Alec MacGillis
Washington Post
March 4, 2010

Like a scorekeeper for the world, a tiny unit within the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks globalization’s winners and losers, and the results are not always pretty for the United States. Manufacturing jobs here, for example, have fallen faster since 1979 than in Canada, Germany or Japan. Compensation for those jobs dropped here in 2008 but jumped in South Korea and Australia.

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Soon, however, Americans may be spared the demoralization in these numbers: The White House wants to shutter the unit that produces them.

President Obama’s budget would eliminate the International Labor Comparisons office and transfer its 16 economists to expand the bureau’s work tracking inflation and occupational trends. The White House says the cut, estimated to save $2 million, is one of many difficult decisions the president was forced to make to control spending.

“This budget had to make some tough choices and prioritize the nation’s most pressing needs during a challenging economic and fiscal climate,” said Office of Management and Budget spokesman Tom Gavin. But the proposed cut has triggered an outcry from an eclectic group of academics, business leaders and union officials — a reminder that, in the sprawl of the federal government, some seemingly obscure offices have built a loyal following around their discrete missions.


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