Updated Business Roundtable Study: Trade Supported Over 41 Million American Jobs Pre-Pandemic

Trade-Dependent Jobs Provide Millions of American Workers Middle-Class Wages and Support Employment in Every State Across All Types of Workers

February 28, 2022

Washington – Business Roundtable today released a new study updating previous research that finds 41.5 million—one in five—jobs in the United States depended on international trade in 2019 before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This study updates previous work from the Roundtable in 2020.

 Since 1992, before the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. jobs dependent on trade – exports and imports – have increased by 186%, four times faster than total U.S. employment growth. The proportion of American jobs tied to trade has nearly doubled from 10.4% in 1992 to 20.3% in 2019, demonstrating the increasingly critical role of trade for American workers across the country. These tens of millions of Americans whose jobs depend on trade work at large and small companies, on farms, in factories, at laboratories, in marketing and design, on retail floors, in headquarters and at distribution centers across the entire value and supply chain. Trade jobs support American families in every state.

In the face of ongoing economic and supply disruptions and demand distortions from COVID-19 and with growing political tensions around the world, restoring and harnessing trade can accelerate economic growth at home, support high-paying U.S. jobs and reduce inflation. These trade benefits help all American families by supporting good-paying jobs and by increasing their purchasing power and choices.

“U.S. trade and economic leadership drives U.S. competitiveness, innovation and opportunity by enabling American businesses, farmers and workers to reach new customers around the world while supporting tens of millions of American jobs at home,” said Lance Fritz, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Union Pacific Railroad and Chair of the Business Roundtable Trade and International Committee. “By deepening trade and economic ties across the Indo-Pacific, the Transatlantic, the Western Hemisphere, and with allies and key trading partners around the world, the United States can bring the substantial benefits of trade to more Americans while shaping the international rules of trade and commerce to ensure a level playing field for American businesses, farmers and workers.”

The updated study, prepared by Trade Partnership Worldwide, analyzes the latest-available comprehensive employment and trade data from 2019 and examines the net impacts of both exports and imports of goods and services on American jobs. This report updates prior research and reports. In addition to the topline data on jobs tied to trade, this study disaggregated the number of trade-related jobs by education level and examined other key characteristics of trade-related employment. Highlights include:

  • Of the 41.5 million total jobs tied to trade, more than 15 million of these jobs are estimated to be held by minority workers. 
  • More than 28 million trade-dependent jobs provide Americans with middle-class incomes.
  • Of the over 288,000 U.S. exporters, 97% are small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with less than 500 workers. Based on their direct and indirect export activity combined, SMEs represent more than 40% of the value of U.S. exports.
  • Customers in 233 countries and territories buy American-made goods and services, and 96% of the world’s population and 75% of global purchasing power is outside the United States.

For the full study, click here

For a national summary PDF, click here.

To view the benefits of trade by state, click here