IPhone American Jobs

本文為NYTimes.com「How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work」的譯文,作者為Charles Duhigg 與 Keith Bradsher。

當Barack Obama在去年二月邀請矽谷頂級明星晚餐時,每位賓客都被告知可以詢問總統一個問題。

但是當Apple的Steve Jobs發言時,Obama總統打斷了自己的質詢,並問說:「要怎樣才能讓iPhone在美國生產呢?」

在不久之前,Apple才吹噓自己的產品是在美國生產的。不過在今天,已經非常地少有了。在7,000萬台iPhone、3,000萬台iPad以及5,900萬台其他Apple在去年售出的產品中,幾乎所有都是在海外生產的。

「為何這些工作機會不能回到國內?」Obama問著。

根據另一位晚餐的客人敘述,Steve Jobs的回答一點也不含糊:

“Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

「這些工作機會不會回到國內。」

總統的問題觸碰到了Apple的核心信念。這並不只是海外勞工比較便宜的問題。相反地,Apple高層相信海外工廠的龐大規模以及靈活性、勤奮以及海外工人的產業技術,已經遠遠地超越了他們在美國的同業,讓「美國製造」對於大多數Apple產品來說,已經不再是一個可行的選項。

由於Apple毫不鬆懈地掌控著在全球的營運,讓這間公司已經成為地球上最知名、最受推崇,並且讓其他對手爭相模仿的企業之一。在去年,Apple每名員工所賺取的平均利潤超過了US$400,000,比Goldman Sachs、Exxon Mobil 或是 Google都要來的多。

然而,讓Obama以及其他經濟學者與決策者們困擾的是,Apple以及其他同行的高科技公司們,並不像其他知名企業在鼎盛時期時一般,熱中於在美國國內創造就業機會。

Apple在美國雇用了43,000名員工,並在海外雇用了20,000人。與1950年代GM在美國雇用的數十萬名勞工相比,Apple的雇用人數可以說是非常小的數字。不過為Apple的承包商工作的人數比這要來的更多 ── 700,000名勞工參與了設計、生產與組裝iPad、iPhone以及Apple的其他產品。

但是這700,000人幾乎都不是在美國工作。相反地,他們是受僱於亞洲、歐洲以及其他地區的海外企業,而這些企業工廠的電子設計師們幾乎都依靠製造Apple的產品過活。

到去年為止擔任白宮經濟顧問的Jared Bernstein如此敘述:

“Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now, If it’s the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried.”

「Apple是在今天美國為何難以創造中產階級工作的一個例子,如果這就是資本主義的頂峰,那們我們應該要為此而憂心。」

Apple的管理階層表示,在這方面來說,走向海外是他們唯一的選擇。

一位前任的管理階層敘述Apple是如何在商品上架僅數週前,依靠一家中國工廠來修改iPhone的設計。Apple曾經在最後一分鐘修改了iPhone的螢幕,迫使整個組裝線大幅地修改。而新的螢幕組件,在接近午夜時才開始抵達工廠。

根據這位前任管理階層,一位工頭立刻叫起了在宿舍中的8,000名工人。每個工人被發給一塊小餅乾以及一杯茶後,接著被帶到工作崗位。在半小時之內,開始了每12小時輪班工作,將玻璃螢幕裝到斜面框架上。

該前任管理階層敘述:

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking, There’s no American plant that can match that.”

「這種速度以及靈活性非常地驚人,沒有任何美國工廠可以與其相比。」

不過類似的故事,已經出現在幾乎任何的電子公司,並成為各行各業的外包業務的常態,包含會計、法律服務、銀行、汽車製造以及製藥等。

雖然Apple遠遠不僅止於如此,不過也提供了一個機會,來了解為何一些成功的企業並沒有轉化成大量的國內就業機會。更重要的,公司的決定對於讓全球與國家經濟日益融合的美國企業對於國內的影響,引發了更廣泛的問題。

在去年9月為止擔任勞工部首席經濟學家的Betsey Stevenson敘述:

“Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice. That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

「企業曾經覺得自己有義務來支持美國工人,即便此行為在財政上並非最佳的選擇。而這種狀況已經消失了,利潤與效率已經取代了原本的慷慨行為。」

企業以及其他經濟學者說,這種想法是幼稚的。根據管理階層敘述,雖然美國人已經成為世界上教育程度最高的工人,但是國家本身已經停止訓練生產工廠所需,擁有中等技術水平的勞工。

為了繼續成長,企業爭辯說他們需要將工作機會移往能產生足夠利潤以支持創新所需資金的地點,否則美國將漸漸隨著時間,面臨著失去更多就業機會的風險。就如同曾經引以為傲的國內製造商,包含GM與其他企業等,他們已經隨著更加靈活的競爭者出現而漸漸地萎縮。

Apple曾經為了此篇文章提供了New York Times報導的延伸資料,不過由於公司的保密傳統,Apple拒絕對此做出評論。

本文是基於超過三十名現任於前任Apple雇員與承包商的訪談,其中許多人要求匿名以保護他們的工作,包含經濟學家、製造專家、國際貿易專家、科技分析師、學術研究員、 來自Apple供應商的雇員、競爭對手、企業合作對象以及政府官員等等。

Apple管理階層在私底下表示,目前世界已經成為簡單用員工數量來衡量企業貢獻的錯誤狀況。他們也提到,Apple目前已經在美國國內,雇用了公司史上最多的員工。總而言之,他們表示降低失業率並不是他們的工作。

一位現任的Apple管理階層敘述:

“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries. We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

「我們在超過一百個國家銷售iPhone,我們沒有義務來解決美國的問題。我們唯一的責任,是盡可能地製造出最好的產品。」

我想要一個玻璃螢幕

IPhone Glass

在2007年,當iPhone預計正式發售的一個月多前,Steve Jobs將幾位副手招到了辦公室。幾個星期以來,他一直將iPhone的原型機放在他的口袋裡。

Jobs生氣地舉起他的iPhone,讓所有人都可以看到iPhone塑膠螢幕上數十個微小的刮痕。然後,他將他的鎖匙從他的牛仔褲口袋裡拿了出來。

他說,人們會把這款手機放到他們的口袋裡,同時也會在口袋裡放著他們的鑰匙。

Steve Jobs緊張地說著:

