Excerpt from the Latest Report of the Economic Policy Institute on Job Loss From US Trade With China
The China toll
Growing U.S. trade deficit with China cost more than 2.7 million jobs between 2001 and 2011, with job losses in every state
Since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001, the extraordinary growth of trade between China and the United States has had a dramatic effect on U.S. workers and the domestic economy, though in neither case has this effect been beneficial. The United States is piling up foreign debt and losing export capacity, and the growing trade deficit with China has been a prime contributor to the crisis in U.S. manufacturing employment. Between 2001 and 2011, the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced more than 2.7 million U.S. jobs, over 2.1 million of which (76.9 percent) were in manufacturing. These lost manufacturing jobs account for more than half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost or displaced between 2001 and 2011.
The more than 2.7 million jobs lost or displaced in all sectors include 662,100 jobs from 2008 to 2011 alone—even though imports from China and the rest of the world plunged in 2009. (Imports from China have since recovered and surpassed their peak of 2008.) The growing trade deficit with China has cost jobs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as in each congressional district.
Among specific industries, the trade deficit in the computer and electronic products industry grew the most, and 1,064,800 jobs were displaced, 38.8 percent of the 2001–2011 total. As a result, many of the hardest-hit congressional districts were in California, Texas, Oregon, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Minnesota, where jobs in that industry are concentrated. Some districts in North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama were also especially hard-hit by job displacement in a variety of manufacturing industries, including computers and electronic products, textiles and apparel, and furniture.
But the jobs impact of the China trade deficit is not restricted to job loss and displacement. Competition with low-wage workers from less-developed countries such as China has driven down wages for workers in U.S. manufacturing and reduced the wages and bargaining power of similar, non-college-educated workers throughout the economy. The affected population includes essentially all workers with less than a four-year college degree—roughly 70 percent of the workforce, or about 100 million workers (U.S. Census Bureau 2012b).
Put another way, for a typical full-time median-wage earner, earnings losses due to globalization totaled approximately $1,400 per year as of 2006 (Bivens 2008a). For a typical household with two earners, the annual cost is more than $2,500. China is the most important source of downward wage pressure from trade with less-developed countries because it pays very low wages and because its products make up such a large portion of U.S. imports (China was responsible for 55.3 percent of U.S. non-oil imports from less-developed countries in 2011).
These conclusions about the jobs impact of trade with China arise from the following specific findings of this study:
- Most of the jobs lost or displaced by trade with China between 2001 and 2011 were in manufacturing industries (more than 2.1 million jobs, or 76.9 percent).
- Within manufacturing, rapidly growing imports of computer and electronic products (including computers, parts, semiconductors, and audio-video equipment) accounted for 54.9 percent of the $217.5 billion increase in the U.S. trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2011. The growth of this deficit contributed to the elimination of 1,064,800 U.S. jobs in computer and electronic products in this period. Indeed, in 2011, the total U.S. trade deficit with China was $301.6 billion—$139.3 billion of which was in computer and electronic products.
- Global trade in advanced technology products—often discussed as a source of comparative advantage for the United States—is instead dominated by China. This broad category of high-end technology products includes the more advanced elements of the computer and electronic products industry as well as other sectors such as biotechnology, life sciences, aerospace, and nuclear technology. In 2011, the United States had a $109.4 billion deficit in advanced technology products with China, which was responsible for 36.3 percent of the total U.S.-China trade deficit. In contrast, the United States had a $9.7 billion surplus in advanced technology products with the rest of the world in 2011.
- Other industrial sectors hit hard by growing trade deficits with China between 2001 and 2011 include apparel and accessories (211,200 jobs), textile mills and textile product mills (106,200), fabricated metal products (120,600), furniture and fixtures (80,700), plastics and rubber products (57,600), motor vehicles and parts (19,800), and miscellaneous manufactured goods (111,800). Several service sectors were also hit hard by indirect job losses, including administrative, support, and waste management services (160,600) and professional, scientific, and technical services (145,000).
- The more than 2.7 million U.S. jobs lost or displaced by the trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2011 were distributed among all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, with the biggest net losses occurring in California (474,700 jobs), Texas (239,600), New York (158,800), Illinois (113,700), North Carolina (110,300), Florida (106,100), Pennsylvania (101,200), Ohio (95,900), Massachusetts (92,700), and Georgia (87,300).
- Jobs displaced due to growing deficits with China equaled or exceeded 2.2 percent of total employment in the 12 hardest-hit states: New Hampshire (20,400 jobs lost or displaced, equal to 2.94 percent of total state employment), California (474,700, 2.87 percent), Massachusetts (92,700, 2.86 percent), Oregon (50,200, 2.85 percent), North Carolina (110,300, 2.67 percent), Minnesota (72,300, 2.66 percent), Idaho (18,200, 2.65 percent), Vermont (8,000, 2.43 percent), Colorado (57,800, 2.38 percent), Texas (239,600, 2.26 percent), Rhode Island (11,800, 2.24 percent), and Alabama (43,900, 2.20 percent).
- The hardest-hit congressional districts were concentrated in states that were heavily exposed to growing China trade deficits in computer and electronic products and other industries such as furniture, textiles, apparel, and durable goods manufacturing. The three hardest-hit congressional districts were all located in Silicon Valley in California, including the 15th (Santa Clara County, which lost 44,700 jobs, equal to 13.77 percent of all jobs in the district), the 14th (Palo Alto and nearby cities, 32,700 jobs, 10.20 percent), and the 16th (San Jose and other parts of Santa Clara County, 29,000 jobs, 9.55 percent). Of the top 20 hardest-hit districts, seven were in California (in rank order, the 15th, 14th, 16th, 13th, 31st, 34th, and 50th), four were in Texas (31st, 10th, 25th, and 3rd), two were in North Carolina (4th and 10th), two were in Massachusetts (5th and 3rd), and one each in Oregon (1st), Georgia (9th), Colorado (4th), Minnesota (1st), and Alabama (5th). Each of these districts lost at least 11,400 jobs, or more than 3.7 percent of its total jobs.
The job displacement estimates in this study are conservative. They include only the direct and indirect jobs displaced by trade, and exclude jobs in domestic wholesale and retail trade or advertising; they also exclude re-spending employment.1 However, during the Great Recession of 2007–2009, and continuing through 2011, jobs displaced by China trade reduced wages and spending, which led to further job losses.
© 2012 Economic Policy Institute