Employment growth at the largest U.S. companies has lagged far behind increases in revenue and operating profit since the start of the century, as firms reaped the benefits of globalization, technology, and other ways to operate more productively, according to a Reuters analysis of corporate data.
From 2001 to 2013, inflation-adjusted revenue at 100 of the largest publicly traded companies grew 71 percent and inflation-adjusted operating profit rose 150 percent. Global headcount reported in company financial filings rose 31 percent.
Their headcount grew faster globally than overall employment in the United States, but it is unclear from corporate disclosures how much of the hiring took place outside the United States.
Information from individual companies suggests a lot of the new jobs were created overseas, especially given that in this period there was offshoring and outsourcing of work that was done previously in-house and in the U.S. There was also substantial growth in sales in foreign markets and a resulting expansion of operations overseas.
The data highlight a central question that officials in the Obama administration and at the U.S. Federal Reserve confront: has the nation’s ability to generate well-paying jobs in manufacturing and other sectors been fundamentally scarred by changes in the global economy that may predate the 2008-2009 economic crisis but were more starkly revealed in its aftermath. The answer could have major implications for economic policy decisions, such as how long the Fed keeps interest rates at very low levels to stimulate jobs growth.
At the Fed, Chair Janet Yellen has spoken of the steady drift in national income “away from labor and towards capital,” while some policymakers worry the full depth of the changes are not yet clear.