“I won’t sell a product that gets scratched. I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

「我不會賣出上面會有刮痕的產品。我想要一個玻璃螢幕,並且要在六星期之內達到完美狀態。」

一位管理階層離開會議後,隨即預定了一張飛往中國深圳的機票。如果Jobs想要達到完美,中國深圳是唯一可以去的地方。

當時,Apple已經為了代號為「Purple 2」的專案工作超過了兩年,這也顯現出了所有人都會問到的問題──如何才能完全重組一台手機?如何採用最高品質的設計,例如防刮螢幕,同時也能確保數百萬隻手機能夠以快速、低成本的方式生產,以賺取大量的利潤?

這些問題的答案,幾乎每次都是在美國國外被發現。雖然iPhone每個版本的零件都不相同,不過在數百個零件之中,估計約有90%的零件是在國外生產的。先進的半導體零件來自德國與台灣、儲存晶片來自韓國與日本、螢幕面板與電路板組件來自韓國與台灣、晶片組來自歐洲,而其他原料來自於非洲與亞洲。而全部的組裝,則是在中國進行。

在早期,Apple通常並沒有超出自家後院的生產方案。而在Apple於1983年開始生產Macintosh之後的幾年,Steve Jobs開始宣稱這是「在美國製造的機器。」到了1990年,當Jobs正在營運著最終被Apple收購的NeXT時,NeXT的高層也如此地告訴記者:「我對工廠的驕傲,與對電腦的驕傲相同。」

到了2002年,Apple的頂層決策者還偶而會從公司總部往東北方開兩個小時的車程,來參觀公司在Calif,Elk Grove的iMac生產工廠。

不過在2004年,Apple已經很大程度地將生產轉移到了國外。指導這項決策的,是Apple的營運專家Timothy D. Cook。他在Jobs辭世前六星期接任了Apple CEO的職位。當其他大多數美國電子公司已經轉移到國外時,Apple仍然處於掙扎狀態,並認為已經把握了所有的優勢。

在此同時,亞洲雖然充斥著不熟練的工人,但是由於廉價的勞工而顯得有吸引力。不過,這並不是驅使著Apple的原因。對於科技公司來說,相比於零組件採購成本,以及由數百間公司提供零件與服務的供應鏈管理成本,勞動力成本是非常小的部分。

而對於Cook來說,亞洲被聚焦在兩個重點,一名Apple的前任高階管理人員如此表示。在亞洲的工廠,可以「更快地擴張或縮減規模」,並且「在亞洲的供應鏈已經遠遠地超越了美國」。而結果就是「在此時我們已經無法與其競爭。」

而亞洲優勢所帶來的影響,在Jobs於2007年要求玻璃螢幕時已經更加地明顯。

多年以來,手機製造商由於需要精密切割與研磨的玻璃零件非常難以量產,因此一直避免使用玻璃素材。Apple已經選定了Corning Inc.這家美國公司,來生產大尺寸的強化玻璃面板。但是要搞清楚如何才能將這些玻璃面板切割放入數百萬台iPhone的螢幕中,需要找到空閒的玻璃切割工廠、數百片用於實驗的玻璃面板,以及如軍隊般規模的中階工程師。光是做這些準備,就需要花費大量的金錢。

然而,有一間中國的工廠試著爭取這份工作。

當Apple的團隊到訪時,中國工廠的老闆已經開始擴建新廠房。根據一位Apple的前任管理階層,工廠的經理如此說著:

This is in case you give us the contract

「這是為了以防我們真的拿到合約時所做的準備。」

中國政府已經同意為許多產業補貼成本,而這些補貼也流向了玻璃切割工廠。在工廠的倉庫中,充滿著許多可以免費提供給Apple的玻璃樣品。業主可以讓工程師幾乎無償工作,他們在現場搭建宿舍,讓員工可以每天24小時待命。

中國計畫要拿到這份工作。

根據另一位Apple前任高階管理階層敘述:

“The entire supply chain is in China now. You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”

「現在整個供應鏈都在中國。想要一千個橡膠密封環?在隔壁的工廠就有。想要一百萬個螺絲?工廠也只在一個街區之外。如果想要不太一樣的螺絲?也只需要花三個小時而已。」

富士康之城

Foxconn iphone factory

距離玻璃切割工廠八小時車程遠的地方,是一個被非正式稱為富士康城的複雜工廠,iPhone的組裝就是在此進行。對於Apple的管理階層來說,富士康城是中國可以提供遠超過美國同業的盡職工人的更進一步的證據。

這是因為,像富士康城一樣的東西,在美國並不存在。

該工廠有23萬員工,許多工人一週工作六天,每天經常有12小時在工廠工作。超過1/4的富士康工人住在公司的宿舍,許多人每天以低於US$17的日薪工作。當一位Apple管理階層到達現場,準備交班的時候,他的車被卡在宛如河流一般的工人人潮中。

「這種規模是無法想像的。」他如此地敘述。

富士康的員工有將近300名警衛來引導步行交通,讓工人不在大門被卡住。工廠的中央廚房平均每天消耗掉三噸的豬肉以及十三噸米。雖然工廠內部一塵不染,不過在附近茶館的空氣瀰漫著香煙以及惡臭。

富士康在亞洲、東歐、墨西哥以及巴西有數十間工廠,並且負責為Amazon、Dell、Hewlett-Packard、Motorola、Nintendo、Nokia、Samsung 與 Sony等公司,組裝全球近40%的消費性電子產品。

到2010年為止曾經擔任Apple全球供需經理的Jennifer Rigoni如此敘述:

“They could hire 3,000 people overnight. What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?”

