As President Donald Trump stood on a platform in Youngstown’s Covelli Center in 2017 to make his now infamous proclamation that manufacturing jobs would return to the Mahoning Valley, a woman held a sign over her head as cheering erupted.
The sign read “Promises Made. Promises Kept,” one of the hallmark slogans of Trump’s re-election campaign.
Trump, then less than a year into his presidency, urged those in attendance to stay in the Valley because the jobs that made northeast Ohio into a production powerhouse would be coming back.
What did Trump say?
“I’ll tell you what, I rode through your beautiful roads coming up from the airport, and I was looking at some of those big, once-incredible job producing factories. My wife, Melania, said ‘What happened?’ I said ‘Those jobs have left Ohio,’” Trump told the crowd of about 8,000 on July 25, 2017. “They're all coming back. They're all coming back. Coming back. Don't move. Don't sell your house. Don't sell your house.”
"Let me tell you folks in Ohio and in this area, don’t sell your house. Don’t sell your house. Do not sell it. We’re going to get those values up. We’re going to get those jobs coming back, and we’re going to fill up those factories or rip them down and build brand new ones. It’s going to happen,” he said.
What has happened since he said that?
More than three years later, those jobs have not returned, and perhaps the Valley’s most important employer closed its doors in 2019, when General Motors shuttered its Lordstown assembly plant.
In fact, the Mahoning Valley has fewer manufacturing jobs today than when Trump made his comments, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Manufacturing in the Youngstown/Warren/Boardman area is at its worst level since the Great Recession.
When Trump spoke in Youngstown in July 2017, the region had about 25,700 manufacturing jobs, according to the bureau’s data. In August, the most recent data available, it had about 22,500 jobs in the sector.
At its peak in the 1970s, the Youngstown-Warren area had nearly 100,000 manufacturing jobs, federal data show.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has hammered the economy in 2020, sending millions to the unemployment line. But manufacturing was still hovering around Great Recession levels in the Valley even before the pandemic.
During Trump’s first three years in office, the region averaged about 27,000 manufacturing jobs as the national economy boomed and the stock market soared. That stands in stark contrast to the last time so few people were employed in the region’s manufacturing facilities: 2009, when the national economy was in shambles.
Manufacturing throughout Ohio has fared better than the Mahoning Valley during Trump’s presidency. Average monthly manufacturing employment increased each year in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but it dipped again in 2020.
Some of the Mahoning Valley’s manufacturing woes can be attributed to General Motors’ decision to close its Lordstown assembly plant. In November 2018, GM announced that Lordstown would be among three American factories that had been “unallocated.”
The following year, it shut the doors in Lordstown, where about 1,600 workers remained after the company had cut down from multiple shifts.
Trump admonished GM on Twitter over the closure, but the company still shut down the plant.
Just spoke to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors about the Lordstown Ohio plant. I am not happy that it is closed when everything else in our Country is BOOMING. I asked her to sell it or do something quickly. She blamed the UAW Union — I don’t care, I just want it open!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2019
GM announced in May 2019 that it was selling the facility to Lordstown Motors, which will employ about 600 people to build an all-electric pickup truck. The automaker also is building a facility to manufacture batteries in Lordstown as well, with plans to hire 1,100 workers.
Trump welcomed Lordstown Motors’ leadership – and one of its Endurance model electric pickups – to the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 28.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump promised to bring jobs back to Northeast Ohio. Did he succeed?