The Trade With China Dilemma

on October 11, 2011

While Capitol Hill mulls over a bill about whether to take action against China's currency practices, we thought we'd take a look at the impact of the past decade of trade with China using a popular metric today: jobs. Trade is often noted for being a two-way process: You give, and you get.

So in terms of jobs, has the US gained anything from trading with China?

The initial thought is 'no.' Nearly 2.8 million net jobs were lost due to trade with China over the past 10 years--meaning that the jobs we've gained through exports (positive numbers above) have been significantly overshadowed by jobs lost due to imports (negative numbers above). In absolute terms, California of course has lost the most jobs, but if you normalize for population, many states in the New England area come out on top as having lost the most jobs to China.

Of course, the flip side has been cheaper products--specifically in the manufacturing industries and even more specifically computer and other electronic products. That iPhone would cost a lot more if it were completely produced in America. Same goes for that shirt. And that chair.

So, is it worth it? Probably depends on who you ask.


I'd like to see another chart showing the U.S. companies that voluntarily moved jobs to China and India to cut cost, then gained increases in profit margin and consequent executive pay raises and bonuses. It's misleading to attribute everything to trade deficit.