US Firms Create 600,000 Jobs in Northern Mexico

Observers compare what is happening to northern sections of Mexico to what occurred in the south-eastern U.S. four decades ago: industries are moving in and transforming whole regions from
impoverished to middle-class lifestyles.

The catalyst, they say, has been the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed five years ago.

• U.S. manufacturers have hired 600,000 new workers in Mexico -- a pace of job creation almost identical to what took place in the U.S. Southeast in the 1960s and 1970s.

• Workers who once sought a better life in the U.S. are settling in northern Mexico to work in factories and build malls and multiplexes reminiscent of the U.S. Sun Belt.

• Mexican towns that have outgrown their native work forces are attracting migrants from other parts of the country -- and morning rush hours are replacing afternoon siestas.

• U.S. corporate executives are beginning to see Mexico as a natural extension of the U.S. economy -- and a source of new and lucrative markets.

Young girls now make 225 pesos a week sewing blue jeans. That compares to the 100 pesos four women formerly earned, combined, from making and selling tortillas door-to-door.

Source: Joel Millman, "What Southeast Was to U.S. Companies, Mexico Is Becoming," Wall Street Journal, October 29, 1999.

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