August 17, 2016

BY THE NUMBERS: China (or Mexico) probably didn’t take your job.

At the high water mark in 1999, import competition was responsible for 2.3 percent of total annual job separations. In 2011, the last year of available data, only 0.1 percent of total separations were due to import competition. As a comparison, government regulation accounted for 1,500 separations (0.1 percent) and the end of seasonal work accounted for 393,000 (35.3 percent) in 2011.

Critics also worry that globalization incentivizes American companies to move overseas. This issue has been raised repeatedly during the election season. Donald Trump has repeatedly condemned U.S. firms like Ford and Carrier for opening production facilities in Mexico, while Hilary Clinton has criticized Trump for offshoring the production of his suits and ties. However, similar to import competition, offshoring does not have a large effect on overall job displacement.

Data in the above table was also taken from BLS’s Extended Mass Layoff Reports. Because BLS stopped collecting information on overseas job relocations in 2004, data is only available until 2003. However, the pattern is clear: overseas relocation is not a giant job killer. Even in the aftermath of NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, offshoring never displaced more than 20,000 workers annually. Furthermore, it only triggers around 1 percent of annual job separations.

Lots of data to soak up from Jacqueline Varas at the American Action Forum, although I’d have more confidence in the numbers if BLS hadn’t stopped collecting overseas relocations in 2004.

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