• Written by Jeffrey Kucik, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Arizona

With the U.S.-China trade war intensifying[1], there is a lot of talk about whether tariffs save American jobs – as President Donald Trump claims[2] – or destroy them[3].

On May 14, for example, Trump said his tariffs helped save[4] the U.S. steel industry. Whether or not that’s true, many economists and industry organizations argue trade protectionism is actually hurting workers in a range of other areas, such as the solar power sector[5], civil aircraft[6] and auto manufacturing[7].

So is the trade war making Americans better off or worse? Political economists like me[8] have been exploring this question since Trump’s trade war began about a year ago. The answer makes a big difference to the economic welfare of American workers. And, with the 2020 elections soon approaching, it may help determine whether Trump is able to remain in the Oval Office.

Is Trump’s trade war saving American jobs – or killing them? Some parts of the manufacturing industry have experienced jobs growth during the trade war. Reuters/Ann Saphir[9]

The winners

At first glance, the jobs data does look good for Trump’s argument.

Since Trump announced tariffs[10] on more than 1,000 Chinese products on April 3, 2018, about 2.6 million new jobs[11] have been added to the U.S. economy.

This includes 204,000 jobs in manufacturing[12], the sector of the economy that hemorrhaged over 5 million positions from 2000 to 2009, a problem blamed on free trade[13] and China[14].

The good news for Trump doesn’t stop there. Some of the biggest gainers over the last year are industries like fabricated metals, machinery and electronic instruments, all of which saw gains of 15,000 to almost 30,000 jobs over the past year. All those industries enjoy at least some protection from Trump’s tariffs.

Those numbers seem to support Trump’s rhetoric that tariffs are providing a vital shot in the arm of America’s ailing manufacturing sector. And they may even show why the U.S. economy continues to hum despite economist fears[15] that a trade war would hurt growth[16].

Is Trump’s trade war saving American jobs – or killing them? The auto industry is among those that have been hurt by tariffs on steel imports. Reuters/William DeShazer[17]

The losers

Unfortunately, not all industries are enjoying the same success.

Of the 20 major manufacturing categories in the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data[18], only six have grown faster during the trade war – which arguably began with the threat of widespread tariff increases in April of 2018 – than in previous years. The rest, which include chemicals, paper and textiles, either didn’t enjoy a boost or lost ground during the period.

And here is one lesson from the trade war. If Trump and his supporters want to claim that tariffs helped accelerate job creation in machinery and metals, then it follows that his policies should share some of the blame for the less encouraging performance of other sectors hurt by retaliation from other countries[19].

After Trump extended steel tariffs to the European Union, the EU hit America’s textiles industry. Canada[20] targeted some paper products in retaliation for tariffs on steel and softwood lumber[21]. And China, Trump’s primary antagonist, hit chemicals[22] along with a large swath of other industries – with further retaliation[23] on the way.

Is Trump’s trade war saving American jobs – or killing them? The U.S. and China still seem far apart on a trade deal. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst[24]

Beyond jobs

Nonetheless, the simple fact remains: The U.S. economy continues to add more jobs.

But this is only one part of the equation for how tariffs are affecting working Americans and their quality of life. What about wages, which account for 70%[25] of an employee’s average compensation?

There’s less good news for Trump in this data.

The annual growth in seasonally adjusted hourly pay during the trade war averages out to around 3.2%[26] across all private sector U.S. employees.

There are two important things to say about that 3.2%. First, it falls short of pre-Great Recession levels, when wage growth was typically a full point higher[27]. Second, wage growth in manufacturing – the sector Trump has lavished the most attention on – actually lags behind[28] the national average at just 2.3%.

Those wage numbers are good reason to hold our applause for Trump’s tariffs. Protected industries are adding jobs, but wages aren’t living up to expectations.

Looking for good news

The competing job numbers explain why the debate over Trump’s tariffs are full of confusing anecdotes – and why most anyone can find “good news” to support their favorite argument.

Americans have heard United Steel Workers thank Trump[29] for helping bring over 1,000 jobs[30] back to Birmingham, Alabama. They’ve also heard General Motors announce that it lost US$1 billion[31] in 2018, partly because tariffs contributed to rising production costs, and that as many as 14,000 jobs are being cut[32].

A fuller picture of how well workers are doing requires looking beyond the jobs numbers at how much money they’re actually taking home – and how it’s affecting their living standards.

And none of this says anything about another crucial part of the equation: consumer prices. If the latest data from Goldman Sachs is on the money, things are about to get a whole lot worse for working-class Americans as the price tags attached to products affected by the trade war begin to rocket upward[33].

This is hardly good news for the average household.