「他們可以在一個晚上就雇用3,000名工人。有那個美國工廠,可以在一個晚上就找到3,000個工人,還能說服他們住在宿舍?」

2007年中,在經過了一個月的實驗之後,Apple的工程師終於找出了切割強化玻璃的完美方法,讓這些玻璃可以在iPhone的螢幕上使用。

根據Apple前管理階層,第一部載著切割好的玻璃的卡車,在深夜時分抵達了富士康城。這時經理已經叫醒了上千位工人,讓他們穿上了制服──男性工人是藍白襯衫,女性工人是紅色襯衫,接著迅速地一字排開,開始手工組裝手機。

接著在三個月內,Apple賣出了一百萬台iPhone。而從當時到現在,富士康已經組裝了超過2億隻iPhone。

富士康在公開聲明中,拒絕談論特定的客戶。

“Any worker recruited by our firm is covered by a clear contract outlining terms and conditions and by Chinese government law that protects their rights,”

「由我們公司所招聘的任何員工,都會由明確的合約條款以及中國政府法律來保護他們的權利。」

根據Foxconn的敘述……

“(Foxconn)takes our responsibility to our employees very seriously and we work hard to give our more than one million employees a safe and positive environment.”

富士康非常重視我們對於員工的責任,並努力地讓超過百萬的員工獲得安全與正面積極的工作環境。

富士康反駁了部分由前Apple管理階層敘述的細節,並且表示如敘述中在午夜值班的情形是不可能的。

Because we have strict regulations regarding the working hours of our employees based on their designated shifts, and every employee has computerized timecards that would bar them from working at any facility at a time outside of their approved shift.

「由於我們對於員工工作時數有著嚴格的規定,每位員工都是以指定的排班工作,並使用電腦化的排班表,以禁止他們在規定時間外於任何工廠內工作。」

富士康也表示,所有的排班都是從上午7時或是下午7時開始。排班的任何變動,最少也會在12個小時之前通知。

不過富士康的員工在接受媒體採訪時,對這些主張提出了質疑。

對於Apple來說,另一個重要的優勢是中國提供了美國無法比擬的工程師人數。Apple的管理階層估計,大約需要8,700名產業工程師來監督、指導在iPhone生產線上的200,000名裝配工人。Apple的分析師也預估,需要花費長達九個月的時間,才能在美國找到足夠人數的合格工程師。

而在中國,這只要花費15天。

MIT的副教務長Martin Schmidt如此敘述,像Apple這類的公司表示,在美國設立工廠的困難點,是找到具有技術的生產勞力,特別是在工程方面超過高中水平,但是並不一定需要到達學士學位。此種技術水平的勞工,在美國非常難找到,企業的管理階層們如此爭辯著。

Martin Schmidt如此敘述:

“They’re good jobs, but the country doesn’t have enough to feed the demand,”

「這些都是不錯的工作,但是國內並沒有足夠的勞工來滿足需求。」

iPhone某些部分在美國非常的獨特,例如裝置內的軟體,以及創新的行銷活動等,大部分都是在美國創造出來的。Apple最近也在North Carolina打造了價值5億美金的資料中心。而在iPhone 4與iPhone 4S內關鍵的半導體零件,也開始在德州Austin的韓國Samsung工廠進行生產。

但是即使有這些工廠,也不足以帶來足夠的就業機會。例如Apple在North Carolina的資料中心,也只有100名全職員工。三星的工廠預估也只有2,400名工作人員。

根據到1990年為止,曾經在Apple負責產品研發與行銷的Jean-Louis Gassée如此敘述:

“If you scale up from selling one million phones to 30 million phones, you don’t really need more programmers. All these new companies — Facebook, Google, Twitter — benefit from this. They grow, but they don’t really need to hire much.”

「即使將一支手機的銷售規模由100萬擴大到3,000萬台,也不會真的需要更多的程式設計師。這些所有的新公司,例如Facebook、Google、Twitter等也因此而獲益。公司持續地成長,但是他們並不會真正需要雇用更多的人。」

如果讓iPhone在美國生產,將會非常難以估計究竟要花費多少的成本。不過,許多學者以及製造業分析師估計,由於勞動力僅僅是這類科技製造業中的一小部分,支付美國工資將會讓每部iPhone提高US$65的成本。由於Apple的利潤經常是一支手機數百美元,理論上來說,在國內生產仍然能夠讓公司擁有健康的獲利。

不過如此的計算法,在許多方面並沒有任何意義。因為在美國生產iPhone所需的不僅僅是雇用美國人,還必須改變全國以及全球的經濟體系。Apple的管理階層相信,美國國內根本沒有擁有符合公司需求的技術,並且足夠數量的勞工,或是具有足夠速度與靈活性的工廠。其他與Apple合作的企業,例如Corning同樣也說他們必須移往海外。

最初生產iPhone所需玻璃的Corning工廠位於美國的Kentucky州,直到今天,許多的iPhone用玻璃生產仍然在一樣的地方。在iPhone成功之後,Corning從其他公司接到了滿山滿海的訂單,這些公司都希望能模仿Apple的設計。Corning強化玻璃的銷售量也已經提昇到每年7億美金以上,同時也聘用了約1,000名美國勞工來支援持續成長的市場。

但是隨著市場的擴張,大多數Corning的強化玻璃製造還是在日本與台灣的工廠中進行。

根據Corning的董事會副主席兼CFO的James B.Flaws敘述:

“Our customers are in Taiwan, Korea, Japan and China. We could make the glass here, and then ship it by boat, but that takes 35 days. Or, we could ship it by air, but that’s 10 times as expensive. So we build our glass factories next door to assembly factories, and those are overseas.”

