Fact check: Trump claims an auto boom that isn’t real
DETROIT – President Donald Trump is calling attention to an auto industry boom that doesn’t exist.
In a tweet Thursday slamming General Motors for plans to lay off workers, Trump wrote that auto companies “are pouring into the U.S.” and GM is “very counter” to the rest of the industry.
He also wrote that BMW just announced a major new plant, which isn’t quite true.
Trump has been upset with GM, which on Monday announced plans to close four U.S. factories and shed up to 3,300 blue-collar jobs. The company also said it would cut more than 8,000 white-collar jobs and close a Canadian plant as it downsizes to free capital to invest in autonomous and electric vehicles.
Trump’s tweet: “General Motors is very counter to what other auto, and other companies are doing. Big Steel is opening and renovating plants all over the country. Auto companies are pouring into the U.S., including BMW, which just announced a major new plant. The U.S.A. is booming!”
The facts: Automakers have been steadily hiring since 2010 when Barack Obama was president. But the pace of job gains has slowed considerably since Trump took office, according to the Labor Department. That’s probably a reflection of slowing sales rather than any policy changes by Trump.
U.S. auto sales are down 0.2 percent through October largely because of a 13 percent plunge in car sales. Truck and SUV sales are up 8 percent. All the factories GM wants to close make slow-selling cars.
The Labor Department found that automakers added 30,600 jobs during Obama’s last year in office. That fell to 8,200 in 2017 after Trump became president. Automakers were on pace before the GM layoffs to add 8,660 jobs this year.
Despite the job growth in recent years, auto companies employ far fewer workers than they did in 2000. More than 1.3 million people held auto jobs in 2000, a total that now stands at roughly 970,000.
General Motors Co. is not alone in cutting workers. Crosstown rival Ford Motor Co. is just starting to restructure its white-collar workforce, and thousands are expected to be let go by the middle of next year.
Also, BMW didn’t announce a major new plant, but its CEO said Tuesday the company is considering a new U.S. engine factory to supply assembly plants in South Carolina and Mexico. The German automaker now imports engines and transmissions from Europe for SUVs made in the U.S., and it’s building a new factory in Mexico.
Volvo Cars opened a factory in South Carolina this year and Toyota and Mazda are jointly building a new plant in Alabama. Volkswagen’s U.S. CEO says the company is looking for a site to build a factory to make electric vehicles.
Trump also exaggerates the recovery of the steel industry.
As of October, there were 381,700 jobs in the manufacturing of primary metals such as steel. That figure seesaws based off commodity prices and global economic performance. But it’s clearly trended downward since 2000 when the sector had 621,800 jobs.
It’s difficult to know just how many jobs will be added by newly planned mills. But construction spending on factories has yet to significantly take off after having been in decline between 2016 and much of 2018. Still, the spending has rebounded in recent months. Construction spending on factories has increased 4.3 percent in the past year, according to the Census Bureau.
Boak reported from Washington.
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