US: Risky tariffs announced, economy remains solid

5 min

President Trump announced import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum effective 23 March. Imports from Canada and Mexico will be temporarily exempted, and the administration left the door open for other countries to negotiate exemptions as well. The tariffs will help metal producers but hurt metal consumers, will likely destroy more jobs than they create, and will create the risk of a dangerous trade war as other countries have already made retaliatory threats. The domestic economy remains solid, as the February employment report was very strong, showing widespread gains of +313k jobs, with upward revisions of +54k on the prior two months. The labor force gained +806k, the most in 15 years, pushing the participation rate up from 62.7% to 63%, the biggest increase in eight years. The massive increase in the labor supply over the past two months may have helped keep wages in check, driving them down from +2.8% y/y to +2.6% in February. Inflation in consumer prices was subdued as well as the Consumer Price Index rose +0.2% m/m to +2.2% y/y from +2.1% in January. Core prices also rose +0.2% m/m to +1.8% y/y; they have ranged between +1.7% and +1.8% for 10 months.