The impact of the offshoring debate

Lost in all this back-and-forth was perspective on how much offshoring reduced U.S. job growth. The answer: probably not much.

Consider. The Labor Department conducts two major job surveys: one of households, the other of businesses (the “payroll survey”). From 1999 to 2007 — when there was much concern over offshoring — both surveys indicated strong employment growth: 12.6 million more jobs by the household survey and 8.6 million more by the payroll one. (The two surveys often produce slightly differing results.) For the same years, the unemployment rate averaged 4.9 percent. …

Although that’s a lot, the loss in any single year would have been modest, and even the total is only about 2 percent of all U.S. payroll jobs (129.8 million in 2010). Also, offshoring is not all negative for U.S. employment. Cheap imports may have boosted U.S. economic growth — and job creation — by holding down inflation and increasing both consumer purchasing power and business profits.

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