04/20/2012 08:59 am ET

U.S. Multinationals Hiring At Much Faster Rate Overseas: Report

U.S. multinationals are hiring. They're just doing a lot of it overseas these days.

Multinational firms based in the United States expanded their workforces 15 times faster outside the U.S. than they did at home in 2010, according to Commerce Department data released Wednesday. To be specific, these firms increased their payrolls by 0.1 percent at home, and by 1.5 percent overseas.

Yet in overall numbers, rather than percentage growth, these multinationals remain heavily invested in U.S. labor. As of 2010, the companies in question employed 23 million U.S. workers, and 11 million workers abroad, according to the report.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, initial Commerce Department figures are rarely set in stone -- they tend to tick up and down as the data gets revised and refined. Still, the numbers are in line with an ongoing trend, one that U.S. workers or would-be workers may find disquieting: multinational job growth appears to be booming abroad, while still struggling at home.

Last year, the Commerce Department reported that American multinational corporations let 2.9 million workers go in the U.S. over the past decade while adding 2.4 million employees overseas. Among them were companies like General Electric, Microsoft, Caterpillar and Wal-Mart, according to The Wall Street Journal.

At the time, spokespeople for some of those companies said the overseas expansions was simply the result of more business being done elsewhere. Since the Great Recession, with its attendant job loss and wage stagnation, U.S. consumer spending has gotten notably more weak, causing some corporations, including Walmart, to look for new customers overseas.

Critics, on the other hand, contend that these companies are simply going where the cheap labor is, depriving Americans of the chance to work because citizens of another country will do the same job for a smaller paycheck.

Yet in an ironic twist, wage stagnation in the U.S. means that sometimes the work flows the other way. Some Indian companies have brought jobs to America because they can pay employees at a lower threshold here, and last year it was reported that workers at Ikea's first U.S.-based factory started at a salary that was less than half the minimum wage for workers in Sweden.