It’s a Bad Economy for Manufacturing Workers

By Matthew McMullan
Sep 30 2020 |

While the noise of the presidential debate still rings in everyone’s ears, America sets another trade deficit record.

Tuesday night’s presidential “debate” wasn’t exactly, uh, substantive. I’m not exactly sure what the big takeaways were. Debate rules are for saps? Donald Trump – Donald J. Trump – will drag his opponent’s kids into what’s supposed to be a political debate? Joe Biden only said “come on” twice?

There really wasn’t much to take away from the nationally televised train wreck that is watching a pair of septuagenarians talk over each other. If you hated or loved either of these guys before the debate, you probably hate or love them more now. But we did notice what wasn’t said. Specifically: The debate barely bothered to touch on the topic of China – either U.S. foreign policy toward that country, or the state of play in the enormous trade dispute the Trump administration launched against Beijing in 2018.

Meanwhile, though, reality continues apace. New numbers from the Department of Commerce show a $82.9 billion U.S. goods trade deficit with the rest of the world. (That number doesn’t break out the monthly U.S. goods trade deficit with China, but if you look at recent history, it’s likely to be between $25 billion and $30 billion again.)

Anyway, $82.9 billion is a monthly record. Never been that high before! USA! USA!

That doesn’t bode well for the health of the American industrial economy. But we’ll get another snapshot of our national economic health with another jobs report this Friday. Early surveys predict the number will be better than what was originally forecast but context is important. The economy is still largely in the tank because the U.S. economy got rolled by the coronavirus pandemic, and it certainly hasn’t been good for American manufacturing workers:

source: BLS

Look at that dip in the graph! That’s like Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff, except those were people with jobs.

No matter who wins, there are still going to be millions of unemployed people in January 2021. It’s been months since the last coronavirus relief package, so we still need an industrial policy. You can read about what one would look like here.