Our nation has been losing manufacturing jobs since the 1990s. U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data show we have suffered a net loss of nearly 91,000 manufacturing plants and nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs since 1997.
Net increases in manufacturing jobs for the first time since 1998 began in 2011 under the Obama administration, and net gains continued each year thereafter through the rest of his administration. Trump campaigned on accelerating this growth in manufacturing and bring back manufacturing onshore.
This acceleration did not happen pre-pandemic. And since the start of the pandemic, the negative impact on manufacturing jobs and production has been significant.
Nearly 1,800 factories have disappeared between 2016 and 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available.)
In addition, the growth in manufacturing jobs between 2016 to 2019 (totaling about 500,000) is on par with the average yearly gains of 166,000 manufacturing jobs from 2010 to 2019. Rather than accelerate, it remained on pace with the gains earlier in the decade.
Other manufacturing numbers are also discouraging. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the manufacturing trade deficit (manufacturing exports less manufacturing imports) continued to rise under the Trump administration, hitting a trade deficit record of $794 billion for 2019.
Offshoring continued under the Trump administration. America’s trade deficit with Mexico increased by over 29% in 2019, and includes manufacturing imports in the auto and aerospace sectors. The 2017 tax cut may also have incentivized some offshoring, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector.
Since the start of the pandemic, 740,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. This means that 274,000 fewer people were employed in manufacturing than when the Trump administration took office. Getting back some of these job losses is dependent on how well we manage the pandemic. As noted earlier, effective management of the pandemic was another lost opportunity, and the current administration still does not have a handle on curtailing the spread of the virus within our borders.
The current administration’s policies have not stopped offshoring, have not accelerated growth in manufacturing jobs or production, and has created the largest manufacturing trade deficit on record.