Sep 12, 2019 - Economy

Trump's trade war is being felt throughout the economy

Data: Tariffs Hurt the Heartland; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Tariffs Hurt the Heartland; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

While news that President Trump plans to postpone the latest round of tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports for 2 weeks will likely soothe the market, his tariffs have already done a number on the U.S. economy.

Why it matters: "The data speaks for itself," Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, says in a note to clients. "The trade war is having a serious negative impact on the U.S. economy."

  • Slok's note includes data from recent months detailing clear downturns in several areas, including: fixed investment and capital expenditures, CEO and business confidence, the percentage of firms planning to hire, consumer goods spending, job openings, and average hours worked, among others.

Threat level: The trade war with China has already reduced U.S. employment by 300,000 jobs, compared with likely employment levels absent the trade war, Moody’s Analytics estimates.

  • That number will rise to about 450,000 by the end of the year if there's no change in policy and could top 900,000 by the end of 2020, the firm’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, told Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman.

The big picture: The most damaging part of a trade war is not the tariffs, but the costs associated with the uncertainty it creates. However, the tariffs themselves also are making a dent.

  • The total amount of tariffs paid to the U.S. Treasury has skyrocketed because not only have the tariffs increased, both U.S. and Chinese companies are scrambling to ship more goods to get out in front of further tariff increases.
  • That has pushed the total U.S. importers paid for tariffs to an all-time high of $6.8 billion in July alone, according to data from Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, an alliance of trade groups opposing the measures.

Between the lines: Trump’s tariff policy has reduced the economic benefits from programs like tax cuts and deregulation that had a positive effect on the economy, David G. Tuerck and William Burke write in a recent paperfrom the National Foundation for American Policy.

  • They estimate tariffs will cost U.S. households $2,000 each by next year.
  • They also note that the positive impact of deregulation has been cut by 29% because of the tariffs, "and the additional anticipated tariffs on Chinese imports will eliminate all remaining economic gains from the administration’s deregulation actions."

The bottom line: Some have argued that because manufacturing and trade are such small pieces of the U.S. economy the trade war would have a negligible impact. But it's no longer just the manufacturing sector that's hurting as a result of the trade war — harm is now being inflicted and felt throughout the economy.

Go deeper: Trump delays tariff increases on Chinese goods ahead of trade talks

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