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Why the imported washing machine you want is getting more expensive

Corilyn Shropshire, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Science & Technology News

In 2016, there were 3,718 solar workers in Illinois and 260,077 in the U.S., according to the Washington, D.C.-based Solar Foundation. Solar industry employment has nearly tripled since the first National Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.

The impact on consumers buying washing machines could be short-term, and buyers may just get used to it.

"It's like any other product, if they want an LG machine, they'll pay for it," said Jon Abt, co-president of Abt Electronics, who said he expects consumers will see prices increase by about $50.

Once Samsung's $380 million manufacturing facility in Newberry, S.C., and LG's $250 million plant in Clarksville, Tenn., are up and running, the impact will be lessened, Abt said. Samsung has said it has already hired 600 workers to staff the new facility.

Chris Rogers, an analyst at New York-based research firm Panjiva agreed. Rogers' analysis shows that Samsung, LG and other foreign producers have been aggressively importing washers in the past year, so it might be a while before consumers see prices go up because of stock on hand. "LG and Samsung have a cushion on the cheaper washing machines they can sell for the next few months," he said.

There's no certainty that many jobs will be added if manufacturers turn to the U.S. to produce washing machines and solar cells, Panjiva's Rogers said.

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After all, it's not clear how foreign makers such as Samsung and LG will operate their U.S. plants, he said. They could make the parts in another country and then have them assembled here in the U.S. "If they mostly use oversees parts and assemble them using robots instead of people, the employment impact could be minimal," he said.

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