我們的客戶在台灣、韓國、日本與中國。我們可以在此地生產玻璃,並將玻璃用海運運送,不過這要花費35天。或者,我們可以用空運,但是費用會是海運的十倍。因此我們將玻璃生產工廠建在組裝工廠的隔壁,而這些都位於海外。

Corning是在161年前於美國成立,總部仍然位於紐約州北部。理論上來說,公司可以在國內生產所有的玻璃。但是,Flaws表示,這將會需要「徹底地改變整個產業結構」。

“The consumer electronics business has become an Asian business. As an American, I worry about that, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Asia has become what the U.S. was for the last 40 years.”

「消費性電子產業已成為一門亞洲主的生意。作為一個美國人,我為此感到擔憂,但是我也無法阻止。亞洲已經成為了40年前的美國。」

中產階級工作的消逝

Apple iMac factory Laguna Boulevard

當Eric Saragoza第一次踏進Apple在Calif的Elk Grove生產工廠時,他覺得就像是到了工程界中的夢幻樂園一樣。

當時是1995年,這間靠近Sacramento的生產工廠,雇用了超過1,500名員工。工廠內部有不斷移動的機器手臂、運送著電路板的輸送帶,以及處於各個組裝階段的糖果色iMac。

身為工程師的Saragoza迅速成為了工廠中的一員,並加入了一個菁英診察團隊中。他的薪水上漲到$50,000。他與妻子有三個孩子,他們還買了一棟附有游泳池的房子。

“It felt like, finally, school was paying off, I knew the world needed people who can build things.”

這就像是學校學的東西終於有了用處。我了解到這世界需要可以打造東西的人。

然而在此同時,電子產業已經有了改變,而由於產品普及率降低的Apple,本身也正為了重生而掙扎著。其中一個焦點在於提高產能。在幾年之後,Saragoza開始了他的工作,他的上司解釋著加州的工廠在累積成本方面是如何地與海外工廠競爭──在去除原物料的成本後,在Elk Grove工廠生產一台US$1,500的電腦要花費US$22的成本。在新加坡,這個數字是US$6、在台灣為US$4.85。工資並不是這項差距的主要原因。相反地,這是關於庫存以及工人完成工作的時間長短等等因素。

根據Eric Saragoza的敘述:

“We were told we would have to do 12-hour days, and come in on Saturdays, I had a family. I wanted to see my kids play soccer.”

我們被告知我們將一天工作12個小時,並且在星期六也要上班。我有家庭,我想要看著我的孩子們踢足球。

一直以來,現代化總是會讓某些工作改變或是消失。當美國經濟由農業過渡到製造業、接著轉型成其他產業後,農民也跟著轉變成鋼鐵工人、然後成為銷售人員以及中階管理階層,這些變化都是跟隨著許多經濟利益。一般來說,在每個過程之中,甚至是技術尚未熟練的工人們也能得到更好的工資,並且也提高了向上層社會移動的可能性。

但是根據經濟學家表示,過去二十年來,更加根本性的東西已經改變了。中產階級的工作開始消失,特別是對於大量沒有大學文憑的美國人來說,今日在各種服務業的工作──例如餐廳、電話服務中心、醫院接待員或是臨時工等等──是不均等的,這些工作讓人們更難以接近中產階級的水平。

即使是有著大學文憑的Eric Saragoza,也受到了趨勢的影響。一開始,部分Elk Grove的日常工作被發送到了海外。不過Saragoza起初並不在意。接著,機器人讓Apple管理階層可以用機械取代勞工。部分診斷工程師去了新加坡,而負責監督工廠庫存的中階管理人員,由於突然之間工廠變成只需要少數幾個人加上網路連線即可管理庫存,而失去了工作。

對於一個不需要熟練技術的職位來說,Eric Saragoza太過於昂貴,對於高階管理人員來說,他也還不具備足夠的資格。他在2002年的一個晚班後被叫進了一間小辦公室,在被通知裁員後,由警衛護送下走出了工廠。接著他教了高中一陣子,接著開始試著回到科技界。但是Apple已經將該地區變成了「Silicon Valley North(北矽谷)」,並將大部分的Elk Grove廠區改成AppleCare電話服務中心。在電話服務中心裡,通常一名新員工的時薪是US$12。

在矽谷的確有潛在的就業機會,但是沒有一個能成功。

“What they really want are 30-year-olds without children.”

「他們真正想要的是30歲,沒有孩子的人。」

Eric Saragoza敘述,他今年48歲,包含他自己共有五個家人。

在尋找工作幾個月後,他開始感到絕望。即使是教學的工作也正在減少。於是,他在一個電子相關的中介公司找到了一份工作,這個中介公司由Apple雇用,檢查修復完成,準備送回客戶手上的iPhone與iPad。每天,Saragoza會開車到他曾經以工程師身分工作的大樓,作著時薪US$10、沒有福利、只是擦試著數以千計的玻璃螢幕以及接上耳機測試聲音輸出的工作。

Apple的發薪日

apple_stock.jpg

由於Apple在海外的營運與銷售不斷地擴大,公司的頂層員工也跟著成長。在上一個財政年度,Apple的營收高達1,080億美金,比Michigan、New Jersey 與 Massachusetts 三州的總和預算還要多。自從2005年,公司的股票分割以來,股價已經從US$45升高到超過了US$427。

部分的財富已經流向了股東。Apple是持有者最廣泛的股票,股價上升也讓數以百萬的個人投資者、個人退休帳戶以及個人計畫受益。這份財富同時也讓Apple的員工富有。在上一個財政年度,Apple的員工以及董事們總共收到了價值超過20億美金的股票,以及價值14億美金的股票選擇權。

然而,最大的回報往往是流向了Apple的頂層員工。Apple的CEO,Tim Cook在去年隨著十年的協定,獲得了以今日股價計算價值約為4.27億美金的股票。而他的年薪也提高到140萬美金。根據Apple遞交的安全申報書,在2010年,Cook的薪酬組合共值590萬美金。

根據一位與Apple關係密切的人士指出,Apple員工收到這些報酬是很公平的,部分是由於該公司已為了全國以及世界帶來如此多的價值。隨著公司不斷地成長,同時也擴大了國內的工作需求,包含製造業相關的工作機會。在去年,Apple在美國的雇用人數增加了8,000人。

