Monday, November 22, 2004

No Body Counts

Perhaps taking their cue from BushCo.'s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, big businesses are unable to account for the number of jobs lost to outsourcing among the number of employees laid off in any quarter. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been attempting to provide a public count of jobs lost to outsourcing, but more and more, the answer they are getting from companies is "we don't know." From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

In its latest report, published last week, the BLS could say only that 16,091 workers were laid off because of job relocations in the third quarter. It couldn't say how many jobs had shifted within the U.S. or were shipped overseas.

In 13 of the 95 cases involving job relocations during the third quarter, "the employer could not say anything beyond, 'I laid off 100 people in this layoff. I did move work, but I can't tell you how many of these 100 were due to the movement of work to X, Y and Z,' " says Lewis Siegel, who directs the BLS's mass-layoffs statistics program. The bureau concluded that that proportion was too high to provide a "meaningful" count.
There just is no doubt that these companies not only know this count, but they know - to the penny - how much they are saving by moving jobs offshore. There is nothing that businesses do - perhaps other than some mom & pop shops - that is not analyzed from every angle.

But is there really any incentive for the BLS, a part of the Bush Administration, don't forget, to get to the real numbers here? Is there any incentive for the businesses interviewed to give up the real answers? So long as more money flows to the bottom line, where it can be showered on obscenely paid executives and on pliant politicians, you can rest assured that the answers to both of those questions is "no."

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