IBM moves manufacturing jobs; politics to blame?

News today that IBM is moving computer server manufacturing operations from Rochester to Mexico has started a lot of hand wringing about Minnesota competitiveness.

But the reality is the the state’s computer equipment manufacturing has been declining for a decade. No matter which party was in control of the House, Senate or governor’s office, jobs left the state.

Here are data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages on employment in computer and electronic product manufacturing.

The chart shows that the state took big hits in computer manufacturing following the 2001 recession and during the Great Recession that started in late 2007. It’s a 30 percent jobs decline from 2000 through mid-2012.

We don’t have numbers by company, but it’s a good bet IBM is the primary employer for computer manufacturing in southeast Minnesota. And there’s been a steady decline over the decade. The region’s lost nearly half its computer / electronic manufacturing employment since 2000.

IBM won’t say exactly how many jobs will be leaving. MPR News reports the manufacturing of Power Systems, PureSystems and PureFlex Systems servers will be moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, and the refurbishing of used IBM machines will be moved to Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

IBM is an iconic company and one of those legacy institutions in Rochester, so expect some finger pointing about who’s to blame.

House GOP leader Rep. Kurt Daudt brought up the IBM job pullouts this morning during an MPR News interview alongside DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen.

Given the trend here in the past decade, though, it’d be hard to pin the loss on any party’s politics or fiscal policy.

It’s also worth noting that overall manufacturing’s taken a big hit in Minnesota and it’s a long way back to those halcyon days of the late 1990s.

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