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Whiteman Comments on Job Retraining Program

Hundreds of Iowans who lost their manufacturing jobs to foreign competition took huge pay cuts when they found new work — even though many retrained for new careers under a federally funded program, reports show.

For every $1 the Iowans made in their old factory jobs, they made 62 cents in their new jobs, according to a federal study of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. That puts Iowa near the bottom among all states.

Searching for a solution to the job loss, politicians from both parties have pointed to retraining. Some have proposed expanding the program to service-sector workers who have lost jobs to offshore outsourcing.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance program was intended to soften the blow of free trade. Consumers have enjoyed less expensive furniture and appliances made in China and Mexico, for example, but that has meant job losses at Iowa companies such as Flexsteel in Muscatine and Maytag in Newton. While the program helps American workers, it also helps win support for loosening U.S. trade laws to permit expanded global trade, said Howard Rosen, executive director of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Coalition, a group for businesses, labor and academics interested in improving the program.

"Since that trade can contribute to job losses, we have an obligation to help these people," Rosen said. Most economists feel strongly that the gains to international trade outweigh the losses, said CHUCK WHITEMAN, director of the Economic Research Institute at the University of Iowa.

The gains, however, "are spread over hundreds of millions of people in the form of access to new and better products at lower prices," Whiteman said. The losses are concentrated on a much smaller group of displaced workers for whom the retraining failed to find comparable jobs."

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