As politicians increasingly call for antitrust crackdowns on Big Tech companies, it’s worth considering some of the positive effects these companies have had as they’ve grown.
The five largest tech firms in the United States — Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), and Facebook — have collectively put more than 1 million people to work between 2000 and 2018.
Since 2000 (or since the earliest available data), Alphabet has grown the most, with a 2018 headcount a whopping 347 times what it was in 2001, according to a CNBC analysis. Amazon, meanwhile, is 72 times as large as it was in 2000.
While Amazon has generated more jobs than any of the other four firms included above, the comparison is not quite apples-to-apples. Amazon has hundreds of thousands of employees staffing its fulfillment centers and handling other distribution tasks, many of whom are paid hourly wages starting at $15 an hour. Amazon is also the only one of the big five tech companies to include part-time employees, and it noted that its headcount, which stood at 647,500 at the end of December 2018, can fluctuate depending on seasonal demand.
Similarly, many Apple employees are likely retail workers and customer service reps at the company’s retail stores.
All of these companies also employ contractors who are not counted in the headcount numbers. For instance, Bloomberg reported in summer 2018 that about half of Google’s employees are contractors.
Lastly, while these companies have added jobs, they have also displaced entire industries and contributed to job losses there. For instance, the iPhone made a lot of other mobile players, including BlackBerry and Nokia, irrelevant, and Amazon and other e-commerce players have probably contributed to the closure of malls and retail chains.