Mar 29, 2018

Trade Isn't Killing Jobs

Donald J. Boudreaux Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

The many Americans now cheering President Trump’s willingness to fight a trade war with China no doubt believe that trade in recent years with that Asian nation has destroyed too many American jobs. Not long ago an academic paper by the economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson garnered an unusual amount of public attention because of its estimate that trade with China from 1999 to 2011 destroyed 2.4 million jobs in the United States.

Our anxiety about trade-related job loss is not confined to China. Just a few weeks ago Mr. Trump declared that the North American Free Trade Agreement caused a “massive relocation of companies and jobs.” On NAFTA's 20th anniversary, in 2014, the trade skeptic Lori Wallach complained that the agreement had destroyed one million American jobs.

These estimates of jobs destroyed by trade sound big, but they’re actually tiny. Relative to overall routine job destruction and creation — “job churn” — the number of American jobs destroyed by trade is minuscule.

Read more: Trade is Not a Job Killer

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