Trade Trade and American Jobs The Impact of Trade on U.S. and State-Level Employment: 2022 Update


Executive Summary

Policymakers continue to face a host of challenges, including getting the economy through the pandemic, and creating and sustaining good jobs for millions of American workers. Trade policies and programs are tools in accomplishing this task.

To support hiring dependent on trade, it is important to understand first how important trade is to economies and jobs under “normal” circumstances. This report reviews the data of these benefits for U.S. workers before the global pandemic took hold. By looking at this relationship prior to the pandemic, one can better appreciate what was lost and see the importance of adopting trade-enhancing policies that will help American workers, small businesses, farmers, and families get back on their feet through the pandemic and beyond. But looking at 2019 also enables us to see how recent trade restrictive policies have changed the makeup of U.S. employment – sometimes for the better; sometimes, not.

Based on the latest available data for this assessment (2019) and taking into account both the gains and the losses (i.e., a net estimate), we find that trade supported over 41 million U.S. jobs in 2019. One in every five U.S. jobs was linked to exports and imports of goods and services. Two times as many jobs were supported by trade in 2019 as in 1992 – before the accelerated wave of trade liberalization that began with the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 – when our earlier research found that trade supported 14.5 million net jobs, or one in every ten U.S. jobs.

  • U.S. trade – both exports and imports – has grown over the past two decades, caused in part by trade liberalizing international agreements as well as increasing demand, purchasing power, and growth outside the U.S. This led to the growth of the number of U.S. jobs tied to trade. Indeed, trade-dependent U.S. jobs grew four times as fast as U.S. jobs generally.
  • Every U.S. state realized positive net employment directly attributable to trade in 2019.
  • Trade had a positive net impact on U.S. jobs in both the services-providing and good-producing sectors.
  • Trade enables millions of workers to earn middle class wages. It also supports employment of union workers and minorities.

To read the report in its entirety, click here.