US jobs are surging, but not the kind that Donald Trump has promised

Job creation in the US is strong, but not in manufacturing.
Job creation in the US is strong, but not in manufacturing.
Image: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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The 2017 job numbers started with a bang. The Bureau of Labour Statistics reported that 227,000 new jobs were created in January—over 50,000 more than economists were expecting. They were the best job creation numbers of the last six months.

Though jobs are surging, the labor market is not creating the kind of work US President Donald Trump wants for Americans. “America has lost nearly one-third of its manufacturing jobs since 1997 – even as the country has increased its population by 50 million people,” Trump said during a campaign speech on jobs last June. Trump has pledged to bring these jobs back.

Such an accomplishment would reverse the US’s long-standing trend towards becoming a service economy. Of the 227,000 jobs created in January 2017, only 5,000 jobs were in manufacturing, and less than 20% of the jobs were created in industries the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers ”goods-producing.” These numbers were collected in the week before Trump took office.

Over the last year, the US lost 46,000 manufacturing jobs, while the number of service industry jobs grew by over two million. Jed Kolko, the chief economist at jobs search site Indeed, points out that the share of manufacturing jobs in the economy reached a new all-time low of 8.5%—manufacturing accounted for more than 30% of all jobs in the 1950s.

Trump says he can reorient the US economy back to manufacturing by renegotiating trade deals. Economists think this is unlikely. The majority of manufacturing job loss is due to technological improvements that allow fewer workers to make the same amount of product. Pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) won’t reverse that.

Trump has at least four years to prove the economists wrong.