Oct 7, 2017 Employment Explosion
June 26, 2017 Why's the FED Panicking?
May 25, 2017 LFPR anyone?
Apr 26, 2017 What's up with the FED?
March 10, 2017 Feb Employment Situation
Oct 10, 2016 Tax Burden
Aug 1, 2016 Here Comes the Debt
June 26, 2016 Moribund US Economy
June 16 2016 Labor Update
Mar 10, 2016 Spring Renewal for Labor Markets?
Feb 21, 2016 GDP Gap
Feb 16, 2016 FED and Monetary Policy
Jan 19, 2016 Employment Gap Age Groups LFPR
Jan 10, 2016 A look at the Employment Situation
Dec 30, 2015 Fed Funds Rate up 25 Basis points...so what?
Dec 15, 2015 Fed Funds on the rise? Has Yellen 'Fell-in'?
Oct 15, 2015 Labor Markets Seven years of misery
Oct 6, 2015 Sept: Horrible Month for Labor
Sept 30, 2015 The FED: Interest Rate Angst
Sept 11, 2015 FED on the Monetary Policy Front
July 31, 2015 Trade and Foreign Exchange Rates
July 20, 2015 Economic Growth?
July 10, 2015 Labor Picture by Age Group
July 2, 2015 Disastrous Month in Labor Rpt
June 19, 2015 Minimum Wage - Income Distribution
Jun 5, 2015 Encouraged Worker Effect
May 8, 2015 Updated Employment Situation for April
May 4, 2015 Languishing Labor Markets
Apr 7, 2015 LFPR Doldrums on the Labor Front
March 8, 2015 Less than Zero Interest Rates - Trade War
2014 Articles
2013 Articles
2012 Articles
2011 & 2010 Articles
Dec 23, 2011 Revisionist History Depression
Dec 10, 2011 Depression & Now Part 1
Dec 5, 2011 Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics
Nov 16, 2011 Taxes Part 2
Nov 8, 2011 Taxes Pt 1
Nov 1, 2011 Demographics
Oct 12, 2011 Fed-FOMC
Oct 6, 2011 Fed's Operation Twist
Sep 30, 2011 What Price Bailouts?!
Sep 9, 2011 Trade Deficit - States
Sept 3, 2011 Unemployment Ongoing Challenge
August 22, 2011 Restricting Oil Supply
August 11, 2011 Credit Rating-Taxes
August 8, 2011 QE3? What to do?
Aug 5, 2011 Employment Update
August 1, 2011 Competitive Free Mkt Capitalism
July 26, 2011 Cradle of Democracy
July 16, 2011 Capital Ratios
July 10, 2011 Unemployment Again
July 1, 2011 QE2 Over-Apres Moi, le Deluge
June 11, 2011 Unemployment
June 8, 2011 Net Worth Collapse
May 18 2011 Credit Collapse '08-'10
May 15, 2011 Fed Miracle-Mayhem
May 10, 2011 Unemployment
Mar 30, 2011 Puppet Show
Mar 18, 2011 Locked-in-Effect
Mar 10, 2011 Bummer Days
Feb 12 2011 Inflation by Decontenting
Feb 6 2011 Unemployment
Jan 14 2011 Money Supply
Jan 12 2011 Trade Deficit
Jan 6 2011 Printing Press Myth
Dec 18, 2010 College Pricing
Dec 7 2010 Debt & Deficits
Dec 2, 2010 J-Laffer Curve
Sep 24 2010 Competition
Sept 23 2010 Trade Deficit China
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Economic Newsletter for the New Millennium

Note: To print/save a hard copy of this blog, click on the following link for a PDF download…

Blog Sept 2010 Root causes.pdf

September 24, 2010

Donald R. Byrne, Ph.D.

Associate Editor
Edward T. Derbin, MA, MBA

Why has [or has] the U.S. lost its competitive edge?

A bit more on our September 2011 Newsletter theme: HERE WE GO AGAIN: The broken CD (record) routine…before it was Japan and Germany eating our lunch, now it is China


In our newsletter on balance of payments issues with China, the focus was on foreign exchange.  It would be misleading to end that analysis without briefly considering other problems that have caused the unemployment problems in the U.S.  Our China policy is but one of them.

