Some of the same companies that do not report their jobs breakdown, including Apple and Pfizer, are pushing lawmakers to cut their tax bills in the name of job creation in the United States.
But experts say that without details on which companies are contributing to job growth and which are not, policymakers risk flying blind as they try to jump-start the hiring of American workers.
“It’s an important piece of information that the American people should have,” said Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “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? . . . Or should we talk to people who actually do create jobs in the United States?”
As the country faces an unemployment crisis, President Obama, lawmakers and business lobbyists have all touted the country’s biggest companies as critical to creating jobs.
The head of Obama’s jobs council, General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt, said during a tour of a company plant in Greensboro, S.C., that firms should be ready to answer questions from the public.
“If you want to be an admired company, you better know, you better have accountability, and you better think through where the jobs are,” he said.
GE breaks out its employment numbers in company filings to
the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2010, about 46 percent of GE’s 287,000 employees worked in the United States, compared with 54 percent in 2000.
But many firms, including some whose executives have counseled Obama on the economy, do not put their number of U.S. workers in their annual reports.
IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano has met a number of times with the president, most recently in July at a lunch with other executives to talk about jobs and the economy. IBM stopped giving its U.S. head count in 2009.
“We just made a policy that we would only break out global head count,” said company spokesman Doug Shelton.
Data from before 2009 showed IBM rapidly shifting workers to India. Dave Finegold, dean of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, estimates that 2009, when the company stopped sharing its U.S. employment figure, also marked the first time the company had more employees in India than the United States. Finegold based his number on reports from the media, third-party groups and former employees who have tried to track the number.
“IBM can do as it wishes, and the rest of us have to guess,” said Lee Conrad, national coordinator for Alliance@IBM, a group trying to unionize IBM workers.