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Are Any Products Still Made in America?

It’s no secret that U.S. manufacturing jobs have been moving overseas to other countries where labor and land are cheaper, allowing companies to mass produce goods at a lower price. Labels like “made in China” are becoming more and more ubiquitous, with over 10% of U.S. spending on durable goods going to Chinese products, according to NPR.

It’s not just China that sources a lot of products bought by Americans, though. Countries in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world are the source of many of the manufactured goods that Americans buy. Why are so many items manufactured abroad? Whatever happened to things being made in the USA?

Tools and a bench in a machine shop. Tools and a bench in a machine shop.

Why do Companies Manufacture Abroad?

We’ve all seen the labeling on products — there’s no denying that a sizeable portion of companies choose to manufacture abroad in countries like China and Vietnam. But what’s driving this move abroad? Why would a company choose to make their products overseas, rather than producing them right here in the U.S.? There are a few reasons:

  • Labor: Compared to many other countries, the standard of living in America is quite high. In order to finance that standard of living and provide for their families, American workers often require a higher salary than laborers abroad, whose daily cost of living is lower. By moving their manufacturing operations abroad, many companies are trying to take advantage of this less expensive labor force.
  • Regulations: Compared to some countries, the U.S. has a lot of regulations regarding how you need to treat your employees, how your business should operate, and the quality standard that your products should meet. For better or worse, many companies want to sidestep these regulations by moving parts of their business to other countries where regulations aren’t as tight.
  • Taxes: Similar to regulations, some countries tax at a much lower rate compared to the U.S. So companies who move parts of their operation there can save on the amount of taxes that they’re paying related to their manufacturing.

Are Companies Really Abandoning U.S. Manufacturing?

Products manufactured outside of the U.S. may seem commonplace in our lives now. However, the data suggests that the majority of American spending still goes towards products that were made right here in the USA. In 2011, for example, 88.5% of U.S. consumer spending went towards products that were manufactured domestically. The U.S. manufacturing industry has only shown long-term growth in the past decade, following the Great Recession.

Why the apparent domination of overseas manufacturing in our lives? Jacob Goldstein from NPR offers one explanation. According to him, we buy a lot of cheap home goods that are manufactured abroad. These little things, like bathroom rugs, towels, plates, and silverware add up quickly. They make up a lot of individual products, making it seem like we frequently buy from overseas, while a single product, such as our American-made car, makes up a larger portion of our actual personal spending.

The question of U.S. manufacturing may also be muddled by products of mixed origin, which may bear labels such as “Assembled in the USA,” rather than “Made in the USA.”

Made in USA Label: What Counts?

Only certain products qualify for the “Made in USA” label or labels that imply that claim. According to the FTC, which regulates manufacturing origin claims:

“For a product to be called Made in USA, or claimed to be of domestic origin without qualifications or limits on the claim, the product must be “all or virtually all” made in the U.S.”

Here, “all or virtually all” means that “all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin.” A table that was made of a top and legs produced in Canada and shipped to the U.S. in order to be screwed together would not count as Made in the USA, for example. On the other hand, something like a Nokona baseball glove, which is produced entirely in the U.S., would qualify for the label.

This stringent requirement doesn’t stop some brands from trying to imply that their products are manufactured domestically. Some companies will use ambiguous wording or slap an Ameican flag on their goods in order to suggest that their products are made in the USA, while stopping just short of the “Made in USA” label.

All-American Brands?

Some brands use marketing to maintain an image of American industry, but, in reality, their products aren’t as “Made in America” as they seem. Some that you might recognize include:

  • Apple: As one of the most well-known American companies in the world, Apple Inc displays the “Designed by Apple in California” label on many of its products. However, while Apple’s design teams may be located in California, the bulk of their manufacturing happens in China. Their products are later shipped to the U.S. for sale.
  • Frigidaire: Frigidaire products display the label “Build with American Pride.” However, while the company was founded in Indiana and remained American-owned until 1986, it now owned by the Swedish multinational company, Electrolux. Electrolux manufactures its products primarily in Asian and Latin America, where labor is cheaper than in the U.S.
  • Whirlpool: Whirlpool is the leading producer of U.S.-made kitchen appliances, with eight factories across the nation. Unlike some other companies, they do make a lot of their products right here. However, they still use some foreign

components in their American factories. Whirlpool goods that are manufactured entirely in the U.S. will bear the “Made in USA” label.

Products That Are Truly Made in America

Many companies are still choosing to make their products right here in America. By being American-made, they can make quality control a high priority, contribute to the local economy, and avoid tariffs on goods that are imported from foreign countries.

  • American Flags in Minnesota: Minnesota law requires that all American flags sold in the state qualify for the “Made in USA” designation.
  • Crayola Crayons: Crayola has been making crayons in the U.S. for over 100 years. The company’s factory is still located in Easton, PA.
  • Lodge Cast Iron Cookware: Lodge Cast Iron produces all of their cast iron and carbon steel products in the U.S. and, according to the company, they always will be.
  • Nokona Baseball Gloves: Nokona manufactures all of their baseball gloves in Nocona, TX. By manufacturing domestically, we can ensure that all of our cuts, stamping, stitching, and lacing are up to the highest quality standards.

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