Before companies can even speak for themselves, the media is rushing to attribute job creation announcements to President-elect Donald Trump, even when they don’t actually have anything to do with him. Trump seems happy to take the credit.
On Tuesday morning, General Motors announced that it will invest $1 billion in its U.S. plants and either create or retain 1,500 jobs. It also said it will begin bringing production of full-size pickup trucks currently done abroad back to the U.S. and in the process create 450 jobs.
Before the company even made the announcement, media outlets attributed the decision, to varying degrees, to Trump. Bloomberg referenced the company “facing pressure from President-elect Donald Trump to boost hiring,” while the Wall Street Journal called it “a move aimed at underlining its commitment to U.S. manufacturing jobs in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism.”
It is true that Trump has picked high-profile fights with the company. He recently attacked GM on Twitter by claiming the company imports its Chevy Cruze from Mexico. GM quickly pointed out that Trump’s claim was mostly false — all Cruze sedans are made in the U.S., and while it does make some hatchbacks in Mexico, those Mexican-made models compose just 2.4 percent of all Cruzes GM sells in the U.S.
There was no mention of Trump in the company’s announcement on Tuesday. Instead, GM said that the investments are part of its “increased focus on overall efficiency over the last four years.” The announcement also noted that GM has invested more than $21 billion in U.S. operations since 2009, including $2.9 billion last year, and brought thousands of jobs from overseas back to this country.
The company’s general counsel told the Journal that any investments have long been in the works and won’t be announced in response to Trump. “This is something we’ve been undertaking for some period of time,” Craig Glidden said. Bloomberg reported the same, citing an anonymous company source who said the plans were already approved before Trump won.
While GM may be touting its job creation this week, it is also in the process of laying off about 3,300 people at three U.S. plants. GM will also keep investing in Mexico — in 2014 it announced that it would spend $5 billion there and create 5,600 Mexican jobs by 2018.
None of these facts stopped Trump from trying to take credit for GM’s announcement. Later on Tuesday morning, he tweeted about “all of the jobs I am bringing back into the U.S. (even before taking office)” and “all of the new auto plants coming back into our….. country.”
With all of the jobs I am bringing back into the U.S. (even before taking office), with all of the new auto plants coming back into our…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2017
country and with the massive cost reductions I have negotiated on military purchases and more, I believe the people are seeing "big stuff."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2017
Trump has also tried to take credit for a number of recent manufacturing job announcements that companies have specifically said aren’t related to his upcoming presidency. The parent company of Fiat and Chrysler announced last week that it will spend $1 billion and create 2,000 more American jobs, but clearly stated that the decision had nothing to do with Trump and was part of previous plans. Similarly, Ford recently announced it would invest $700 million in a new Michigan plant instead of one in Mexico and create 700 U.S. jobs, but Ford’s CEO insisted that it wasn’t thanks to a deal with Trump. Still, Trump thanked both companies on Twitter and promised more would follow.
In December, Trump also took credit for a decision by Sprint to bring back or create 5,000 U.S. jobs, and for 3,000 jobs at satellite startup OneWeb. Both are part of a SoftBank investment made before the election.
So far, the only jobs that can clearly be linked to Trump are the ones that air conditioning and heating giant Carrier and its parent company United Technologies said would stay in the U.S. The company negotiated a deal with the president-elect and Vice President-elect Mike Pence that will net the company $7 million in state tax incentives. In return, fewer than 800 jobs will now remain in the U.S. while 1,300 will still move to Mexico.
The media didn’t just rush to give Trump credit for manufacturing jobs on Tuesday morning. The same dynamic surfaced in coverage of an announcement Walmart also made that it will invest $6.8 billion in its U.S. operations this year, creating 10,000 new retail jobs.
Coverage immediately tied the move to Trump. The Journal characterized it as the company feeling “the need to tout American job growth ahead of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.”
As with GM, however, Walmart made no mention of Trump in its announcement. And in its second paragraph, the Journal reported that the jobs will be thanks to previous plans to open and expand new stores and e-commerce.
It makes even less sense for the media to credit Walmart’s decision to Trump, since the president-elect has paid virtually no attention to employment outside of the manufacturing sector. He has yet to either disparage layoffs or praise job creation in the retail industry or even in the broader service sector. He has focused instead on carmakers and other large manufacturers like Carrier. For example, since his election, Macy’s announced it will lay off 10,000 people and Lowe’s will cut less than 1 percent of its 285,000-person workforce. Trump has mentioned neither on Twitter.
And yet far more Americans are employed in services than in manufacturing. In 2014, manufacturing made up just over 8 percent of U.S. employment, and the larger “goods-producing sector” that also includes mining and construction made up less than 13 percent. Services, on the other hand, accounts for more than 80 percent of jobs, including retail, health care, and restaurants.
Even if Trump wanted to take credit for job creation in retail, it makes little sense to attribute all job creation to his presidency. The economy added 2.2 million jobs last year — far more than what he’s been able to negotiate personally.