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The Surprisingly Swift Decline of US Manufacturing Employment


  • Justin R. Pierce
  • Peter K. Schott


This paper links the sharp drop in US manufacturing employment after 2000 to a change in US trade policy that eliminated potential tariff increases on Chinese imports. Industries more exposed to the change experience greater employment loss, increased imports from China, and higher entry by US importers and foreign-owned Chinese exporters. At the plant level, shifts toward less labor-intensive production and exposure to the policy via input-output linkages also contribute to the decline in employment. Results are robust to other potential explanations of employment loss, and there is no similar reaction in the European Union, where policy did not change.

Suggested Citation

  • Justin R. Pierce & Peter K. Schott, 2016. "The Surprisingly Swift Decline of US Manufacturing Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(7), pages 1632-1662, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:106:y:2016:i:7:p:1632-62
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20131578

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Justin R. Pierce & Peter K. Schott, 2009. "A Concordance Between Ten-Digit U.S. Harmonized System Codes and SIC/NAICS Product Classes and Industries," NBER Working Papers 15548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Philippe Aghion & Jing Cai & Mathias Dewatripont & Luosha Du & Ann Harrison & Patrick Legros, 2022. "Industrial Policy and Competition," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Globalization, Firms, and Workers, chapter 15, pages 349-380, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    3. Loren Brandt & Johannes Van Biesebroeck & Luhang Wang & Yifan Zhang, 2017. "WTO Accession and Performance of Chinese Manufacturing Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(9), pages 2784-2820, September.
    4. Scott R. Baker & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis, 2016. "Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(4), pages 1593-1636.
    5. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    6. Amit K. Khandelwal & Peter K. Schott & Shang-Jin Wei, 2013. "Trade Liberalization and Embedded Institutional Reform: Evidence from Chinese Exporters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2169-2195, October.
    7. Sourafel Girma & Yundan Gong & Holger Görg & Zhihong Yu, 2009. "Can Production Subsidies Explain China's Export Performance? Evidence from Firm‐level Data," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 111(4), pages 863-891, December.
    8. Barry T. Hirsch & David A. MacPherson, 2003. "Union Membership and Coverage Database from the Current Population Survey: Note," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(2), pages 349-354, January.
    9. Bai, Xue & Krishna, Kala & Ma, Hong, 2017. "How you export matters: Export mode, learning and productivity in China," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 122-137.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • L24 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Contracting Out; Joint Ventures
    • L60 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - General
    • P33 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - International Trade, Finance, Investment, Relations, and Aid


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