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Little noticed in the September jobs numbers report last week is the number of newly created jobs that are supported by imports. On The Foundry, Ryan Olson writes:
In September, the economy created 25,000 jobs in the trade, transportation, and utility sector—trailing only education and health services for most jobs created. What is even more indicative of the positive impact that exports have on creating jobs is a dramatic increase in the transportation and warehousing sector, which created 17,000 jobs this past month.
What kinds of jobs are these? They are jobs for longshoremen, rail workers, truckers, and construction and maintenance workers. These activities depend in part on the $190 billion in goods the U.S imports each month.
And job creation from imports doesn’t stop at the warehouse. The retail industry also added 9,000 jobs to the economy, all thanks in part to imports on things as varied as computers and apparel. (There’s also finance, marketing, and so on.)
By stimulating competition in the marketplace and boosting productivity, imports also raise American families’ purchasing power and help them stretch their budgets. The U.S. Chamber's John Murphy writes:
In “The Payoff to America from Global Integration,” the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated that half a century of trade liberalization has boosted the average American household’s annual income by about $10,000.
Similarly, by lowering U.S. tariffs and cutting the cost of imported consumer goods, the trade agreements of the 1990s — principally the Uruguay Round and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — save the average American family over $1,500 every year, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
The next time you visit the grocery store, think about this: one quarter of all U.S. food imports are considered “non-competitive” by USDA. These are products such as coffee, chocolate, and tropical fruits that U.S. farmers produce only in limited geographical areas.
Imports also make our lives better in ways that are hard to quantify. Who doesn’t enjoy a cup of hot coffee or Earl Gray on a winter morning? Fresh grapes in the winter? Or an inexpensive bottle of imported crushed grapes — wine from, say, Chile?