KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennesseans losing their jobs at Levi Strauss & Co. plant closings here and in Centerville can expect problems finding new employment even with retraining, a University of Tennessee economist said Tuesday.
“The job opportunities for these folks are slim right now,” Murray said. “We are not seeing a lot of job creation taking place, particularly in the Knoxville area.”
“The only option for these individuals is to retrain and perhaps look elsewhere for other job opportunities within the region or even outside the region,” Murray said. “Clearly training is about the only thing that can be done, but it is not going to work for everyone.”
State and local governments share a responsibility to make training opportunities available for workers losing their jobs, Murray said. Levi Strauss Foundation has announced plans to provide $8 million in grants to communities helping the workers find other jobs.
“That’s a very laudable effort,” Murray said. “More often that not in the Southeast, when textile companies decide to leave, they haven’t necessarily left on the best of terms.”
Because Levi has been a good employer, paying workers an average of more than $8 per hour, the lost jobs will be difficult to replace with comparable positions, Murray said.
“We simply have to hope that we can recruit other jobs into the region that will replace those jobs that are now being lost.”
The Levi plant closings are consistent with the long-term erosion of jobs in the apparel and textile industries, Murray said.
The company may have found it increasingly difficult to compete and no longer able to take advantage of its leadership role in the denim industry, Murray said.
“When those jobs are gone, they are gone. They are not coming back,” Murray said. “That’s the greatest challenge for the individual and for the community in which they live– to take that person who has had a skill in a particular occupational category and find new employment.”
Contact: Dr. Matt Murray (423-974-5441)