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US Companies Blame Trade for 10,488 Job Cuts in August

Sept. 5, 2019
Report finds companies eliminating thousands of positions, citing "trade difficulties."

More than 10,000 Americans lost their jobs in August because of trade pressures, according to a new figure that provides a window into how U.S. tariff policy is affecting the labor market.

According to a monthly report from staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., companies announced plans to eliminate 10,488 positions because of “trade difficulties.” It’s the first time this reason for layoffs has been included in the report.

Challenger’s survey has tallied the number of firing announcements tied specifically to “tariffs” since 2018, when it logged 798 such instances. Through August this year, those have totaled 2,076.

The numbers are significant because of the difficulty quantifying the fallout from trade disruptions, and they provide evidence that President Donald Trump’s trade war with China is harming some companies. The job market, in particular, has been a source of strength with very low unemployment.

The Labor Department’s monthly employment figures provide a thorough look at what jobs are being created and destroyed, but they don’t say why.

“Employers are beginning to feel the effects of the trade war and imposed tariffs by the U.S. and China,” Andrew Challenger, vice president of the company, said in a statement Thursday.

On Sunday, the Trump administration put a 15% tariff on about $112 billion of Chinese imports, including consumer items like apparel and footwear, escalating a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Employers announced a total of 53,480 job reductions in August, up from 38,472 a year earlier. Announced hiring plans last month totaled almost 25,000, according to Challenger’s data.

“We are continuing to see investor concerns shaking confidence in the market, and employers appear to be cutting workers in response to a slowdown in demand for their products and services,” Challenger said in the statement.

Figures on staff reduction announcements may not necessarily correlate to official job market data. Some firings that are announced are carried out through attrition or early retirement, and some employees whose jobs are eliminated find work elsewhere in their companies.

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