Imports Support U.S. Jobs, NRF Study Argues

May 9, 2013
A new report from the National Retail Federation defends the role U.S. imports play in U.S. economic health. Gross wages, salaries and employee benefits amount to $683.6 billion.

Imported merchandise has considerably lowered the price of consumer goods for American families while creating millions of jobs for American workers, according to a new study commissioned by the National Retail Federation and other trade associations.  

The “Imports Work for America” study states that imports support more than 16 million American jobs, or 9 percent of U.S. employment. A large number of these import-related jobs are union jobs, and many are held by minorities and women. Included are 1.8 million retail jobs, or 10 percent of direct retail employment.

The report estimates that total compensation (gross wages, salaries and government-mandated employee benefits) of import dependent jobs is at least $683.6 billion, based on 2011 data. The average annual compensation for several sectors employing a large number of jobs tied to imports exceeds the average for the United States as a whole: jobs in the utilities sector, business services, transportation and warehousing, construction and government jobs, according to the report.

More than half the firms that import directly are small businesses, employing fewer than 50 workers, the report adds, noting that American manufacturers rely on imports of raw materials and intermediate goods to lower their production costs and stay competitive in domestic and international markets.

Many of the import-related jobs associated with logistics are concentrated in states along U.S. coasts or borders, which benefit from significant port trade and related warehousing and transportation services, the report notes. The 10 states accounting for the largest number of import-related jobs in 2011 were California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

This study was prepared by economists Laura M. Baughman and Joseph F. Francois of the Trade Partnership Worldwide for NRF, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Consumer Electronics Association, and the American Apparel and Footwear Association. The authors conclude that imports have reduced prices of a wide range of consumer products in the past decade, most notably television sets by 87 percent, computers 75 percent, toys 43 percent, and dishes and flatware 33 percent.

“Imports could lower prices for consumers even more if not for protectionist U.S. tariffs,” the authors state. “Shoes, for example, carry tariffs as high as 48 percent, apparel 32 percent, drinking glasses 29 percent, porcelain or China dinnerware sets 26 percent, and bed linens 21 percent.”