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In this Aug. 31, 2017, file photo, workers produce vehicles at Volkswagen's U.S. plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. State Republicans predicted economic harm if a vote to unionize Volkswagen's car plant in Chattanooga passed. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig) In this Aug. 31, 2017, file photo, workers produce vehicles at Volkswagen's U.S. plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. State Republicans predicted economic harm if a vote to unionize Volkswagen's car plant in Chattanooga passed. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

In this Aug. 31, 2017, file photo, workers produce vehicles at Volkswagen's U.S. plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. State Republicans predicted economic harm if a vote to unionize Volkswagen's car plant in Chattanooga passed. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

By D.L. Davis February 26, 2020

Wisconsin lawmaker's jobs claim falls short by one word

If Your Time is short

  • U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, a Republican, claims over 44,000 Wisconsin jobs are linked to trade with Mexico and Canada.

  • Grothman’s tweet omitted the word “manufacturing.”

  • State and federal sources state that 44,361 jobs depend on manufacturing exports to Canada and Mexico. But manufactured products are just a portion of Wisconsin’s exports. The total number of jobs is actually more than 230,000. 

 

President Donald Trump fulfilled one of his campaign promises in January 2020 when he signed a revised North American Free Trade Agreement into law.

The revised deal, known as the USMCA -- United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement -- is a replacement for NAFTA, which Trump described as "one of the worst trade deals" in history.

In the weeks leading up to the signing of the new agreement, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle weighed in, including Wisconsin’s U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, who expressed his support on Twitter.

"In #WI, over 44,000 jobs depend on trade with Mexico and Canada," Grothman said in a Jan. 16, 2020 tweet. 

The tweet also featured a graphic, attributed to the National Association of Manufacturers, which read: "In Wisconsin 44,361 jobs depend on manufacturing exports to Canada and Mexico." 

Is Grothman’s jobs claim correct? 

Well, yes and no. It depends if you think it’s accurate to say the Milwaukee Bucks have won more than 10 games this year … when at the All-Star Break they had won 46.

Let’s take a look. 

The export picture

According to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Wisconsin’s top two export markets for 2019 were Canada ($6.7 billion) and Mexico ($3.3 billion). Those far outpace China, which held down the No. 3 spot at $1.4 billion.

Featured Fact-check

The top Wisconsin export products in 2019 were industrial machinery ($5.6 billion), electric machinery ($2.4 billion) and medical and scientific instruments ($2.0 billion).

When asked for backup for the claim, Grothman staff member Timothy Svoboda pointed to the National Association of Manufacturers graphic as well as the group’s website, which includes the 44,361 number. 

The wrinkle: Grothman’s claim spoke of jobs in general that depend on trade with Canada and Mexico, not just manufacturing jobs which -- obviously -- is a smaller segment.

As such, he vastly undershoots his target. Grothman’s omission of the word "manufacturing" is an example of how a word omission can significantly change the veracity of a statement. 

In a phone call with PolitiFact Wisconsin, Grothman acknowledged the mixup.

In a Jan. 29, 2020 news release after Trump signed the trade deal, he offered a more accurate total, saying under the deal "the 231,000 Wisconsin jobs and nearly $11 billion worth of Wisconsin exports supported by trade with Canada and Mexico will be provided a better playing field."

Our ruling

In a tweet, Grothman said that in Wisconsin "over 44,000 jobs depend on trade with Mexico and Canada." 

He actually undershoots the mark, since the 44,000 applies only to manufacturing jobs. The real total of jobs tied to Canada and Mexico trade is 231,000.

To be sure, 231,000 jobs is more than the 44,000 jobs claimed in the tweet. But it could also give the impression that only 44,000 jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico -- a figure that is off the mark by an estimated 187,000 jobs, or 80.9%

PolitiFact’s definition of Half True is a statement that is partially accurate or leaves out important details or takes things out of context. That fits here. 

Our Sources

Twitter, Congressman Glenn Grothman, Jan. 16, 2020

Phone call, Congressman Glenn Grothman, Jan. 24, 2020

Email, Timothy Svoboda, Grothman staff member Jan. 24, 2020

Phone call Anthony Birch, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, February 7, 2020. 

National Association of Manufacturers Fact Sheet  "USMCA passage is critical for Wisconsin manufacturers and workers." 

Office of the United States Trade Representative "Wisconsin Trade Facts,"

Legislative Reference Bureau, "Wisconsin and U.S. Trade Policy," January 2019.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics "State (Wisconsin) and Area Employment, Hours, and Earnings"

U.S. Census Bureau "State Exports From Wisconsin."

Office of the United States Trade Representative "USMCA Wisconsin

U.S Department of Commerce Bureau of Economics 

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce "USMCA will grow Wisconsin’s economy," Jan. 29, 2020

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. "Wisconsin Export Data"

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by D.L. Davis

Wisconsin lawmaker's jobs claim falls short by one word

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