This morning’s September U.S. jobs figures from the Labor Department once again expose as nonsense the long string of news reports claiming that President Trump’s metals tariffs are already causing tremendous damage to American domestic metals-using industries
As with preceding jobs reports, and other official economic data (such as output and capital spending statistics), the new non-farm payrolls reading makes clear that most of the sectors that are major users of the two tariff-ed metals – steel and aluminum – are more than holding their own on the employment front. In fact, most are out-hiring not only the rest of manufacturing. They’re out-hiring the entire private sector.
And although harm may come in the future, these jobs figures place burden of proof on the pessimists. After all, if, as often noted, many metals purchasing contracts are locked in – for, say, six- or twelve-month periods – why would metals users keep hiring robustly if they were certain they’d face devastating price hikes down the road?
So here are the latest numbers showing the relevant rate of employment changes from April (the first full months in which the metals tariffs were in effect) through July (the newest final – for now – data), through August, and through September:
through July through Aug. through Sept.
entire private sector: +0.47 percent +0.67 percent +0.76 percent
overall manufacturing: +0.52 percent +0.56 percent +0.70 percent
durable goods: +0.68 percent +0.75 percent +0.96 percent
fabricated metals products: +0.91 percent +1.19 percent +1.44 percent
non-electrical machinery: +1.23 percent +1.14 percent +1.29 percent
automotive vehicles & parts: -0.31 percent -0.15 percent -0.19 percent
household appliances : -0.31 percent -0.16 percent not available
aerospace products & parts: +2.11 percent +2.54 percent not available
There continue to be shifts within this list. But what’s also important to note is that even though the metals tariffs have been broadened overall in scope, as countries such as Canada and Mexico had initially received exemptions, the metals-using sectors out-performed as job creators by roughly the same margins in September as in July.
The next major data set that will spotlight the metals-using sector’s performance will be the September industrial production data that the Federal Reserve will release on October 16. They may reveal a major turnabout in the metals-using industries’ fortunes. But unless they do, a heavy burden of proof will remain with the tariff opponents to come up with any serious reasons to think that the new levies are economic losers – or even close.