In a report today, Ben Duroino and Eric Platt at Business Insider make a strong claim: “Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has destroyed nearly as many jobs as it helped create.” Their report focuses on the fact that, while Apple itself has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, it has forced several competitors into dramatic layoffs, which overall, has hurt employment in the United States.
To begin, Apple recently announced that it has created over half a million American jobs, including 50,000 retail employment positions in Apple stores, corporate headquarter positions and related business, such as delivery employees hired to ship iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. Their figures also included individuals that were employed by firms that produce inputs into Apple products, such as Corning glass, as well as individuals in construction jobs that built and renovated Apple retail locations.
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While it may seem that Apple was reaching somewhat in their analysis, it certainly is not unreasonable to include most of these third-party hires as American jobs that Apple has created. On the other side however, and this where Duroino and Platt’s report steps in, Apple’s growth has come at the expense of several competitors in the United States. Perhaps these are not new jobs, but simple jobs moved from other firms?
Business Insider found that Apple’s success had negatively impacted about 50 major companies, including firms such as IBM, HP and Adobe. Their analysis found that these negatively impacted companies announced a combined 306,606 layoffs over the past several years. They then continue to consider that the ripple effects in local economies due to these layoffs resulted in another 180,000 jobs being destroyed, bringing the total negative impact of Apple’s success to 490,570 American jobs.
While there is no doubt that the success of one company often comes that the demise of others, this is not a zero sum game as the Business Insider article attempts to portray it as. Apple claims that their employees are well compensated compared to their peers and offer even part-time retail workers health benefits and stock based compensation. While it is unclear what the benefits and compensation were at the eliminated jobs, the Duroino and Platt should consider that perhaps these jobs were upgraded when they transitioned to Apple from other firms, and workers are more economically prosperous now than they were when working for other competitors. This could have that same ripple effect in local economies that they suggested themselves, except that the ripple effect could be positive.
When viewing job creation numbers, it’s important to understand that both companies and analysts tend to spin numbers to speak best to what they want to portray publically. Rarely does any piece fully analyze the complex economics of job creation or destruction, as the issues are far more complex than simply adding up layoff notices. It is probably largely unknown what impact Apple has on American jobs overall, however, the export of American innovation around the world has certainly been a net positive for the U.S. economy as a whole.