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The U.S. Department of Labor has determined that all manufacturing employees laid off from SolarWorld Industries America Inc. as a result of the company's shutdown of its solar module production plant in Camarillo, Calif., in September are eligible for federal trade-adjustment assistance, including grants for education to retrain them for new work.

According to SolarWorld, it has also been determined that Chinese imports contributed to the factory shutdown. This conclusion followed an investigation earlier this year by the Department of Labor's Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance. The Labor Department may certify workers for trade-adjustment assistance only if it finds that an increase in competing imports "contributed importantly" to the decline in sales or production of a firm and to the cause for worker layoffs.

Many of the 186 laid-off SolarWorld employees are now expected to be able to tap federal assistance with job placement; expenses for job searches, relocation and retraining; income support during full-time retraining; and a tax credit on health insurance premiums.

Last October, SolarWorld led the filing of an anti-dumping complaint and countervailing-duty petition against China. In its next major ruling, the U.S. Department of Commerce is expected to announce May 17 whether the Chinese industry has dumped solar cells and panels on the U.S. market at artificially low prices to drive out U.S. competition and, if so, by what percentage margins. Those margins would thereafter be assessed as duties on imports of Chinese solar products to offset illegal trade practices.

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