Former Associate Manager, International Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
May 18, 2023
Next week is World Trade Week, celebrated annually in the U.S. for the better part of a century, and the administration will certainly use the occasion to tout its “worker-centered trade policy.” Last year’s presidential proclamation marking the occasion began: “American workers are the finest in the world.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce couldn’t agree more, but it’s also true that trade is good for American workers. Indeed, World Trade Week is a great opportunity to review just how much American workers benefit from international trade.
Trade Supports American Jobs
Consider the fact that more than 41 million American jobs depend on trade. That’s nearly one in every three private sector jobs. This number nearly tripled — increasing by 186% — between 1992 and 2019 due in large part to the trade-opening policies reached at the end of the 20th century to now.
Total employment increased just over 40% during that timeframe, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These jobs also pay well — one analysis found that jobs supported by exports pay, on average, 16% more than other jobs.
Trade makes companies better employers. Recent research suggests that exporting companies represent only 6% of all U.S. firms but account for nearly half of total U.S. employment. Further, companies that trade are much less likely to shutdown than non-traders, making up only 2% of the U.S. businesses that shut their doors. This job security is surely enticing to U.S. workers.
Many Sectors of the Economy Depend on Trade
Manufacturing jobs are particularly reliant on trade, with nearly 45% of U.S. manufacturing output exported every year. Average earnings for manufacturing workers reach nearly $32 an hour. Those earnings would certainly be lower if manufacturers didn’t export nearly $1.3 trillion in American-made goods overseas. Opening markets for job-creating manufacturers should be a no-brainer.
In the digital economy, too, jobs are booming, with employment creation and compensation growth outpacing that of all jobs. 7.7 million jobs in all 50 states are tied to the digital economy. The number of digital economy jobs has grown at an average rate of 2.7% over the last decade, compared to 1.6% for all jobs, and the digital economy has experienced wage growth of 5.9%, compared to 4.2%. Should digital trade continue to prosper, the U.S. economy is poised to create many good, highly-compensated jobs right here at home.
Workers at America’s small businesses are big beneficiaries from international trade. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have created nearly two-thirds of all new jobs since 1995 and make up almost half of total private sector employment. While 97% of U.S. exporters are small businesses, less than one percent of SMEs export. By expanding markets and promoting small business exports, U.S. workers will stand to gain new job opportunities at dynamic and innovative firms.
International investment also affords major benefits to American workers. Foreign-headquartered companies that have invested in the U.S. employed nearly 8 million workers in 2020, representing 6.4% of total private-industry employment in the United States. These jobs are largely high-skill, high-wage jobs. Further, for every American directly employed at an international company, three more jobs are supported at other companies across the country.
Considering these and countless other examples, international trade has proven its benefits and resilience to the U.S. economy — and the American worker is better for it. This World Trade Week, the Chamber is pleased to celebrate this fact — and we’ll keep working to help American companies and workers seize these opportunities.