Protectionists Are Wrong About Unemployment

The following quote is from pages 30-31 of my Mercatus Center colleague Daniel Griswold’s excellent 2009 volume, Mad About Trade (footnotes excluded):

 In the past four decades, during a time of expanding trade and globalization, the U.S. workforce and total employment have each roughly doubled…. Since 1970, the number of people employed in the U.S. economy has increased at an average annual rate of 2.22 percent, virtually the same as the 2.25 percent average annual growth in the labor force. Despite fears of lost jobs from trade, total employment in the U.S. economy during the recession year of 2008 was still 8.4 million workers higher than during the 2001 recession, 27.6 million more than during the 1991 recession, and 45.8 million more than the 1981-82 downturn.

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Nor is there any long-term, upward trend in the unemployment rate. In fact, even counting the recession year of 2008, the average unemployment rate during the decade of the 2000s has been 5.1 percent. That rate compares to an average jobless rate of 5.8 percent in the go-go 1990s and 7.3 percent in the 1980s. After decades of demographic upheaval, technological transformations, rising levels of trade, and recessions and recoveries, the U.S. economy has continued to add jobs, and the unemployment rate shows no long-term trend upward. Obviously, an increasingly globalized U.S. economy is perfectly compatible with a growing number of jobs and full employment.

Republished from Cafe Hayek.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald Boudreaux is a senior fellow with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a Mercatus Center Board Member, a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University, and a former FEE president.

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