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Where In The World Is That Job?

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Perhaps it has happened to you or someone you know: a job lost to a faceless competitor continents away, as part of the trend that has seen millions of jobs shift from the U.S. to overseas in the past few years.

But if it hasn't, activists fighting to keep jobs in the 50 states would like you to be able to feel the impact anyway - and then make up your mind about the issue and how to vote in November.

That's the political thinking behind a new database posted on the Internet which lists companies that are shipping U.S. jobs overseas - by name, industry, and zip code - allowing web site users to find out what's going on in their own companies, occupations and home towns.

The WorkingAmerica.org database website is sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the giant labor organization which has endorsed Democratic Sen. John Kerry for president.

Working America, an AFL-CIO affiliate aimed at non-union workers, compiled the information from a variety of sources, including the government's trade adjustment assistance program for workers who lose jobs because of trade, companies' annual reports and financial disclosures, research by interest groups and the media.

When the database serves up an answer about jobs shipping out at a particular company, web site users are then given the chance to click on a link delivering an instant profile revealing the name of the company's CEO and the total amount of cash and other compensation he or she received.

It also produces a list of any subsidiaries and other companies in the same industry who have also been moving jobs out of the U.S.

The database has its limits.

It does not distinguish between U.S.-based and international companies. It doesn't provide a total figure of U.S. jobs that have gone abroad. And data is available only going back to January 2001, when President Bush took office.

The shifting of U.S. jobs is a hot political topic, especially in some Midwestern states that could determine who wins the White House. Kerry, a longtime supporter of trade agreements, has promised organized labor he will review all pacts if he wins the election, and has pledged to strictly enforce labor laws as part of those agreements.

About 2.67 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost since President Bush took office. About 300,000 U.S. jobs were eliminated in the past year in favor of cheaper labor elsewhere.

That's according to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, who has also said that about 9 million Americans work for U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies.

The trend has not, however, been limited to manufacturing, with many service jobs - everything from customer complaint lines and tech support to tax form preparation and legal services - also moved to nations with cheaper labor forces, such as India and the Philippines.

Some economists have argued that the movement of jobs overseas is not harmful to the U.S. economy, because free trade leads to lower prices for U.S. consumers, in theory creating new jobs in the U.S.