雖然其他公司已經將電話服務中心移往海萬,Apple卻一直將其留在美國國內。一位消息來源估計,Apple產品的銷售,已經讓其他企業雇用了成千上萬的美國人。例如FedEx以及UPS都表示由於Apple的出貨量,讓他們創造了更多美國就業機會,雖然他們在沒有Apple的許可下,都沒有提出具體的數據證明。

一位現任的Apple管理階層敘述:

“We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. The US has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”

「我們不應該由於使用中國勞工而被批評。美國已經停止生產出擁有我們需要的技能的人才。」

而根據來自Apple的消息來源敘述,更重要的是Apple已經在零售商店,以及大量的iPhone、iPad軟體銷售公司內,創造了大量良好的美國就業機會。

在經過兩個月的iPad測試工作後,Saragoza辭掉了這份工作。由於薪水實在是太低,他算了一下,決定將這些時間花在尋找其他工作機會上。在最近十月的傍晚,當Saragoza坐在他的MacBook前並再一次地在網路上提交履歷時,遠在地球另一邊的一位夫人,到了她的辦公室。這位夫人,Lina Lin,是一間在中國深圳的公司PCH International的專案經理。這間公司與Apple以及其他公司簽訂了合約,負責協調各種配件的生產,例如保護iPad玻璃螢幕的保護殼。她並不是Apple的雇員,不過Lin夫人是Apple能向大眾提供產品不可或缺的一環。

Lin夫人的收入比當時Apple付給Saragoza的要來的少一點,她藉由電視以及中國大學的教育,能說著流利的英語。她與她的丈夫每個月將1/4的薪水存在銀行,並與丈夫、丈夫的父母以及兒子同住在一棟1,080平方英呎的公寓。

Lin夫人敘述:

“There are lots of jobs, especially in Shenzhen.”

「在那邊有著大量的就業機會,尤其是在深圳。」

創新的失敗者

Obama and steve jobs dinner with silicon valley

在去年Steve Jobs以及其他矽谷高層與Obama總統的晚餐會後,當大家站起來準備離開時,所有人與總統合照了一張相片。而在Steve Jobs身旁,也聚集了一小群的人。當時關於他病情惡化的謠言已經傳開,有些人希望與他合照,也許這也是最後一次了。

最後,Obama與Jobs又一度開始談話。根據一位旁觀人士的敘述,Jobs如此地說著:

“I’m not worried about the country’s long-term future, This country is insanely great. What I’m worried about is that we don’t talk enough about solutions.”

「我並不擔心這個國家長遠的未來,這個國家出奇地偉大。我擔心的是,我們並沒有對解決方案有著充足的討論。」

在晚餐中,矽谷的高層曾經建議政府應該改善簽證方案,來協助企業雇用更多的外國工程師。有些人勸說總統給予企業「tax holiday(稅務假期)」,讓他們可以將海外的利潤帶回國內,以創造更多的就業機會。Jobs甚至建議,如果政府能協助培養更多美國工程師的話,Apple有一天將會把部分的技術性生產轉移回國內。

經濟學家爭論著這些提案以及其他努力的有效性,並且也提醒著陷入泥沼的經濟有時也會由於意想不到的發展而產生轉變。例如在網路幾乎還不存在的1980年代,分析師們對於美國失業率就曾經預測失誤。當時也很少人能預想到,平面設計學位將成為熱門,而研究電話技術已經成了死胡同。

然而,美國是否能用明日的創新來轉化成數以百萬的就業機會,在這點上依然是處於未知的狀態。

過去十年,在太陽能、風力、半導體製造以及顯示技術等科技的突飛猛進,已經創造了成千上萬的就業機會。但是許多在美國興起的產業,大部分的雇員都到了海外。企業已經關閉了在美國的主要設施,並在中國重新開張。對於此種情形的解釋,企業的管理階層表示他們正為了股東與Apple競爭,如果他們無法達成媲美Apple的成長率以及獲利率,他們將無法繼續存活下去。

根據哈佛經濟學者Lawrence Katz的敘述:

“New middle-class jobs will eventually emerge, but will someone in his 40s have the skills for them? Or will he be bypassed for a new graduate and never find his way back into the middle class?”

「最終,新的中產階級工作將會出現。但是有哪些40歲左右的人會擁有這些新工作所需的技能?或是他將讓路給新畢業的學生,並且一輩子也找不到方法進入中產階級?」

根據各行各業管理階層的敘述,創新的步伐現在已經被像是Steve Jobs等商業人士給加快了速度。GM曾經以最長五年的週期來重新設計主要的汽車款式。相比之下,在四年內已經發佈了五款iPhone,同時加倍了速度與記憶容量,並且降低了部分消費者的購入價格。

在Obama與Jobs互相道別之前,這位Apple的高層將一台iPhone從口袋中拿了出來,展示了一個新的軟體 ── 一個有著極其細緻圖像效果的賽車遊戲。這台iPhone反射著室內的柔和燈光,其他身價總和超過690億美金的矽谷高層們則在Jobs的背後互相推擠,只為了搶個好位置來一看究竟。此外,在場的每個人都同意,這款遊戲棒極了。

而在這台iPhone的螢幕上,甚至連一絲絲的小刮痕都沒有。

via How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work – NYTimes.com

When Barack Obama joined Silicon Valley’s top luminaries for dinner in California last February, each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.

But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke,President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

Apple has become one of the best-known, most admired and most imitated companies on earth, in part through an unrelenting mastery of global operations. Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google.

However, what has vexed Mr. Obama as well as economists and policy makers is that Apple — and many of its high-technology peers — are not nearly as avid in creating American jobs as other famous companies were in their heydays.

Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Instead, they work for foreign companies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, at factories that almost all electronics designers rely upon to build their wares.

“Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now,” said Jared Bernstein, who until last year was an economic adviser to the White House.

