by Tyler A. Watts
Demagogue politicians love to play on popular fears that low-wage foreigners are “stealing” good paying American jobs by way of outsourcing and globalization. The claim is made by protectionists of all political stripes, whether leftists complaining of a “rigged economy” or rightists speaking of other countries “beating us” economically.
A sound economic analysis of the claim about job losses due to international trade should address two questions: First, is it true that the US has lost jobs due to trade (or other factors)? Second, is this phenomenon good or bad overall for the US and world economies?
On the first point, it can appear as though the US has lost jobs. For example, as Figure 1 shows, manufacturing employment in the US has declined by about 2 million from pre-Great Recession levels, and is down by over 7 million, or 37 percent, from the all-time high reached in 1979.