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Trump's tweets aside, automakers are fastest US job creators under Obama

If you've been following President-elect Donald Trump's Twitter feed, you might think the U.S. auto industry is rapidly shedding jobs by sending them to Mexico.

In fact, the American auto industry has been adding U.S. jobs faster than any major sector tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Since the Obama administration took office in January 2009, the U.S. payrolls of car, truck and vehicle parts makers have expanded by nearly 35 percent — triple the pace of gains for the all private industry, according the latest BLS data reported on Friday.

That performance is better than all of the major industry categories tracked by the BLS.

The latest data are the last available before President Barack Obama leaves office after eight years presiding over the economic recovery from the biggest wave of jobs losses since the Great Depression. In the 12 months before he took office, U.S. automakers and parts suppliers shed more than 250,0000 jobs — more than a quarter of the entire industry workforce.

Since then, though auto-industry employment is still well below the peak of 1.3 million in June 2000, the sector has recovered nearly all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, in part, because of the Obama administration's financial bailout of U.S. automakers.

Today, as U.S. carmakers expand sales overseas, they've begun moving some of those new jobs outside the U.S.

Throughout his campaign, Trump threatened to slap big tariffs on carmakers that export new jobs along with new vehicles. Earlier this week, he took aim at General Motors, claiming the auto giant is making a Chevy Cruze model in Mexico and then sending them to U.S. dealers tax free.

"Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax," the next president declared in an overnight tweet, slamming General Motors for "sending Mexican-made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border."

GM fired back later that day, saying that "all Chevrolet Cruze sedans sold in the U.S. are built in GM's assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. GM builds the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback for global markets in Mexico, with a small number sold in the U.S."

After Trump leveled a similar tariff threat at GM rival Ford Motor last week, the latter company announced Tuesday that it has scrapped plans to build a new $1.6 billion assembly plant in Mexico, investing instead in a new Michigan plant that would create 700 jobs.

But Ford will continue to expand production in an existing plant in Mexico. And some observers believe the company's investment in expanded Michigan production was likely to have happened without Trump's public pressure.

The growth of auto production outside the U.S. is being driven by strong demand for cars and trucks around the world, especially in developing countries. China produces more than twice as many cars and commercial vehicles as U.S. makers, according to the latest data from the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers.

It's not clear how far the Trump administration will go to follow through on its threats to impose punitive tariffs on cars and trucks.

It also remains to be seen whether such tariffs on individual U.S. companies are enforceable. But his Twitter campaign follows through on a popular pledge to boost manufacturing employment.

Overall U.S. factory employment has fallen sharply since peaking at 19.5 million in 1979, to 12.3 million last month.

But wages for those jobs have risen steadily, in part because of increased use of automation that allowed manufacturers to increase output with fewer workers.

Those factory job losses to automation will almost certainly continue, no matter how many more companies find themselves in the crosshairs of Trump's threatening tweets.