Since the early 1990s, as the United States borrowed heavily from the rest of the world, employment in the U.S. goods-producing sector has fallen. We construct a dynamic general equilibrium model with several mechanisms that could generate declining goods-sector employment: foreign borrowing, nonhomothetic preferences, and differential productivity growth across sectors. We find that only 15.1 percent of the decline in goods-sector employment from 1992 to 2012 stems from U.S. trade deficits; most of the decline is due to differential productivity growth. As the United States repays its debt, its trade balance will reverse, but goods-sector employment will continue to fall.
A sudden stop of capital flows into a developing country tends to be followed by a rapid switch from trade deficits to surpluses, a depreciation of the real exchange rate, and decreases in output and total factor productivity. Substantial reallocation takes place from the nontraded sector to the traded sector. We construct a multisector growth model, calibrate it to the Mexican economy, and use it to analyze Mexico's 1994–95 crisis. When subjected to a sudden stop, the model accounts for the trade balance reversal and the real exchange rate depreciation, but it cannot account for the decreases in GDP and TFP. Extending the model to include labor frictions and variable capital utilization, we still find that it cannot quantitatively account for the dynamics of output and productivity without losing the ability to account for the movements of other variables.