Business, Economics and Jobs

Big US companies hiring overseas, cutting back at home: report


People looking for jobs wait in line to speak with potential employers at the Brooklyn Job Fair on April 13, 2011 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Thousands attended the event which featured nearly 80 employers in a variety of professions.


Spencer Platt

Big American companies that employ a fifth of all U.S. workers are hiring overseas while cutting back at home, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department.

U.S. multinational corporations have been hiring abroad while cutting back at home, cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million, the the Wall Street Journal reports, adding that this report would sharpen the debate over globalization's effects on the country's economy.

"That's a big switch from the 1990s, when they added jobs everywhere: 4.4 million in the U.S. and 2.7 million abroad," the Journal reported, adding that in all, U.S. multinationals employed 21.1 million people at home in 2009 and 10.3 million elsewhere, including increasing numbers of higher-skilled foreign workers.

"Jobs at multinationals tend to pay above-average wages and, for decades, sustained the American middle class," the report said.

“It’s definitely something to worry about,” said one former George W. Bush adviser quoted by the paper.

Companies generally defend the trend by saying that productivity has increased in their U.S. factories, and that they are chasing sales abroad.

“We’ve globalized around markets, not cheap labor,” GE CEO Jeff Immelt reportedly said. “Today we go to Brazil, we go to China, we go to India, because that’s where the customers are.”

According to the Commerce Department figures, the companies cut 1.2 million, or 5.3 per cent, of their workers in the U.S. and 100,000, or 1.5 per cent, of those abroad.