The exchange took place at a Silicon Valley dinner party, a 2011 gathering of top U.S. technology executives. Official White House photos of the event depict a cozy atmosphere: warm lighting, attendees mid-toast, glasses of white wine in hand, jackets draped over the backs of chairs. According to the New York Times article, "How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work," Apple Co-founder, CEO and Chairman Steve Jobs was asked about the possibility of iPhone manufacture returning to the United States.
"Those jobs aren't coming back," he answered.
It was a typical Jobs-ian response—blunt, direct, pragmatic. But given the intimate setting—and that the asker was none other than President Barack Obama—the words carried extra gravitas. It was a sobering analysis of the state of U.S. manufacturing, delivered without euphemism, without lip service. The kind of analysis one would expect at a boardroom meeting, not a dinner party with the President.
Jobs was referring to production of the iPhone, but the implications were enormous: If Apple, one of the most powerful companies in the U.S., had openly embraced offshoring as the future, there could no longer be hope for American manufacturing. Surely, whatever dominoes were left standing would soon fall.
Only, they didn't.
Jobs may have been right in saying manufacturing jobs aren't coming back—not in full, anyway. But American manufacturing is still viable. U.S. companies just need to understand what they're up against, and how to compete against it.
"It's All About Price": Understanding the Exodus
4.7 million—that's the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs lost between 2001 and 2010, reported newgeography.com. It's difficult to measure precisely how many of those losses are the result of offshoring, but an Economic Policy Institute analysis of the widening U.S.-China trade deficit over that nine-year span put the number at 1.9 million.