Today brings word of more good news for the American auto industry. GM announced that it would hire 4,200 workers at seventeen of its plants around the country.
President Obama took office amidst the worst recession in a generation and nowhere was this devastion felt harder than in the American auto industry and the communities it has supported for decades. In the year before GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, the auto industry shed over 400,000 jobs.
Facing this situation head on, the President made a bold and, at the time, politically unpopular choice: Despite calls from critics to simply let these companies – and the entire American auto industry – crumble, he refused to allow these companies to fail. Had the Administration failed to intervene, conservative estimates suggest that it would have cost at least an additional one million jobs and devastated vast parts of our nation’s industrial heartland.
But at the same time, the President did not provide unconditional support. He insisted that the companies and their stakeholders make tough choices and undertake massive restructurings requiring huge sacrifices from all of their stakeholders.
Because of this “tough love,” the American auto industry is now positioned to grow and prosper as the economy recovers. Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in June 2009 the auto industry has added 115,000 jobs – the fastest pace of job growth in the auto industry since 1998. Last year, for the first time in 16 years, the Detroit Three actually gained market share compared to their foreign counterparts.
And these companies are not just making cars and trucks – they’re making the kind of fuel efficient cars and trucks that will power us to energy independence, protect consumers against rising gas prices, and ensure America wins the future.
Some of the workers GM is hiring and re-hiring in today’s announcement will be at work producing larger-than-initially-planned quantities of the widely acclaimed Chevy Volt. And just last month, Ford – which didn’t receive government assistance but which supported our aid to GM and Chrysler and has said publicly that it would not have survived if the rest of the American auto industry had been allowed to collapse – reported its best first-quarter profit in more than a decade thanks in large part to its new fuel-efficient vehicles.
In the wake of an historic recession, there is no doubt that much work remains. And we will not rest until every American who is looking for work can find a job. But today’s announcement is another positive sign – including more than 2 million private sector jobs created over the past 14 months – that we’re seeing across the country.
Ron Bloom is Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy (National Economic Council)