What Happened in Steel Cities After Trump’s Tariff Plans? Weak Hiring

Employment in each of America’s top 10 steel cities has grown slower than the rate of growth for the U.S. as a whole since President Donald Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports earlier this year. Metro areas in the nation’s Rust Belt, like Youngstown, Ohio, and Huntington, W. Va., saw their employment decline in February and March from the previous year, while others, including Mobile, Ala., notched growth below the overall U.S.’s rate. Four of the nation’s 10 metro areas with the largest share of jobs in steel manufacturing saw job declines of up to 1.35%, while the other six saw sluggish growth of about 0.7%, well below the nation’s 1.6% growth. The Trump administration in March announced plans to institute broad tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum products. The Labor Department jobs figures provide snapshot of steel cities’ employment picture in the wake of the trade plans. While many of the cities had already been experiencing anemic employment growth before the tariff announcement, some saw their jobs numbers worsen after it. Though the new tariffs aren’t yet fully in place, the impact on employment can already be detected, said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank. When prices for tariffed products, like soybeans, go up, demand drops precipitously, he said. “If you are worried demand will go down in the future, it cannot be a surprise that you might begin to hold a little bit back on hiring,” Mr. Slok said. The price for aluminum deliveries in three months’ time hit a more-than-six-year high recently, while steel prices in the U.S. have climbed as much as 30% this year because of the tariffs, though they have begun to moderate. More widely, other reports have signaled manufacturers are feeling the effects of the planned tariffs. Activity in U.S. factories decelerated recently in part due to disruptions and uncertainty surrounding tariffs, according to the Institute for Supply Management. One business in the Boston Federal Reserve district said prices of “thin gauge foil” produced in China have risen threefold for him since the Trump administration ramped up tariff rhetoric, according to a recent Fed report. “These tariffs are now killing high-paying American manufacturing jobs and businesses,” he said in the report. RELATED Fed Report Finds Steel Prices Rising After Tariffs Imposed (April 18) Metal Buyers Race to Secure Supplies Ahead of Tariff Decision (April 28) Quotas Make a Comeback as Countries Seek U.S. Tariff Exemptions (May 11)

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