Opponents of trade liberalization have sought to indict freetrade and trade agreements by painting a grim picture of theeconomic state of American workers and households. They claim thatreal wages have been stagnant or declining as millions ofhigher‐paying middle‐class jobs are lost to imports. But thereality for a broad swath of American workers and households is fardifferent and more benign.
Contrary to public perceptions:
- Trade has had no discernible, negative effect on the number ofjobs in the U.S. economy. Our economy today is at full employment,with 16.5 million more people working than a decade ago.
- Trade accounts for only about 3 percent of dislocatedworkers.Technology and other domestic factors displace far moreworkers than does trade.
- Average real compensation per hour paid to American workers,which includes benefits as well as wages, has increased by 22percent in the past decade.
- Median household income in the United States is 6 percenthigher in real dollars than it was a decade ago at a comparablepoint in the previous business cycle. Middle‐class households havebeen moving up the income ladder, not down.
- The net loss of 3.3 million manufacturing jobs in the pastdecade has been overwhelmed by a net gain of 11.6 million jobs insectors where the average wage is higher than in manufacturing.Two-thirds of the net new jobs created since 1997 are in sectorswhere workers earn more than in manufacturing.
- The median net worth of U.S. households jumped by almostone‐third between 1995 and 2004, from $70,800 to $93,100.
The large majority of Americans, including the typicalmiddle‐class family, is measurably better off today after a decadeof healthy trade expansion.