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NAFTA’s Impact on Employment


Q: How many U.S. jobs have been lost since the inception of the North American Free Trade Agreement?

A: Actually, nearly 25 million jobs have been gained. Nearly all economic studies say NAFTA's net effect on jobs was negligible.

FULL QUESTION

How many U.S. jobs have been lost since the inception of the North American Free Trade Agreement?

FULL ANSWER

NAFTA took effect on Jan. 1, 1994. Since that time, the U.S. economy has added just over 25 million jobs, of which nearly 20 million were added under President Clinton, who pushed for ratification of NAFTA and signed the agreement.

This chart shows the growth in total nonfarm employment in the U.S. since NAFTA's inception, as measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

 

 

Whether the job gain would have been greater or smaller without NAFTA is another question. Some Democratic candidates, including Barack Obama, have said that 1 million jobs have been "lost because of NAFTA." But as we noted in an earlier article, those figures are highly questionable and come from an anti-NAFTA source. Other economic studies have concluded the trade deal resulted in much smaller job losses or even a small net gain. The Congressional Budget Office surveyed all the major economic studies of NAFTA's effects in 2004 and concluded: "NAFTA had little or no impact on aggregate employment."

For a more extensive discussion, see our article "More NAFTA Nonsense," which we posted on March 3.

–Brooks Jackson

Sources

 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Total Nonfarm employment, seasonally adjusted. Jan 1994 – June 2008, 7 July 2008.

J.F. Hornbeck. "NAFTA at Ten: Lessons from Recent Studies." Congressional Research Service, 13 Feb. 2004.