“If it’s the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried.”

Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhonemanufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Similar stories could be told about almost any electronics company — and outsourcing has also become common in hundreds of industries, including accounting, legal services, banking, auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

But while Apple is far from alone, it offers a window into why the success of some prominent companies has not translated into large numbers of domestic jobs. What’s more, the company’s decisions pose broader questions about what corporate America owes Americans as the global and national economies are increasingly intertwined.

“Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice,” said Betsey Stevenson, the chief economist at the Labor Department until last September. “That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

Companies and other economists say that notion is naïve. Though Americans are among the most educated workers in the world, the nation has stopped training enough people in the mid-level skills that factories need, executives say.

To thrive, companies argue they need to move work where it can generate enough profits to keep paying for innovation. Doing otherwise risks losing even more American jobs over time, as evidenced by the legions of once-proud domestic manufacturers — including G.M. and others — that have shrunk as nimble competitors have emerged.

Apple was provided with extensive summaries of The New York Times’s reporting for this article, but the company, which has a reputation for secrecy, declined to comment.

This article is based on interviews with more than three dozen current and former Apple employees and contractors — many of whom requested anonymity to protect their jobs — as well as economists, manufacturing experts, international trade specialists, technology analysts, academic researchers, employees at Apple’s suppliers, competitors and corporate partners, and government officials.

Privately, Apple executives say the world is now such a changed place that it is a mistake to measure a company’s contribution simply by tallying its employees — though they note that Apple employs more workers in the United States than ever before.

They say Apple’s success has benefited the economy by empowering entrepreneurs and creating jobs at companies like cellular providers and businesses shipping Apple products. And, ultimately, they say curing unemployment is not their job.

“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

‘I Want a Glass Screen’

In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants into an office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket.

Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.

People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

For over two years, the company had been working on a project — code-named Purple 2 — that presented the same questions at every turn: how do you completely reimagine the cellphone? And how do you design it at the highest quality — with an unscratchable screen, for instance — while also ensuring that millions can be manufactured quickly and inexpensively enough to earn a significant profit?

The answers, almost every time, were found outside the United States. Though components differ between versions, all iPhones contain hundreds of parts, an estimated 90 percent of which are manufactured abroad. Advanced semiconductors have come from Germany and Taiwan, memory from Korea and Japan, display panels and circuitry from Korea and Taiwan, chipsets from Europe and rare metals from Africa and Asia. And all of it is put together in China.

In its early days, Apple usually didn’t look beyond its own backyard for manufacturing solutions. A few years after Apple began building the Macintosh in 1983, for instance, Mr. Jobs bragged that it was “a machine that is made in America.” In 1990, while Mr. Jobs was running NeXT, which was eventually bought by Apple, the executive told a reporter that“I’m as proud of the factory as I am of the computer.” As late as 2002, top Apple executives occasionally drove two hours northeast of their headquarters to visit the company’s iMac plant in Elk Grove, Calif.

But by 2004, Apple had largely turned to foreign manufacturing. Guiding that decision was Apple’s operations expert, Timothy D. Cook, who replaced Mr. Jobs as chief executive last August, six weeks before Mr. Jobs’s death. Most other American electronics companies had already gone abroad, and Apple, which at the time was struggling, felt it had to grasp every advantage.

In part, Asia was attractive because the semiskilled workers there were cheaper. But that wasn’t driving Apple. For technology companies, the cost of labor is minimal compared with the expense of buying parts and managing supply chains that bring together components and services from hundreds of companies.

For Mr. Cook, the focus on Asia “came down to two things,” said one former high-ranking Apple executive. Factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” and “Asian supply chains have surpassed what’s in the U.S.” The result is that “we can’t compete at this point,” the executive said.

The impact of such advantages became obvious as soon as Mr. Jobs demanded glass screens in 2007.

For years, cellphone makers had avoided using glass because it required precision in cutting and grinding that was extremely difficult to achieve. Apple had already selected an American company, Corning Inc., to manufacture large panes of strengthened glass. But figuring out how to cut those panes into millions of iPhone screens required finding an empty cutting plant, hundreds of pieces of glass to use in experiments and an army of midlevel engineers. It would cost a fortune simply to prepare.

Then a bid for the work arrived from a Chinese factory.

When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.

The Chinese plant got the job.

“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”

In Foxconn City

An eight-hour drive from that glass factory is a complex, known informally as Foxconn City, where the iPhone is assembled. To Apple executives, Foxconn City was further evidence that China could deliver workers — and diligence — that outpaced their American counterparts.

That’s because nothing like Foxconn City exists in the United States.

The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day. When one Apple executive arrived during a shift change, his car was stuck in a river of employees streaming past. “The scale is unimaginable,” he said.

Foxconn employs nearly 300 guards to direct foot traffic so workers are not crushed in doorway bottlenecks. The facility’s central kitchen cooks an average of three tons of pork and 13 tons of rice a day. While factories are spotless, the air inside nearby teahouses is hazy with the smoke and stench of cigarettes.

Foxconn Technology has dozens of facilities in Asia and Eastern Europe, and in Mexico and Brazil, and it assembles an estimated 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronics for customers like Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung and Sony.

“They could hire 3,000 people overnight,” said Jennifer Rigoni, who was Apple’s worldwide supply demand manager until 2010, but declined to discuss specifics of her work. “What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?”

In mid-2007, after a month of experimentation, Apple’s engineers finally perfected a method for cutting strengthened glass so it could be used in the iPhone’s screen. The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones. Within three months, Apple had sold one million iPhones. Since then, Foxconn has assembled over 200 million more.

Foxconn, in statements, declined to speak about specific clients.

“Any worker recruited by our firm is covered by a clear contract outlining terms and conditions and by Chinese government law that protects their rights,” the company wrote. Foxconn “takes our responsibility to our employees very seriously and we work hard to give our more than one million employees a safe and positive environment.”

