U.S-based multinational corporations added almost 3 million jobs to their payrolls in foreign countries between 1999 and 2009, while slashing 864,600 jobs at home, the Department of Commerce reported.
Employment at foreign affiliates increased an average of 3.1 percent in the 2000s, registering at a total number of 10.8 million in 2009. The fastest growth was seen in Asia and Pacific areas, where economic growth has been faster than in other regions. U.S. multinational corporations created 691,100 job opportunities for the Chinese labor market and another 425,800 new jobs for India between 1999 and 2009, which is a stunning 660-percent hike.
While the U.S. economy grew at an average 1.7 percent per year in the 2000s, China and India saw their economy booming at an average growth rate of 10.3 percent per year and 7.2 percent per year, respectively.
Judging from the destination of sales by affiliates in those countries, the goal of the U.S. multinational corporations' expanded production was to primarily sell to local customers rather than to reduce their labor costs for goods and services destined for sale in the United States, said BEA economist Kevin Barefoot, who co-authored the report.
In 2009, sales by U.S. parents were $9,197 billion, 87.2 percent of which were sold to American customers. Meanwhile, sales by foreign affiliates were $4,857 billion, two-thirds of which came from host-countries.
Although these multinational corporations still spend the bulk of their R&D investments in the U.S., which accounted for nearly 85 percent in 2009, companies have been expanding their investment in research and development at a faster rate in foreign countries. Between 1999 and 2009, R&D expenditure for U.S. parents grew 4.4 percent, when foreign affiliates saw a 7.1 percent growth.
Large U.S. Companies Are More Active Overseas
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the largest software company, employs 66 percent more employees abroad than in the U.S., a difference of 36,000 workers, according information available on its website.
General Electric Co. (GE), the largest maker of power-generation equipment, has shed 34,000 jobs in the U.S. since 2011, but has added 25,000 jobs overseas, according to the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. At the end of 2009, GE employed 36,000 more people abroad than it did in the U.S. More than half of GE's $155.3 billion in revenues were generated overseas in 2009.
Apple Inc. (AAPL), another American heavyweight corporation with large international workforces, is increasingly relying on the foreign market, as net sales overseas accounted for 60 percent of Apple's total net sales in its fiscal 2011, which also increased 66 percent year over year. In fiscal 2011, Asia-Pacific net sales jumped by 174 percent to $23 billion, compared with $8 billion made in fiscal 2010, the company's filings show.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) also noted in its annual filings with the SEC that foreign countries are contributing more to sales. Over the past five years, sales at the world's second-biggest seller of health products grew at an annual rate of a mere 0.7 percent in the U.S., while international sales grew at an annual rate of 7.7 percent.
They Want a Tax Holiday
Multinational corporations are keeping more than $1.4 trillion overseas and 15 top American CEOs -- including Steve Allmer from Microsoft, Safra Catz from Oracle Corp. and Ian Read from Pfizer Inc. - are asking the government for a tax holiday.
Innovative companies like ours must continue to reinvest in our companies or acquire new technologies in order to maintain growth, and since a large amount of our cash holdings are now held overseas, our most significant opportunities for growth are outside the United States, the CEOs wrote in an open letter addressed to Congress and the White House, dated Nov. 15.
In 2011 alone, U.S. companies have spent more than $150 billion of their overseas earnings on acquisitions of foreign companies or other foreign investments - money that otherwise could have been invested here at home to create new jobs and strengthen our economy.
Their message is clear: We can spend the money here in the U.S., or we can spend it over there.