At Monday night’s presidential debate, Donald Trump hit Hillary Clinton early on for not doing enough to stop jobs from leaving the country. He said that the North American Free Trade Agreement was a bad trade deal that continues to cost jobs.
“We are losing jobs to other countries at a higher rate than ever,” Trump says.
What is true is that U.S. national trade deficit is the largest it has ever been, as a percentage of the GDP. What’s not clear is whether rising trade deficits have lead to an increasing number of jobs leaving the country. In fact, manufacturing jobs rebounded after the recession, though not nearly as high as it once was.
In the past year, manufacturing employment hasn’t been growing, but it’s not shrinking either.
As for companies leaving the United States, it is true that more and more companies are relocated oversees. But the biggest growth of that is inversions that move corporate headquarters overseas, often in name, but leave jobs in the U.S. Trump said that Ford has moved jobs overseas. That is partially correct; last year, Ford (F) said it would stop producing some small vehicles, including the Ford Focus and C-Wagon, in the U.S. But, once again, overall employment in car manufacturing is up in the U.S., from just under 625,000 jobs in mid-2009 to nearly 925,000 jobs last month.
What’s more, as VOX points out the value of good U.S. manufacturing is the highest it has ever been. But that’s measuring the value of the good produced, not the number of jobs used to create the jobs, which is what Trump is really talking about.