SPOONS and forks, the metal flatware that everyone uses, are no longer made in the United States.
The last factory in an industry stretching back to colonial times closed eight months ago in Sherrill, N.Y., a small community in the foothills of the Adirondacks, and 80 employees lost their jobs.
No one paid much attention beyond the people in the town itself, even though the closing represented the demise of an industry that had flourished in this country for generations. Paul Revere, in fact, was a flatware craftsman.
Sherrill Manufacturing, which owned the factory, said in a statement that production had succumbed to less expensive Chinese imports. Robert A. Comis, the Sherrill city manager, said, “It is too common a situation.”
Losing an industry or ceasing to manufacture a particular product, in this case stainless steel flatware, has indeed become a fairly frequent event. Just in the last few years, the last sardine cannery, in Maine, closed its doors. Stainless steel rebars, the sturdy rods that reinforce concrete in all kinds of construction, are now no longer made in America. Neither are vending machines or incandescent light bulbs or cellphones or laptop computers.
Less noticeably, American manufacturers are importing more of the components that go into their products. The imported portion has risen to more than 25 percent from 17 percent in 1997, according to Susan Houseman, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Boeing Company, to consider one striking example, once bought all of its components from American suppliers, or made them in its factories here. Now the wings of several of its airliners are manufactured by Japanese subcontractors and shipped across the Pacific in giant cargo planes.
Foreign-made parts might also be infiltrating the sleek business jets that the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation makes at its United States factories. Joseph T. Lombardo, Gulfstream’s president, says he isn’t sure, although Gulfstream buys components exclusively from American suppliers. “What I don’t know,” he says, “is how many of the parts in those components were imported by our American suppliers.”
It is certainly more than we measure, Ms. Houseman says. An accurate count would reduce manufacturing’s share of the gross domestic product, or total national output, to less than the 11.2 percent that the Bureau of Economic Analysis has reported through 2009, the latest figure available.