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At least 80 employees are being laid off at a western Pennsylvania steel plant, and the facility's owners are not mincing words about why the job cuts are happening.
"We're running less turns and experiencing layoffs now because of tariffs," Bob Miller, president of NLMK Pennsylvania, told the Sharon Herald. Although President Donald Trump's tariffs on imported steel were intended to prop up domestic steelmakers—and despite Trump's repeated claims that the tariffs are bringing steel jobs back to the United States—the tariffs have raised prices and reduced domestic demand for steel. That slowdown has led to shutdowns at other steel plants as well.
It's increasingly difficult to argue otherwise. Trump announced 25 percent tariffs on imported steel (and 10 percent tariffs on imported aluminum) in March 2018. While the tariffs briefly hiked steel prices and gave American producers an advantage over foreign competitors, it came with a hefty price. Through April l of this year, U.S. consumers and businesses paid about $900,000 for every steel job created or saved by Trump's tariffs, according to an analysis by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Now that prices have stabilized again, American steel mills have slowed production and laid-off workers. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that U.S. Steel experienced weaker-than-expected demand and reduced profit expectations in the second quarter of this year. On June 19, U.S. Steel announced that it would shut down two blast furnaces at its flagship plant in Gary, Indiana. The company's stock price has fallen from about $37 per share on June 1, 2018, when the tariffs were enacted, to $14.14 during midday trading on Friday.
The same has happened in other industries that tariffs were supposed to help. As of December, Trump's aluminum tariffs had created an estimated 300 jobs at a cost of $690 million. Two solar panel manufacturers that successfully pushed for new tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels last year are now bankrupt and out of business. And when Whirlpool lobbied the administration to tax imported washing machines, consumers wound up having to pay $1.2 billion more—and higher prices have reduced demand, punishing Whirlpool as well.
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