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Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Database Documentation

Source of the Data

Public Citizen has obtained from the Department of Labor (DOL) all petition records submitted to the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program with determination dates between January 1, 1994 and the present.  The records contain information on the name of the company where layoffs occurred, its address, who submitted the petition, the product produced by the workers, the date that the petition was filed, the date that worker separations began, the date that the DOL certified or denied the petition, the number of workers laid off, and the country implicated in the layoffs, among other information. For the TAA data dictionary that Public Citizen received from the Department of Labor, click here.

Merger of TAA and NAFTA-TAA Database

Workers and companies could apply under both the TAA program and the North American Free Trade Agreement-Transitional Adjustment Assistance (NAFTA-TAA) program, which operated from 1994 to 2002, and receive certification under both. Certification under both programs was quite common: about two-thirds of petitions certified under the NAFTA-TAA program were certified under the “vanilla” TAA program. Thus, certified petitions can show up in the TAA and NAFTA-TAA databases that refer to the same instance of job loss. Therefore, simply combining the two databases would lead to some double-counting of job loss.

Public Citizen developed a procedure to combine the databases and yet avoid double-counting, which we believe leads to maximum usefulness of the resultant database.

The NAFTA-TAA database that we received from the DOL had a field for the “vanilla” TAA petition record that is associated with the NAFTA-TAA petition, if the petitioners filed under both programs. We use the following procedure to merge the two datasets:

1. NAFTA-TAA records that do not have an associated petition under the vanilla TAA program are retained.

2. For NAFTA-TAA records that do have an associated petition under the vanilla TAA program, we aggregate the estimated job loss numbers for each record by the numeric “stem” record number. Note that if a search is performed on the Department of Labor’s TAA petition determination online database here, many petitions’ “TAW Numbers” have letter suffixes – we aggregate these in this stage of the process because there is no accurate concordance between the letter suffixes given in the  NAFTA-TAA and vanilla TAA petition records. At the end of the data processing procedure, these records are put back into their original disaggregated forms.

3. If a given NAFTA-TAA record has reported job loss greater or equal to its associated vanilla TAA record, we keep the NAFTA-TAA record and discard the vanilla TAA record. Otherwise, we keep the vanilla TAA record.

We believe that this is the most useful way to combine the two datasets because we do not undercount the job losses reported in the TAA system – we know that at least X number of jobs were lost due to imports or outsourcing as certified by TAA. When the NAFTA-TAA and vanilla TAA records report the same job losses, we take the NAFTA-TAA record because that record provides more information as to the cause of the job loss.

Enhanced Geographic Information of Records

The TAA petition records that Public Citizen received from the DOL contained the street address, city, and state of the companies that shed workers.  The records did not originally hold information about the congressional district, county, or metropolitan area where the workplace was located. To determine the congressional district, county, or metropolitan area for each petition record, the address information for each record was submitted to the University of Southern California’s WebGIS Services to obtain the precise latitude and longitude of the workplace (the attribute relaxation, substring matching, soundex matching, and uncertainty hierarchy options of the batch geocoding were all enabled).

Each point, represented by its latitude and longitude combination, was tested for inclusion in each polygon defined by the borders of each congressional district.  The shapefiles containing the boundary information for the congressional districts were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. The same procedure was used for counties and metropolitan areas.


If you choose to cite data from this database, please consider the following fact/citation format: “The Department of Labor certified [NUMBER] workers in [GEOGRAPHIC AREA] as having lost their jobs to imports or outsourcing during the NAFTA-WTO era. Source: Public Citizen. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Consolidated Petitions Database. Washington, DC, https://www.citizen.org/article/trade-adjustment-assistance-database/

Written by Travis McArthur. Last modified on May 8, 2019.