Read: Why Democrats’ response to GM matters
While the commitment Trump made to Senters and her co-workers might have been simplistic, the president’s broader efforts to bolster manufacturing, renegotiate trade agreements, and address trade imbalances have been complex and, in some cases, successful, according to half a dozen economists and experts, liberal and conservative. The most recent jobs report showed that 304,000 jobs were added in January, 13,000 in manufacturing. Since Trump’s inauguration, the total number of Americans working in manufacturing has risen by at least 473,000. The unemployment rate has fallen to 4 percent. Trump will almost certainly tout these numbers in Tuesday’s State of the Union. The White House did not respond to a request to comment on Senters’s claims.
On one level, manufacturing is growing because the economy is strong. Economists disagree why: Stephen Moore, an economist for the Heritage Foundation and a former Trump-campaign adviser, pointed to the “pro-business environment” that Trump’s election sparked; Robert E. Scott of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, pointed to the Obama-era stimulus package and years of low interest rates. Regardless, the United States still has 1.4 million fewer manufacturing jobs than it had during its prerecession high in 2006, despite the efforts of both presidents.
Ever since he declared his candidacy, Trump has made sweeping claims about his ability to bring back manufacturing jobs. In 2016, speaking at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, then-President-elect Trump declared, “These companies aren’t going to be leaving anymore,” touting a deal he had struck with Carrier to keep nearly 1,000 jobs from moving to Mexico. But in the end, Carrier still laid off 632 Indianapolis-based workers in exchange for a cheaper labor force in Mexico.
A new campaign by the action fund of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, asserts that Trump failed to follow through not only on his pledge to Carrier’s workers, but also on his pledge to factory workers across America. The campaign—which launched in anticipation of Tuesday’s State of the Union—centers on what CAP describes as “Trump’s false promises.” CAP argues that while Trump campaigned on issues important to middle- and working-class people, his presidential policy record suggests he instead prioritizes big business and the wealthy. One of the “false promises,” according to CAP, centers on Trump’s pledge to keep U.S. companies from moving overseas.
Manufacturing jobs are undeniably being created in today’s economy. But some companies are still moving overseas. A study of Department of Labor data by ThinkProgress, a left-leaning website, found that in just the four months following Trump’s swearing-in in January 2017, at least 11,934 American jobs were moved abroad or were in the process of leaving the country. On top of GM’s layoffs, Ford recently announced it would be restructuring and firing workers. An estimated 12 percent, or 24,000 of Ford’s 202,000 workers, may lose their jobs.