New Study: Trade Supported Over 40 Million American Jobs

International Commerce Critical to Jobs and Economic Recovery, With Trade-Dependent Employment Growing Four Times the Rate of U.S. Employment Overall Since 1992

October 5, 2020

Washington – A new study from Business Roundtable finds that over 40 million American jobs depended on international trade in 2018, having represented one out of every five jobs in the United States before the pandemic.

Since 1992, before the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), trade-dependent employment in the U.S. increased by 180 percent (from 14.5 million to 40.6 million jobs in 2018), compared to 45 percent for employment generally. The proportion of American jobs depending on trade has doubled from 10.4 percent in 1992 to 20.2 percent in 2018. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant economic disruption to U.S. workers and businesses, the data show that opening markets to American goods and services around the world through rules-based trade is critical to U.S. economic recovery and helping American workers and families get back on their feet.

“Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating economic recovery and expanding opportunities for all Americans depend on opening foreign markets to American goods and services, removing barriers to trade and investment and strengthening supply chain resilience,” said Lance Fritz, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Union Pacific and Chair of the Business Roundtable Trade & International Committee. “Free and fair trade supports U.S. manufacturing, farmers and service providers by reaching more customers, strengthening U.S. innovation leadership and creating good-paying American jobs. With tens of millions of American jobs at stake, Business Roundtable CEOs will continue to work with policymakers and key trading partners to promote rules-based trade that opens new markets and levels the playing field for American workers, farmers and businesses.” 

The study – prepared by Trade Partnership Worldwide – analyzes the latest-available employment and trade data from 2018 and examines the net impacts of both exports and imports of goods and services on American jobs. Highlights include:

  • North America: Trade with Canada and Mexico supported nearly 13 million American jobs in 2018, underscoring the importance of fully implementing the bipartisan United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to strengthen North American competitiveness.
  • China: Trade with China supported 7.7 million American jobs in 2018, highlighting the importance of fully implementing the Phase One trade agreement, expeditiously negotiating additional structural reforms in China and removing additional tariffs and barriers to trade between the two largest economies in the world. 
  • Other Important Trading Partners: Millions of American jobs also depend on trade with our allies and Business Roundtable supports negotiating additional market access and opportunities in these key markets for American goods and services. In 2018:
  • Trade with the European Union supported over 6 million American jobs;
  • Trade with Japan supported nearly 2 million American jobs;
  • Trade with India supported over 1.5 million American jobs;
  • Trade with United Kingdom supported over 1 million American jobs; and
  • Trade with South Korea supported over 1 million American jobs.

The study also demonstrates the net positive American job impact of trade for the services, agriculture and manufacturing sectors, with all 50 states having realized net employment gains directly attributable to trade.

The full study can be found here.