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Corporations keep overseas job figures a closely-guarded secret

Many of the same corporations that have been seeking tax breaks for creating jobs in the United States are jealously guarding their figures on how many of their jobs are actually created overseas.

The Washington Post reported Sunday, “So secretive are these companies that they hand the figure over to government statisticians on the condition that officials will release only an aggregate number. The latest data show that multinationals cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009.”

Experts told the Post that without the data, “policymakers risk flying blind as they try to jump-start the hiring of American workers.”

“Should you listen to the kind of advice these companies have about how to grow the economy when their record and their model indicates they’ve cut jobs?” public policy professor Ron Hira asked. “Or should we talk to people who actually do create jobs in the United States?”

What makes the situation particularly troubling is that these firms are legally required to furnish the breakdown to the Commerce Department, but do so only on the basis of an agreement that the government will not make the numbers public.

“Outsourcing has become a lightning rod, and the media coverage they’re likely to get is unfavorable,” Scott N. Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing explained to the Post.

Some firms do reveal their jobs numbers. A recent General Electric filing showed that as of 2010, 46% of its employees were within the United States, compared with 54% a decade ago.

IBM, on the other hand, stopped providing the figures in 2009, perhaps because they would have shown the firm with more employees in India than in the U.S.

A spokesperson for Procter & Gamble denied in an email to the Post that the company maintains comparative figures, but had to backtrack when it was pointed out that the firms’s CEO had cited such figures in an op-ed. He then admitted that just 28% of current employees are in the U.S.

The list of companies that do not reveal their statistics includes Apple and Pfizer, both of which are part of a coalition that has been pressing for a chance to repatriate funds earned overseas at a greatly reduced tax rate, claiming it would spur domestic hiring.

That proposal has already been widely criticized, with Business Week noting that “the coalition’s argument has some logical loopholes. A nearly identical holiday passed by Congress in 2004 and taken mostly in 2005 did little to boost jobs or investment, according to several independent economic studies. Some economists say a holiday today might be even less effective because cash isn’t a constraint in 2011—it’s bountiful, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s loose-money policy.”

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