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A Long View of Employment Growth and Firm Dynamics in the United States: Importers vs. Exporters vs. Non-Traders

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Working Paper Number CES-21-38

Abstract

The first experimental product from the U.S. Census Bureau's Business Dynamics Statistics (BDS) program -- BDS-Goods Traders -- provides annual, public-use measures of business dynamics by four mutually exclusive goods-trading classifications: exporter only, importer only, exporter and importer, and non-trader. The BDS-Goods Traders offers a comprehensive view of employment growth at firms associated with goods trading activities in the United States from 1992-2019. We highlight three patterns. First, employment is skewed towards goods traders in several ways. Only 6% of all U.S. firms are goods traders but they account for half of total employment. Moreover, 80% of large firms and 70% of older firms are goods traders. Second, exporter-importer firms represent 70% of manufacturing employment and over half of employment in services-producing industries (management, retail, transportation, utilities, and wholesale). Third, goods-traders exhibit higher net job creation rates than non-traders controlling for firm size, age, and sector. Goods traders contribution to total job creation grows over time, rising to more than half after 2008.

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