  1. ^ intensifying (
  2. ^ claims (
  3. ^ destroy them (
  4. ^ helped save (
  5. ^ solar power sector (
  6. ^ civil aircraft (
  7. ^ auto manufacturing (
  8. ^ like me (
  9. ^ Reuters/Ann Saphir (
  10. ^ announced tariffs (
  11. ^ 2.6 million new jobs (
  12. ^ 204,000 jobs in manufacturing (
  13. ^ free trade (
  14. ^ China (
  15. ^ economist fears (
  16. ^ hurt growth (
  17. ^ Reuters/William DeShazer (
  18. ^ latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data (
  19. ^ retaliation from other countries (
  20. ^ Canada (
  21. ^ softwood lumber (
  22. ^ hit chemicals (
  23. ^ further retaliation (
  24. ^ Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (
  25. ^ account for 70% (
  26. ^ around 3.2% (
  27. ^ a full point higher (
  28. ^ lags behind (
  29. ^ thank Trump (
  30. ^ over 1,000 jobs (
  31. ^ lost US$1 billion (
  32. ^ 14,000 jobs are being cut (
  33. ^ begin to rocket upward (

Authors: Jeffrey Kucik, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Arizona

Read more

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Violin ReEnvisioned

Falling in love with music so young was more than transformative. Music became the lead sheet of my life; challenging me to navigate changes with grace, maintain a steady rhythmic groove, dynami...

Chelsey Green - avatar Chelsey Green

Kadda Sheekoff Win Best Urban Song For "All My Life"

Singer Kadda Sheekoff have emerged as the toast of the 2020 Songdew Pause&Play. Obviously, there are many composers who deserve the award more than Kadda Sheekoff, but the decision of the S...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

A Musical Journey: The Authentic Ted Cline

Ted Cline was born in 1962 as the 11th of 13 children.  His parents were hard-working tobacco share-croppers in Weston, Missouri. By the time he was eleven, he was sneaking downstairs to play his...

Ted Cline - avatar Ted Cline

Angela Predhomme - My Musical Journey

Determined to “make it” in the music industry as a songwriter, I meticulously crafted the best songs I could and pitched them to industry gatekeepers. “THIS one’s got to be IT,” I thought. But ala...

Angela Predhomme - avatar Angela Predhomme

GREYE: “So Far So Good”

“So Far So Good” After seven plus years firing up venues up and down the Atlantic Coast and throughout the Midwest to the breakneck tune of 90-110 annual shows, it’s definitely been jarring fo...

News Company - avatar News Company

The life and times of Wendy Moten

I never thought I would be in the music business, much less a recording artist. I never saw it coming. I thought I'd be a corporate attorney or something like that. Little did I know that anothe...

Wendy Moten - avatar Wendy Moten

CARY PARK “You Matter to Me”

“You Matter to Me” In any other time, Cary Park’s stunning new single “You Matter to Me” might be just another beautiful heartfelt love song, an outpouring of personal affection towards a cheri...

News Company - avatar News Company

TED CLINE ... Country Music Done Right

Country Music Done Right When Ted Cline uses the phrase “Country Music Done Right” to describe his engaging vibe, the Kansas City area-based singer/songwriter isn’t simply being crafty or clev...

News Company - avatar News Company

LAMONT DOZIER, JR. “Why Can’t We Be Lovers”/”I’m Gonna Take My Time”

When it comes to enduring musical legacies, it’s always inspiring when the melodic, grooving evergreen apples drop so close to the tree. The son and namesake of legendary singer, songwriter and re...

News Company - avatar News Company

Metropolitan Business News


In 2019, just as his multi-faceted career was taking off, Thorn Castillo heard Robert Downey Jr. offer a sage bit of advice during an interview on photographer/director Sam Jones’ acclaimed multi-...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Research Highlights Opportunities for Sports Betting

Revenue Stream for Sports’ Post-COVID-19 Recovery Strategies New Rochelle, NY, June 1, 2020— Twenty-four states have now legalized sports betting, with more states considering legalization la...

Len Stein - avatar Len Stein

How to make overseas transfers easier?

Mainstream banks can charge as much as $20 just to process a basic international money transfer. Fortunately, today people are not doomed to handling personal finances only through mainstream gl...

News Company - avatar News Company

The flourishing international market of fragrance and perfume

There is something special and unique about the art of fragrance. This is a big world and there are quite literally a lot of smells around at any given time. In fact, as one of the five human senses i...

News Company - avatar News Company

Impact of good marketing on sales

Sales and marketing are brothers as they go hand and in hand. The job of both of these departments is to generate revenue so that an organization can make money. A company that does not generate rev...

News Company - avatar News Company

7 effective tips for increasing sales in retail

It seems that retailers have drawn a difficult lot in the 21st century: competition from online retail is growing steadily. After all, Internet retailers can sell your products at significantly lowe...

News Company - avatar News Company



Are you planning to go on a trip? Possibly, you do not know what things are most necessary on a trip. In this article, we will guide you through some important tips. These tips help you to...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Baggage Regulations to Help Aussie Parents Travel with Infants

Travelling around the globe has never been easy, especially when infants tag along for the trip. One of the main issues that parents often have to deal with is the need to bring extra item...

News Company - avatar News Company

Maya Beach Opens to Tourists

Despite recent reports that Southern Thailand's famous Maya Beach will close for three months this year, in fact no decision to this effect has been made by Thai authorities. Phi Phi Nati...

Maevadi Rosenfeldt - avatar Maevadi Rosenfeldt