The company disputed some details of the former Apple executive’s account, and wrote that a midnight shift, such as the one described, was impossible “because we have strict regulations regarding the working hours of our employees based on their designated shifts, and every employee has computerized timecards that would bar them from working at any facility at a time outside of their approved shift.” The company said that all shifts began at either 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., and that employees receive at least 12 hours’ notice of any schedule changes.

Foxconn employees, in interviews, have challenged those assertions.

Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.

In China, it took 15 days.

Companies like Apple “say the challenge in setting up U.S. plants is finding a technical work force,” said Martin Schmidt, associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In particular, companies say they need engineers with more than high school, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Americans at that skill level are hard to find, executives contend. “They’re good jobs, but the country doesn’t have enough to feed the demand,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Some aspects of the iPhone are uniquely American. The device’s software, for instance, and its innovative marketing campaigns were largely created in the United States. Apple recently built a $500 million data center in North Carolina. Crucial semiconductors inside the iPhone 4 and 4S are manufactured in an Austin, Tex., factory by Samsung, of South Korea.

But even those facilities are not enormous sources of jobs. Apple’s North Carolina center, for instance, has only 100 full-time employees. The Samsung plant has an estimated 2,400 workers.

“If you scale up from selling one million phones to 30 million phones, you don’t really need more programmers,” said Jean-Louis Gassée, who oversaw product development and marketing for Apple until he left in 1990. “All these new companies — Facebook, Google, Twitter — benefit from this. They grow, but they don’t really need to hire much.”

It is hard to estimate how much more it would cost to build iPhones in the United States. However, various academics and manufacturing analysts estimate that because labor is such a small part of technology manufacturing, paying American wages would add up to $65 to each iPhone’s expense. Since Apple’s profits are often hundreds of dollars per phone, building domestically, in theory, would still give the company a healthy reward.

But such calculations are, in many respects, meaningless because building the iPhone in the United States would demand much more than hiring Americans — it would require transforming the national and global economies. Apple executives believe there simply aren’t enough American workers with the skills the company needs or factories with sufficient speed and flexibility. Other companies that work with Apple, like Corning, also say they must go abroad.

Manufacturing glass for the iPhone revived a Corning factory in Kentucky, and today, much of the glass in iPhones is still made there. After the iPhone became a success, Corning received a flood of orders from other companies hoping to imitate Apple’s designs. Its strengthened glass sales have grown to more than $700 million a year, and it has hired or continued employing about 1,000 Americans to support the emerging market.

But as that market has expanded, the bulk of Corning’s strengthened glass manufacturing has occurred at plants in Japan and Taiwan.

“Our customers are in Taiwan, Korea, Japan and China,” said James B. Flaws, Corning’s vice chairman and chief financial officer. “We could make the glass here, and then ship it by boat, but that takes 35 days. Or, we could ship it by air, but that’s 10 times as expensive. So we build our glass factories next door to assembly factories, and those are overseas.”

Corning was founded in America 161 years ago and its headquarters are still in upstate New York. Theoretically, the company could manufacture all its glass domestically. But it would “require a total overhaul in how the industry is structured,” Mr. Flaws said. “The consumer electronics business has become an Asian business. As an American, I worry about that, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Asia has become what the U.S. was for the last 40 years.”

Middle-Class Jobs Fade

The first time Eric Saragoza stepped into Apple’s manufacturing plant in Elk Grove, Calif., he felt as if he were entering an engineering wonderland.

It was 1995, and the facility near Sacramento employed more than 1,500 workers. It was a kaleidoscope of robotic arms, conveyor belts ferrying circuit boards and, eventually, candy-colored iMacs in various stages of assembly. Mr. Saragoza, an engineer, quickly moved up the plant’s ranks and joined an elite diagnostic team. His salary climbed to $50,000. He and his wife had three children. They bought a home with a pool.

“It felt like, finally, school was paying off,” he said. “I knew the world needed people who can build things.”

At the same time, however, the electronics industry was changing, and Apple — with products that were declining in popularity — was struggling to remake itself. One focus was improving manufacturing. A few years after Mr. Saragoza started his job, his bosses explained how the California plant stacked up against overseas factories: the cost, excluding the materials, of building a $1,500 computer in Elk Grove was $22 a machine. In Singapore, it was $6. In Taiwan, $4.85. Wages weren’t the major reason for the disparities. Rather it was costs like inventory and how long it took workers to finish a task.

“We were told we would have to do 12-hour days, and come in on Saturdays,” Mr. Saragoza said. “I had a family. I wanted to see my kids play soccer.”

Modernization has always caused some kinds of jobs to change or disappear. As the American economy transitioned from agriculture to manufacturing and then to other industries, farmers became steelworkers, and then salesmen and middle managers. These shifts have carried many economic benefits, and in general, with each progression, even unskilled workers received better wages and greater chances at upward mobility.

But in the last two decades, something more fundamental has changed, economists say. Midwage jobs started disappearing. Particularly among Americans without college degrees, today’s new jobs are disproportionately in service occupations — at restaurants or call centers, or as hospital attendants or temporary workers — that offer fewer opportunities for reaching the middle class.

Even Mr. Saragoza, with his college degree, was vulnerable to these trends. First, some of Elk Grove’s routine tasks were sent overseas. Mr. Saragoza didn’t mind. Then the robotics that made Apple a futuristic playground allowed executives to replace workers with machines. Some diagnostic engineering went to Singapore. Middle managers who oversaw the plant’s inventory were laid off because, suddenly, a few people with Internet connections were all that were needed.

Mr. Saragoza was too expensive for an unskilled position. He was also insufficiently credentialed for upper management. He was called into a small office in 2002 after a night shift, laid off and then escorted from the plant. He taught high school for a while, and then tried a return to technology. But Apple, which had helped anoint the region as “Silicon Valley North,” had by then converted much of the Elk Grove plant into an AppleCare call center, where new employees often earn $12 an hour.

