Unifirst Corp (based in Wilmington, Mass), after 33 years in Puerto Rico, closed its Uniform Manufacturing of PR plant in Luqillo, leaving 480 workers jobless, reports The San Juan Star.

"It's too expensive to do business in Puerto Rico," said plant manager Fernando Magallanes, who added that the operation will shift to Mexico. Low wages in Central America and Asia have lured apparel makers from the island. Between 1988 and 1998, the number of apparel workers has fallen by 43 per cent from 33,624 to 19,039.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has also made Mexico an attractive option. "We cannot compete with NAFTA," said Magallanes.