Two-thirds of Post-recession Manufacturing Jobs Were a Result of Foreign Investment, Says Study

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
two thirds of post recession manufacturing jobs were a result of foreign investment

As the Trump administration applies pressure to encourage companies to manufacture goods within U.S. borders and bolster American employment (or potentially face towering tariffs), the president has more recently come out against foreign automakers directly. In late May, Trump responded to criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel by accusing her country of having a trade surplus with the United States — claiming its automakers send vehicles to North America while providing little else. Trump has levelled similar criticism at China.

However, there’s a problem with his assertion. Foreign companies may not always contribute the majority of their wealth towards improving the U.S. economy, but they do invest heavily into the country. In fact, a recent analysis of federal jobs data shows two-thirds of the 656,000 manufacturing jobs created between 2010 and 2014 can be attributed directly to foreign investment.

Accurate employment figures for the following years aren’t yet available. But, with an additional $700 billion in capital coming in from non-domestic sources, total foreign investment reached $3.7 trillion by the end of 2016 — a new record.

According to an analysis published by Reuters, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany spent a combined total of more than $300 billion on U.S. investments over the last few years. China, which has only recently begun pouring money into North America, saw its investment grow by more than 300 percent between 2011 and 2015. It’s expected to pursue an expanding interest, along with Germany and Japan, in the years to come.

Much of this investment targets the South, where foreign companies have made a home for themselves over the last few years. Mercedes-Benz recently finished an assembly plant for its Sprinter van in Charleston, South Carolina, employing over 1,200 local workers, and Volvo Cars intends to complete its own factory there by 2020.

BMW has invested $8 billion in order to construct a colossal assembly plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The site has become the single largest exporter of vehicles by value for the entire country and BMW’s largest factory throughout the world. Earlier this week the automaker announced it would invest an additional $600 million into the plant, creating 1,000 extra jobs.

“The presence of this company changed everything in the trajectory of our state,” said Governor Henry McMaster during Monday’s unveiling of BMW’s updated X3.

Before you break out into humming The Stars and Stripes Forever while saluting the German flag, know that BMW is a global company. It has interests in many other nations and is wary of the current political climate within the United States.

“We have a big footprint here, and we are flexible enough,” Oliver Zipse, BMW’s board member responsible for manufacturing, explained. “We will build the X3 not only in Spartanburg, we will split it into South Africa and then to China, so we will have some flexibility to produce cars somewhere else,” he said. “If something happens at the political level — which we don’t know yet — we are able to have a flexible response.”

Officially, the Trump administration has stated it welcomes outside investment — even if the president himself has proven himself less than cordial on occasion. However, with the renegotiation of NAFTA underway, some within his own party have accused him of being inflexible — and potentially bad for the economy.

Senator Lindsey Graham recently suggested the current administration’s tactics could severely harm an American workforce dependent on foreign companies. “Negotiate a trade agreement with Europe, modernize NAFTA, don’t tear it up,” Graham told Reuters at the BMW factory. “We’re going in the wrong direction. We need more trade agreements, not less.”

[Images: BMW]

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  • Akear Akear on Jul 01, 2017

    "Two-thirds of Post-Recession Manufacturing Jobs Were a Result of Foreign Investment, Says Study" If that is true then we are a glorified third world manufacturing nation. When a nation can no longer make things, its economy will go downhill. Still, the nation has a proud history and it is worth fighting for. A trade war may restore some pride in the country. I don't like America being relegated to second tier status.

    • See 5 previous
    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jul 03, 2017

      @Big Al from Oz "how capitalism functions when factories are automated" It functions perfectly well. The goal of capitalism is the rapid progress. If losers cannot follow progress - it is their fault and they will die out in few decades anyway. Same question might be asked by Romans - how society can function without slaves, or how agriculture can function with only 1% population still farming. I guess would be transhumans are the future.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jul 01, 2017

    Great news! Now America finally competes with Mexico for the honor to become industrial colony of manufacturing superpowers of Japan and Germany. Now we have to beg Chinese companies to bring jobs back to US. Because there are no American companies left, all either bankrupt or owned by one these three superpowers.

    • See 5 previous
    • Onyxtape Onyxtape on Jul 06, 2017

      @threeer 2016 debt-to-GDP ratio: US: 105% Japan: 243% China: 22% India: 66% Keep in mind this is public debt. Consumer debt ratio is still relatively (actually very) low in Asian countries - the Chinese nominally save 30% of their income and have a home ownership rate of 90+% with only 18% of those on a mortgage.

  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
  • ToolGuy 2019 had better comments than 2023 😉
  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down.
  • Bobby D'Oppo Great sound and smooth power delivery in a heavier RWD or AWD vehicle is a nice blend, but current V8 pickup trucks deliver an unsophisticated driving experience. I think a modern full-size pickup could be very well suited to a manual transmission.In reality, old school, revvy atmo engines pair best with manual transmissions because it's so rewarding to keep them in the power band on a winding road. Modern turbo engines have flattened the torque curve and often make changing gears feel more like a chore.
  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro today's vehicles?