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California Job Loss During the NAFTA-WTO Period

Find Specific Layoffs Caused by Offshoring and Imports in California

California lost 408,023 manufacturing jobs (or 23.9 percent) during the NAFTA-WTO period (1994-present), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.* This figure is for total manufacturing employment, so it takes into account both jobs created by exports and jobs displaced by imports, among other causes of net job change. The percentage of all private sector jobs that are manufacturing jobs in California declined from 16.9 percent to 8.9 percent during the NAFTA-WTO period.

These are aggregate numbers, but the Department of Labor tracks instances of specific workers at specific workplaces who applied for special benefits for trade-displaced workers. In California, there are 204,418 such workers certified as having lost their job due to imports or offshoring under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. (Note: This program is difficult to qualify for, and this figure only includes those workers who were certified.)

The Economic Policy Institute found that by 2010, 86,500 jobs had been lost or displaced in California – and about 700,000 in the United States – due to the rise in the trade deficit with Mexico alone since NAFTA was enacted in 1994.

The Economic Policy Institute also found that by 2013, 564,200 jobs had been lost or displaced in California – and more than 3.2 million in the United States – due to the rise in the trade deficit with China since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

* The latest available manufacturing employment data is for the first quarter of 2018. The change in the number of manufacturing jobs is defined here as the change between the first quarter of 1993 and the first quarter of 2018 to account for seasonal employment variations.