2016 election, China, Committee for Economic Development, Donald Trump, Im-Politic, Jobs, Joseph J. Minarik, manufacturing, manufacturing employment, Nicholas Lardy, Peterson Institute for International Economics, The Conference Board
One of the seemingly strongest (and most reasoned) claims raised by his critics against Donald Trump’s promise to bring large numbers of manufacturing jobs back to the United States is that he’s ignorantly trying to buck a global trend. As claimed by many journalists and analysts, the Republican presidential nominee doesn’t seem to realize that, as one columnist recently put it, “manufacturing jobs are disappearing everywhere, not just in the U.S.” Even China, one of Trump’s biggest targets, allegedly hasn’t been immune.
The prominence of this push-back actually adds up to good news for Trump and his supporters. For what the numbers actually show is that, by the most meaningful measures, China has been adding jobs in its manufacturing sector in recent years, not shedding them.
Earlier this summer, Richard McCormack reported in his invaluable Manufacturing & Technology News findings from the Conference Board that between 2002 and 2013, Chinese manufacturing employment increased by nearly 28 million. That’s more than twice the total number of manufacturing workers currently left in the United States.
At the end of last year, moreover, the Peterson Institute for International Economics – which has been a strong defender of the trade policies Trump and others have attacked – posted even more compelling evidence for the health of manufacturing employment in the People’s Republic. China specialist Nicholas Lardy found that manufacturing payrolls in China’s cities, which he considers the most reliable Chinese data, not only nearly doubled in absolute terms between 2003 and 2015 (to just under 80 million). But these jobs also rose as a share of total Chinese urban employment from 15 to 20 percent.
Incidentally, a June Conference Board post contains more statistics pointing to American policy failure on the manufacturing jobs front. According to Joseph J. Minarik of the private Committee for Economic Development, most high income countries have indeed joined the United States as manufacturing employment losers in absolute terms from 1990 to 2014. But during that period, the United States was one of the biggest proportional losers. Further, from 2008 to 2014 – years during which American manufacturing supposedly was experiencing or verging on a renaissance – the U.S. manufacturing jobs performance lagged behind that of South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, and Canada.
Here are the charts Minarik used:
Trump’s positions on trade can be legitimately criticized on any number of grounds. But when it comes to describing global trends in manufacturing employment, he sure doesn’t look like the one who deserves the label “know nothing.”