Economic Perspective: Has Trade Cost Jobs?

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.


“Today’s program asks, ‘If trade has cost jobs.’ Mike there’s a big debate in the country about the impact of international trade on jobs. There is a viewpoint saying the trade deals that have been developed in the last two decades have reduced jobs in the country. Particularly, in manufacturing. What do you and your fellow economists say about this?”


“Well if we focus on manufacturing, we can see the data that manufacturing employment, both nationally and in North Carolina, peaked in the mid-70’s. Allow there have been ups and downs since then, the trend has definitely been down.”

“At the same time manufacturing output, that is the amount manufacturing product we produce, has gone up. And what’s happened, I think is really two things here. Technology and globalization. Technology has gone into the factory. It’s now easier to have machines, for example, assemble automobiles than have people do that. So techonology in the factories has replaced a lot of people jobs.”

“At the same time, globalization has moved many factory jobs, particularly here in North Carolina and particularly in the textile and apparel industry, to other parts of the world. At the same time though the globalization has helped spur some increase in jobs in areas like technology. So the bottom line here is to say if we do look at manufacturing we do know that we’ve lost manufacturing jobs over the last four decades.”

“How much of that is due to technology, and how much is due to globalization? This has been the source of a lot of research by economists. Right now, the average answer is that if you look at all the jobs lost in manufacturing, nationwide, about twenty percent of those job losses in manufacturing have  been due to globalization, and about eighty percent have been due to the implementation of technology on the factory floor.”

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