California Tops US States in Jobs Lost From China Trade Debt

December 15, 2014 Updated: December 15, 2014

LOS ANGELES—Since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, US imports from China have increased dramatically, contributing to job and wage reductions across the nation, according to a recent report.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) said in “China Trade, Outsourcing and Jobs,” published last week, that 3.2 million jobs disappeared from all 50 states between 2001 and 2013.

California lost more than 560,000 jobs, the most of any state, followed by Texas, with more than 300,000 lost or displaced jobs, and New York with nearly 180,000.

Nancy Hoffman Vanyek, who has worked at the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce for 27 years and is now the CEO, says she’s seen a lot of jobs leave the state and the country. She said many people who lose their jobs to outsourcing have trouble finding another one.

“For some people that are in the computer/electronics field, they can still get jobs, a lot of them, that pay well,” she said. “But then you have other people who have other types of jobs that don’t exist anymore, because the entire plant now is located somewhere else.”

EPI said in their report that manufacturing jobs accounted for three quarters of all jobs lost to China, such as in the computer and electronics, textiles, apparel, and fabricated metal products industries.

Many who supported China joining the World Trade Organization said it would increase US exports and reduce the trade deficit with China, states the report. But the Chinese regime has used practices such as currency manipulation, extensive subsidies, and suppression of wages and labor rights to try to block imports.

“This EPI study confirms what our members across the nation know better than anyone about the impact of China’s trade policies,” said Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers (USW) in a statement. “Many have paid the price for China’s unfair trade policies and our nation’s inability—or unwillingness—to get them to play by the current rules of global fair trade.”

Opposing Perspective

Lawren Markle, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), said, “It’s always a concern when jobs move overseas,” but he said the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

LAEDC released a report in June saying Chinese investment into LA County has doubled in the past five years while tourism from China has nearly quadrupled in just four years, creating many jobs.

Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association, said many cutting and sewing jobs were lost in the last decade to other countries, but the lower cost of labor resulted in lower-cost products, which boosted sales and created other higher-paying jobs.

She also said recently more apparel companies have been moving production back to the United States, especially brands that frequently change styles and need to order popular items more quickly.

Trade Deficit

America’s trade deficit with China has grown tremendously, from $84 billion in 2001 to $324 billion last year. Imports from China more than quadrupled from 2001 to 2013.

Another impact of the U.S. losing jobs to China, according to the study, has been lower wages, affecting more than 100 million US workers, especially those without a four-year college degree.

Hoffman Vanyek said people who are concerned about jobs moving to countries like China should be prepared to pay more for US-made products.

“To find something that’s 100 percent [made] in the USA is great, and we need to continue to support that, but then people can’t complain what the cost of that is,” she said.

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