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Economists Weigh in on Apple’s U.S. Job Creation Claims

Economists Weigh in on Apple’s U.S. Job Creation Claims

On Friday, Apple published the results of a study they had commissioned saying that it had “created or supported” 514,000 American jobs. The accuracy of the Apple jobs claim may be debated by economists for years.

Nick Wingfield reporting for the New York Times:

“Apple has a big effect, and big is about as precise as I can make it,” said Gary P. Pisano, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “It’s hard to say the exact size.”

David Autor, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said via e-mail that the “entire business of claiming ‘direct and indirect’ job creation is disreputable” because most of the workers Apple is taking credit for would have been employed elsewhere in the company’s absence.

“But of course, they might not have been as well paid or gratified with their work,” Mr. Autor said. “We’ll never know.”

A number of companies have commissioned similar research that attempts to show the effect of such indirect employment by suppliers and other employers. “Job multipliers” has become a commonly used theme, usually by businesses lobbying for tax breaks from local and state governments.

Such calculations are fiercely debated both in economic and political terms. For instance, the estimates of the impact of the 2009 federal stimulus on jobs varies from as few as 1.6 million jobs, up to 8.4 million jobs.

Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says companies often have a stronger case when quantifying their effects on a regional economy, rather than on the entire national economy. It matters to a state, for example, if a big business is there, but nationally it probably wouldn’t matter if the business moves to a different state.

Several economists and employment experts agree that Apple does have a far-reaching impact that goes beyond its direct employment numbers, but, they say, it’s difficult to conclude what the company’s overall impact is on the jobs market. “They certainly have a big economic impact, as does every other firm,” Mr. Cappelli said. “If you say, ‘If there had been no Apple, those people would not have jobs,’ that’s not true.”