology overseas and eliminate tariff exemptions for small-value goods imported from China.The State of Jobs in the United StatesJob gains continue to maintain their impressive run, easing worries of an economic slowdown but complicating efforts to fight inflation.June Jobs Report: U.S. employers added 372,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained steady at 3.6 percent ​​in the sixth month of 2022.Care Worker Shortages: A lack of child care and elder care options is forcing some women to limit their hours or has sidelined them altogether, hurting their career prospects.Downsides of a Hot Market: Students are forgoing degrees in favor of the attractive positions offered by employers desperate to hire. That could come back to haunt them.Slowing Down: Economists and policymakers are beginning to argue that what the economy needs right now is less hiring and less wage growth. Here’s why.On Tuesday, the Senate voted to advance a smaller legislative package that includes funding for the chips industry and broader research and development, but lacks funding for Trade Adjustment Assistance or other trade-related measures. The chips legislation will still require further approval in both the House and Senate.Supporters of Trade Adjustment Assistance say that they will not stop pushing for its reauthorization, and that funding for the program could still be included in other legislation.Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat from Ohio, blamed Republican lawmakers for “holding T.A.A. hostage” and said he would continue fighting to reauthorize the program.“They have sold out American manufacturing over and over by voting for trade deals and tax policy that send jobs overseas, and continue to block investments to empower workers who lose their jobs because of those bad trade deals,” Mr. Brown said in emailed remarks. “T.A.A. serves workers — like those in Logan, Ohio — who have their lives upended through no fault of their own.”The program and its benefits are already out of reach for Mr. Ogg and 50 others who work at the Logan plant, which manufactures the glass tubes in fluorescent lighting fixtures that were once ubiquitous in schools and offices. The plant tried to transition to making LED lights in recent years, but found those lights could be purchased more cheaply from abroad.“Our plant, our people, most of them have been there 25-plus years,” said Mr. Ogg, who is the president of the local United Steelworkers union. “You work in the same place that long, that’s all you know.”Mr. Ogg said he had no complaints about his career at the plant, where he estimates the average wage is between $25 and $30 an hour — enough for him to buy a home and raise three children. But he’s feeling unsure about what to do next. He previously worked as a mechanic, but said the type of machinery that he had worked on was no longer around.“A lot has changed,” Mr. Ogg added. “If you’ve been stuck in one place for 30-some years, you’re going to need some help to go to the next level.”Trade Adjustment Assistance was intended to do just that — help workers who need new skills to compete in a more globalized economy. The program offered income support to workers who lost their jobs and exhausted unemployment benefits while they retrained for other jobs. Those who are 50 and older and take on lower-paying jobs could qualify for a wage insurance program that temporarily boosted their take-home pay.Some academic research has found benefits for those who enrolled in the program. Workers gave up about $10,000 in income while training, but 10 years later they had about $50,000 higher cumulative earnings than those who did not retrain, according to research from 2018 by Benjamin G. Hyman, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.Still, those relative gains decayed over time, Mr. Hyman’s research shows. After 10 years the incomes of those who received assistance and those who did not were the same — perhaps because the jobs that workers in T.A.A. trained for had also become obsolete as a result of automation and trade competition. Yet Mr. Hyman concluded that earnings returns from the program “may be larger and more effective than previously thought.”The United Steelworkers Local 1999 in Indianapolis, which fought to save manufacturing jobs from companies like Rexnord, which moved its operations to Mexico in 2017.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesThe program fell victim to concerns over its expense and efficiency, as well as what was left out of the broader package of trade legislation. In the past, the funding for the program was coupled with something called Trade Promotion Authority, which streamlined the process for congressional approval of U.S. trade agreements.The combination of Trade Promotion Authority and Trade Adjustment Assistance was a political formula that worked for decades, said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Fore­­­ign Relations. Presidents promised businesses more access to foreign markets, and they made commitments to providing labor unions and their supporters with compensation if jobs were lost in the process.But American views on trade have turned more negative in recent years, as China began dominating global industries and as income inequality widened. Democrats have grown so disillusioned with the effects of global trade and split over its benefits that the Biden administration has declined to push for new pacts.Before writing any new trade deals, Mr. Biden said he would first focus on boosting American competitiveness, including by investing in infrastructure, clean energy, and research and development. And when Trade Promotion Authority expired last year, Biden administration officials did not lobby Congress to reauthorize it.Some Republicans are balking at reapproving trade adjustment assistance when the president shows little intention to open up new overseas business opportunities through trade agreements.“America’s on the sidelines right now on trade, and President Biden’s moratorium on new trade agreements seems firm,” Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas, told reporters late last month. “There would have to be a much stronger ironclad commitment to resuming American leadership in trade to even begin this discussion on extending T.A.A.”“We’re open to creative ideas here, but if we don’t have a serious, significant trade agenda that opens up markets for American workers, T.A.A. doesn’t make much sense,” Mr. Brady added.Mr. Biden’s plans to boost American competitiveness have only been partly fulfilled. While Congress approved billions of dollars for new infrastructure investments, other aspects of the president’s domestic agenda, including funding for the energy transition, have crumbled. Lawmakers have struggled to amass the support even for legislation in favor of expanded funding for the semiconductor industry, which is widely seen as key to American industry and national security.With so many other legislative goals at stake, the termination of a decades-old solution to the economic trade-offs of free trade has garnered little attention.“The old consensus on trade is gone,” said Mr. Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations. “And we don’t have a new one.”Catie Edmondson More