In response to a recent article written by the authors of this Newsletter, a professor teaching supply chain management in an Eastern university was critical of policies that have led to a loss of automotive jobs to other parts of the world.  This is not the picture the data demonstrates.  The traditional areas such as Michigan and Ohio, where the automotive industry was formerly concentrated, has indeed lost [industry] jobs, but primarily to the Southeastern states such as Tennessee and Alabama not overseas.  In fact, Asian nations have been losing automotive jobs as well to those Southeastern states in the U.S.  Motown is no longer in Detroit Michigan but has moved to the Southeastern U.S. with the auto jobs.  

Why has this occurred?

Overly protective policies favoring labor unions have made unionized labor such as those organized by the UAW too expensive and in particular the products of the formerly Big Three are no longer competitive.  The market share of the formerly Big Three has shrunk from nearly 90% of the U.S. light vehicle market in 1950 to around 30% of that market now.  The transplants, including Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, etc., from mostly Asia have most of the 70%.  The two tier labor contract Between the UAW and the Big Three may have been a case of too little, too late.

Heritage Foundation on Big Three labor compensation Dec 2008

UAW Workers Actually Cost the Big Three Automakers $70 an Hour


The shift in employment to right-to-work states in the automotive industry is not unique.  There has been a general trend in that direction for many segments of the economy.  Department of Labor statistics show clearly the decline of the share of the civilian non-governmental labor force in recent years that are unionized.  Interestingly, a rise in the unionized share of civilian governmental labor force has been occurring. 




In 2009, the union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union—was 12.3 percent, essentially unchanged from 12.4 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.  The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions declined by 771,000 to 15.3 million, largely reflecting the overall drop in employment due to the recession.  In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.

More public sector employees (7.9 million) belonged to a union than did private sector employees (7.4 million), despite there being 5 times more wage and salary workers in the private sector.

Employer costs per hour worked: civilian, private industry, and state and local government workers, June 2010

Cost per hour worked (Chart 1.)


This has been especially true at state and local levels of government.  The contraction of especially state and local government employees due to budget crises, which in turn is due to the ongoing recession and the collapse of the tax base, has slowed this trend toward unionization.   


In 2009, 7.9 million public sector employees belonged to a union, compared with 7.4 million union workers in the private sector.  The union membership rate for public sector workers (37.4 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private industry workers (7.2 percent).  Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate, 43.3 percent.  This group includes workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and fire fighters.  

While the number employed by government has increased significantly, of equal significance is the increased compensation of these workers and the strain on the fiscal abilities of governments at the local, state and national levels to meet these rising compensation burdens.

It is not just the bloated and overcompensated unionized labor force that has caused the demise of the Big Three segment of the U.S. auto industry.  Bloated and overcompensated management has been a significant cause of the demise.  Stockholders have been the victims of not only organized labor, but also of profit satisficing rather than profit maximizing behavior of the management of the Big Three auto firms. 

The problem of bloated and overcompensated labor and management is not only in the auto industry but is prevalent in a number of other industries where competition is relatively weak.  Often this lack of competition is due to regulations that have been of minimal value to the consumers but of maximum value in protecting the interests and compensation of management and labor.  Failure to enforce existing legislation is also a contributing cause to the problems just mentioned.

Financial Chaos

A glaring example of this is the investment banking industry.  Literally tens of billions in commissions, bonuses, etc. were paid salesman, managers and partners even though some of their activities were a major cause of the recent and ongoing financial crisis and the recession that it helped to cause.  A web of ongoing corruption has existed between these industries and the legislative bodies elected at great expense and that are supposed to protect the body politic that elected them. 






Continued Energy Issues

Failure to enforce anti-trust policies have resulted in huge increases in energy prices as well as abuse of such things like safety considerations as was evident in the case of recent BP fiasco with Deepwater Horizon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill).



July 15, 2004

“Mergers have altered the structure of the U.S. petroleum industry, including the refining market.  Over 2,600 mergers have occurred in the U.S. petroleum industry since the 1990s, mostly later in the period.  Industry officials cited various reasons for the mergers, particularly the need for increased efficiency and cost savings.  Economic literature also suggests that firms sometimes merge to enhance their ability to control prices.”

As Oliver Hardy would often say to Stan Laurel, “Well, that's another nice mess you've gotten me into!”

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