It happened again last week. President Donald Trump turned his attention to the auto industry, and, sure enough, an automaker coughed up plans to add jobs in the U.S.
Sort of. In one of those "new or retained jobs" announcements, General Motors said it will:
- Eventually bring back 500 of 1,100 workers it plans to lay off at its Delta Township, Mich., plant this spring.
- Reassign another 180 of the laid-off Delta Township workers to a Flint, Mich., assembly plant.
- Add 220 jobs at its Romulus, Mich., transmission plant.
This is great news for the workers involved. But it sounds a lot like the normal shuffling of production that a huge corporation does regularly. Ten-speed transmissions are in demand, so you add folks at Romulus. The GMC Acadia moves to Spring Hill, Tenn., so you cut jobs at Delta Township -- but fill some back in, in case demand spikes.
These announcements serve a political purpose, however. Automakers are paying tribute to the new emperor in the coin of the realm -- a quick rush of headlines on websites and cable news channels.
To its credit, GM did not say it was making the moves because of pressure from Trump. A GM spokesman said that "we haven't fundamentally changed any of our plans."
Both Ford and Fiat Chrysler have also announced cheery job numbers as Trump settles into the White House. Under examination, most represent ordinary production moves like GM's.
Nevertheless, Trump has not been shy about proclaiming victory, earlier this year saying that auto jobs are "pouring back into the country already."
In his Detroit visit last week, Trump urged automakers to build new plants in the U.S., which is, as they say, a bigger ask.
Building a new factory would represent a heavy bet of capital on a market that appears to be cresting. That entails considerably more risk than making a one-day splash with routine staffing changes.