Data counts jobs lost to offshoring

Friday, June 11, 2004

WASHINGTON -- More than 4,600 workers in the United States saw their jobs sent overseas in the first three months of the year, the Labor Department said Thursday in a report tracking such job losses for the first time.

The 4,633 displaced workers were only a fraction -- about 2 percent -- of the 239,361 private-sector, non-farm workers who lost their jobs for at least 31 days from January through March.

But the Labor Department figures aren't comprehensive. They only include layoffs at companies employing 50 workers or more, where at least 50 people filed for unemployment benefits during a five-week period and were out of work for more than 30 days. About a third of all mass layoffs extend for more than 30 days, the report said.

Offshoring, or the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, has affected blue-collar workers in America's factories for years. But the issue has been magnified by an exodus of white-collar service jobs, particularly in call centers and technical support.

The Bush administration is sensitive to the issue -- it was criticized for an economic report in February stating that offshoring jobs "makes sense," followed by comments from President Bush's economics team supporting that view. The White House's nominee for a new position to focus on the loss of manufacturing jobs withdrew over criticisms his company cut U.S. jobs and shifted work to China.

But economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, say the United States must compete in a global economy that also will help create new jobs at home.

"The protectionist cures being advanced to address these hardships will make matters worse rather than better," Greenspan said in a February speech to the Omaha, Neb., Chamber of Commerce. "Protectionism will do little to create jobs and if foreigners retaliate, we will surely lose jobs."

The report also found that 9,985 workers were laid off because work was relocated domestically, both within a company and to other companies. There were 119 layoff events due to outsourcing domestically and internationally, with 16,021 workers losing jobs. The average lob loss was 135 workers.

Two-thirds of the work relocation cases were in manufacturing, and two-thirds of the workers who lost jobs were in that industry.

The Midwest had the largest proportion of workers laid off from work relocations, at 34 percent, followed by the South, at 31 percent, the West, at 27 percent, and the Northeast, with 8 percent.

Of all layoffs, the West was hit hardest, with 43 percent; followed by the Midwest, 29 percent; the South, 16 percent; and the Northeast, 12 percent.


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