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Proposed jobs bill would target foreign outsourcing by U.S. companies

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Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will introduce a bill Wednesday requiring large U.S. companies to disclose how many of their jobs are based on U.S. soil and how many are based abroad, an attempt to shed light on the number of American jobs being outsourced.

Such data is closely guarded by some of the country’s biggest multinationals, including Pfizer, Apple and IBM. Public filings by these firms disclose their total number of employees, but don’t specify where those jobs are located. Meanwhile, other data shows that multinationals overall cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009.

The Outsourcing Accountability Act would require firms with revenues over $1 billion to report how many employees they have in the United States and break them down by state; jobs abroad would have to be broken down by country. Firms would also have to track the percentage increase or decrease of these figures from the previous year.

“This is fairly easy for a company to do,” said Peters. “They certainly have that information readily available, and I think it’d be surprising for a company to say it doesn’t know where it sends its paychecks.”

Some of the companies that keep these numbers secret have lobbied for tax breaks in the name of job creation, as reported by The Washington Post last August. But without firm-specific data on where jobs are located, it can be tough for lawmakers to track which companies are adding jobs in this country.

The bill, which is being co-sponsored by Reps. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Jerry McNerney (D-Ca.), would exempt companies that have been public for fewer than five years. Peters said he is targeting companies that are “larger, more established.”

Some big firms, including General Electric and Wal-Mart, already reveal how many employees work in this country versus abroad. In the case of General Electric, the percentage of domestic employees has dropped in the last decade, from 54 percent in 2000 to 46 percent in 2010.

Persistently high unemployment in this country has prompted President Obama to consult prominent corporate executives, including GE’s chief executive Jeff Immelt, for ideas on how to create jobs.

Peters said the purpose of the bill is to incentivize companies to keep more jobs in this country.

“There are consumers who want to support companies that support American workers. This [data] would give them the opportunity to do that,” said Peters, adding that investors likely want the information, too.

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