What does President Trump mean for jobs?


Pool/Getty Images

Pool/Getty Images

Some of President Donald Trump’s first actions in office have been explicitly about American jobs, as he set in motion changes in trade, energy and regulatory policies.

These first steps are in line with the campaign promises Trump made that he says could add 25 million new jobs over the next decade. But can he achieve this goal?

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Trump likely will find it challenging to realize his promise given a slow-growing workforce and a continuing trend toward automation, economists warn. It’s also unclear whether the American public will stomach the downside to bringing jobs back from overseas, something Trump has besieged business leaders to do.

“Would we like to see more U.S. job creation? Absolutely,” says Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel Fixed Income, a brokerage and investment bank. “But you have to remember there’s a cost to doing that.”

“How is the consumer going to fare if you are now charging them” more for the products they buy, Piegza asks.

Here’s a look at Trump’s first moves toward increasing job opportunities – and at what’s likely to come next:

1. Trump wants to cut government regulations. He’s starting at the top.

The Trump administration actually began enacting its jobs agenda before the administration formally existed when the 45th president sent his list of cabinet nominations to the Senate. These cabinet picks, many unfriendly toward the departments they will lead, were made with the purpose of dismantling “the regulatory state – hobbling EPA, Interior, Energy and more in a bid to – as aides see it – ‘open up the animal spirits of the economy,'” journalists Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen wrote in Axios.

The administration thinks if the government potentially rolls back greenhouse gas emission standards, for example, that will make it easier for businesses to operate, which could lead to more jobs.

2. The U.S. withdrew from an unsigned trade pact.

Trump’s memorandum withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership marked a big philosophical shift for the country, but it has little practical effect as Congress had not ratified the trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries.

However, the president signaled his administration would only engage in future negotiations one country at a time in order to “create economically beneficial trade deals” that serve the interests of the American worker.

Trump had pledged to withdraw from the TPP, having long complained about trade deals he said had sold out American jobs. The TPP would have, among other things, reduced the tariffs on imported goods.

The president also has said he wants to renegotiate existing trade deals, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

“What we want is fair trade, fair trade,” Trump said this week. “And we’re gonna treat countries fairly, but they have to treat us fairly.”

3. Trump reversed Obama administration decisions on two oil pipeline projects.

In separate presidential memorandums, Trump re-authorized the completion of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines that had been barred by the Obama administration. The pipelines will make it easier to move fossil fuels across North America.

“I believe that construction and operation of lawfully permitted pipeline infrastructure serve the national interest,” Trump wrote in the Dakota memorandum.

The president suggested construction of the pipelines will create many new jobs (and he also demanded the pipelines be produced in the U.S.).

Trump said the Keystone project alone would create “a lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs.”

While it’s true the projects will create new jobs, the Trump administration is perhaps well off when it comes to the final job creation figures.

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4. The president wants automakers to build more cars in U.S.

Trump met with the CEOs of GM, Fiat Chrysler and Ford to push them toward opening new domestic auto plants.

“We have a very big push on to have auto plants and other plants – many other plants,” Trump said. “It’s happening. It’s happening big league.”

The Big Three automakers made no commitments during their White House meeting. Trump, meanwhile, has threatened to impose 35 percent tariffs on all vehicles imported into the U.S.

5. He ordered expedited environmental reviews on “high priority infrastructure projects.”

This executive order strikes at the heart of the country’s regulatory structure. Trump wrote that infrastructure projects “have been routinely and excessively delayed by agency processes and procedures.”

“These delays have increased project costs and blocked the American people from the full benefits of increased infrastructure investments, which are important to allowing Americans to compete and win on the world economic stage,” the president wrote.

6. The president also wants to expedite construction of manufacturing facilities.

Trump ordered in a memorandum the streamlining of permitting for construction or expansion of manufacturing plants. He also wants the secretary of commerce to submit a report that would recommend “any necessary changes to existing regulations or statutes, as well as actions to change policies” that would “reduce regulatory burdens.”

7. He wants to cut the corporate tax rate.

Trump campaigned on a promise to reduce the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, a move he said could encourage businesses to invest and to hire more workers.

“What we want to do is bring manufacturing back to our country,” Trump said this week. “It’s what the people wanted. It’s one of the reasons I’m sitting here instead of somebody else sitting here.”

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8. Trump wants to increase infrastructure spending.

A preliminary list of 50 high-priority projects lays out $137.5 billion in spending on projects like replacing the nation’s air-traffic control system, airport expansion and upgrades to a number of interstate highways.

Senate Democrats have unveiled their own $1 trillion plan to improve the nation’s roads, bridges and airports.

“However, neither the Democrats nor Trump have come to grips with how they would pay for their infrastructure plans without adding to the government’s budget deficit,” The Washington Post reported.