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Pennsylvania, Wisconsin Lost the Most Factory Jobs in Past Year

Sept. 20, 2019
Both states experienced dramatic job losses even as other Rust Belt states like Ohio and Michigan added jobs.

As the U.S. presidential campaign heats up, Democratic candidates may want to look at two Rust Belt states that narrowly helped deliver Donald Trump’s victory in 2016: Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The two swing states lost the most manufacturing jobs in the past 12 months, bucking the national trend. In Pennsylvania, home to steel mills, the number of factory positions fell by about 8,000 and in Wisconsin the loss was just over 5,000, according to regional data from the Labor Department Friday.

The states are important for Trump, whose pledges to reignite the sector are a cornerstone of his economic message. In the past year, though, manufacturing has weakened amid a trade war with China and slower global demand, making some companies hesitant to invest. The president was in Pennsylvania last month speaking to employees of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, where he said assembly lines are “roaring.”

The data tell a different story: The industry slipped into a recession during the first half of 2019 and one gauge of manufacturing direction, the Institute for Supply Management’s index, showed a contraction in August for the first time since 2016. While data from the Federal Reserve showed some improvement last month, with production of goods increasing more than expected, the broader picture remains challenging.

Nationwide, the country has added 138,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 12 months, though just 44,000 of those have come in 2019, following a total of 454,000 in 2017 and 2018.

Meanwhile, other Rust Belt states won by Trump in 2018 saw manufacturing job gains in the past year, with Michigan adding almost 2,000 and Ohio gaining 5,000.

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