There were employment prospects in Silicon Valley, but none of them panned out. “What they really want are 30-year-olds without children,” said Mr. Saragoza, who today is 48, and whose family now includes five of his own.

After a few months of looking for work, he started feeling desperate. Even teaching jobs had dried up. So he took a position with an electronics temp agency that had been hired by Apple to check returned iPhones and iPads before they were sent back to customers. Every day, Mr. Saragoza would drive to the building where he had once worked as an engineer, and for $10 an hour with no benefits, wipe thousands of glass screens and test audio ports by plugging in headphones.

Paydays for Apple

As Apple’s overseas operations and sales have expanded, its top employees have thrived. Last fiscal year, Apple’s revenue topped $108 billion, a sum larger than the combined state budgets of Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Since 2005, when the company’s stock split, share prices have risen from about $45 to more than $427.

Some of that wealth has gone to shareholders. Apple is among the most widely held stocks, and the rising share price has benefited millions of individual investors, 401(k)’s and pension plans. The bounty has also enriched Apple workers. Last fiscal year, in addition to their salaries, Apple’s employees and directors received stock worth $2 billion and exercised or vested stock and options worth an added $1.4 billion.

The biggest rewards, however, have often gone to Apple’s top employees. Mr. Cook, Apple’s chief, last year received stock grants — which vest over a 10-year period — that, at today’s share price, would be worth $427 million, and his salary was raised to $1.4 million. In 2010, Mr. Cook’s compensation package was valued at $59 million, according to Apple’s security filings.

A person close to Apple argued that the compensation received by Apple’s employees was fair, in part because the company had brought so much value to the nation and world. As the company has grown, it has expanded its domestic work force, including manufacturing jobs. Last year, Apple’s American work force grew by 8,000 people.

While other companies have sent call centers abroad, Apple has kept its centers in the United States. One source estimated that sales of Apple’s products have caused other companies to hire tens of thousands of Americans. FedEx and United Parcel Service, for instance, both say they have created American jobs because of the volume of Apple’s shipments, though neither would provide specific figures without permission from Apple, which the company declined to provide.

“We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”

What’s more, Apple sources say the company has created plenty of good American jobs inside its retail stores and among entrepreneurs selling iPhone and iPad applications.

After two months of testing iPads, Mr. Saragoza quit. The pay was so low that he was better off, he figured, spending those hours applying for other jobs. On a recent October evening, while Mr. Saragoza sat at his MacBook and submitted another round of résumés online, halfway around the world a woman arrived at her office. The worker, Lina Lin, is a project manager in Shenzhen, China, at PCH International, which contracts with Apple and other electronics companies to coordinate production of accessories, like the cases that protect the iPad’s glass screens. She is not an Apple employee. But Mrs. Lin is integral to Apple’s ability to deliver its products.

Mrs. Lin earns a bit less than what Mr. Saragoza was paid by Apple. She speaks fluent English, learned from watching television and in a Chinese university. She and her husband put a quarter of their salaries in the bank every month. They live in a 1,080-square-foot apartment, which they share with their in-laws and son.

“There are lots of jobs,” Mrs. Lin said. “Especially in Shenzhen.”

Innovation’s Losers

Toward the end of Mr. Obama’s dinner last year with Mr. Jobs and other Silicon Valley executives, as everyone stood to leave, a crowd of photo seekers formed around the president. A slightly smaller scrum gathered around Mr. Jobs. Rumors had spread that his illness had worsened, and some hoped for a photograph with him, perhaps for the last time.

Eventually, the orbits of the men overlapped. “I’m not worried about the country’s long-term future,” Mr. Jobs told Mr. Obama, according to one observer. “This country is insanely great. What I’m worried about is that we don’t talk enough about solutions.”

At dinner, for instance, the executives had suggested that the government should reform visa programs to help companies hire foreign engineers. Some had urged the president to give companies a “tax holiday” so they could bring back overseas profits which, they argued, would be used to create work. Mr. Jobs even suggested it might be possible, someday, to locate some of Apple’s skilled manufacturing in the United States if the government helped train more American engineers.

Economists debate the usefulness of those and other efforts, and note that a struggling economy is sometimes transformed by unexpected developments. The last time analysts wrung their hands about prolonged American unemployment, for instance, in the early 1980s, the Internet hardly existed. Few at the time would have guessed that a degree in graphic design was rapidly becoming a smart bet, while studying telephone repair a dead end.

What remains unknown, however, is whether the United States will be able to leverage tomorrow’s innovations into millions of jobs.

In the last decade, technological leaps in solar and wind energy, semiconductor fabrication and display technologies have created thousands of jobs. But while many of those industries started in America, much of the employment has occurred abroad. Companies have closed major facilities in the United States to reopen in China. By way of explanation, executives say they are competing with Apple for shareholders. If they cannot rival Apple’s growth and profit margins, they won’t survive.

“New middle-class jobs will eventually emerge,” said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist. “But will someone in his 40s have the skills for them? Or will he be bypassed for a new graduate and never find his way back into the middle class?”

The pace of innovation, say executives from a variety of industries, has been quickened by businessmen like Mr. Jobs. G.M. went as long as half a decade between major automobile redesigns. Apple, by comparison, has released five iPhones in four years, doubling the devices’ speed and memory while dropping the price that some consumers pay.

Before Mr. Obama and Mr. Jobs said goodbye, the Apple executive pulled an iPhone from his pocket to show off a new application — a driving game — with incredibly detailed graphics. The device reflected the soft glow of the room’s lights. The other executives, whose combined worth exceeded $69 billion, jostled for position to glance over his shoulder. The game, everyone agreed, was wonderful.

There wasn’t even a tiny scratch on the screen.

 

David Barboza, Peter Lattman and Catherine Rampell contributed reporting.

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This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 24, 2012

 

An article on Sunday about the reasons iPhones are largely produced overseas omitted a passage immediately after the second continuation, from Page A22 to Page A23, in one edition. The full passage should have read: “Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.”

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via Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class – NYTimes.com