In case you still think that President Trump’s charges of fake news-peddling by the national news media are fake news themselves, consider this: For the second time in two months, if you decided to hold your breath till you found a Mainstream Media item reporting that the America’s metals-using industries have been major job-creation leaders, not laggards, you’d have died.
Such omissions are especially important because since the Trump administration began imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports (in March), the media has been filled not only with predictions of massive employment and production losses in metals-using manufacturing (because the prices of two noteworthy inputs for these industries was bound to rise), but with accounts of actual economic damage that numerous companies in these sectors have already suffered. (See here and here for just two examples.)
Last month, I noted that, for all these accounts, authoritative government data (through June) showed that the metals-using industries’ performance by both measures had both generally improved, and had indeed both generally improved more than job creation and output in the rest of manufacturing.
Since then, more steel and aluminum tariffs were put in place (mainly because some major U.S. trade partners initially exempted from the tariffs were subjected to the levies). And what did we learn from the newest jobs report, which was released last Friday, and took the story through July (on a preliminary basis)? That the metals-using industries continue to set the national job-creation pace for the entire economy, not simply for manufacturing.
Here are the percentage gains for employment in some major sectors of the economy from April (the first month during which any metals tariffs effects would have been felt) through July except for the industries noted:
entire private sector: +0.53 percent
overall manufacturing: +0.73 percent
durable goods: +0.96 percent
fabricated metals products: +1.10 percent
non-electrical machinery: +1.43 percent
automotive vehicles & parts: +1.06 percent
household appliances (thru June): -0.63 percent
aerospace products & parts (thru June): +1.05 percent
Unfortunately, it was not possible to learn any of this from America’s leading news organizations. For these figures were completely ignored.
To their credit, some leading media mentioned that Trump tariffs and trade war fears in general seemed to be having no effect on manufacturing job creation overall despite industry’s exposure in principle to the fall-out. These included the Associated Press, The New York Times, the Financial Times, CNN, ABC News, and NBC News. Yet the metals-using sectors were never mentioned.
As for The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and CBS News, they made no connection of the tariff/trade war-manufacturing job connection whatever.
And several news organizations actually tried to rationalize the unexpected results. Reuters, for example, claimed that “With manufacturing payrolls increasing by the most in seven months, the moderation in hiring reported by the Labor Department on Friday likely does not reflect the rising trade tensions between the United States and other nations including China.”
According to PBS, “Economists say it is too early to tell whether the Trump administration’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum are having a significant effect on manufacturing jobs.”
Bloomberg and Marketwatch.com weren’t as disingenuous, but still felt compelled to contend that rising trade tensions continued to cast a long shadow on the job markets’ future – without reporting that, if anything, new U.S. policies and statements were so far having exactly the opposite effect on parts of the economy most exposed to existing metals tariffs.
But no account of press coverage of these Trump trade policies would be complete without observing an equally weird development: Neither the President nor anyone else in his administration has pointed to the outperformance of the metals-using industries, either.
In a little over a week, the nation will get its next major opportunity to gauge the impact of metals and other tariffs, and future possibilities thereof – when the Federal Reserve releases the July industrial production data, which includes detailed statistics on inflation-adjusted manufacturing output. Will the Mainstream Media finally zero in on the sectors where the tariff rubber hits the road? At this rate, Americans should be grateful if they simply ended the string of job loss and other Chicken Little metals tariff impact stories.