US rust-belt swing states lost manufacturing jobs in 2019

Reade Pickert

The Rust Belt states that narrowly helped deliver Donald Trump’s presidential victory lost manufacturing jobs in 2019 amid trade wars and a strong dollar, even as their labor markets held up more broadly, data showed Friday.

Pennsylvania recorded a drop of about 5,700 factory positions, while Wisconsin lost 4,100 and Michigan was down 5,300, though overall employment increased in those states, according to figures released by the Labor Department. National numbers released earlier this month showed that the U.S. added 46,000 manufacturing jobs in 2019, the second-weakest performance since 2009.

Employees at U.S. Steel's Great Lakes Works complex on Zug Island were notified in December that the company would idle most of their facilities in Ecorse and River Rouge, Michigan, affecting as many as 1,500 workers.

Under pressure from slower demand abroad and the repercussions of the U.S.-China trade war championed by Trump, producers have pulled back on hiring and investment. That may make the road to winning the hearts of voters in manufacturing strongholds like Pennsylvania and Michigan harder in 2020 after Trump vowed to revive the sector.

Beyond manufacturing, though, the state-level picture looks much like the national one: healthy. A number of states, including Florida and South Carolina, saw their lowest unemployment rates on record. Employers continued to add jobs and the size of the labor force increased in the vast majority of states.

Even with the weakness in manufacturing, the mostly sunny economic backdrop may make the task trickier for Democratic presidential hopefuls hoping to clinch Iowa’s support next month and the nation’s in November. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, for example, have highlighted inequality in their proposals for a wealth tax that would target a small sliver of the richest households.

(Michael Bloomberg is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)