Apple has quantified its effect on the US economy in a new study. Its analysis says its products "create or support" 514,000 US jobs, ranging from the Kansas employees who manufacture glass for the iPhone to the UPS driver who brings that iPhone to your home—but that's a complicated claim, experts tell the New York Times. The "entire business of claiming ‘direct and indirect’ job creation is disreputable,” says an economics professor: Most of Apple's purported workers would have found other work if the Cupertino firm didn't exist, he says. "But of course, they might not have been as well paid or gratified with their work. We’ll never know."
To figure out the company's job-force impact, consultants working for Apple ran the amount it spent on US goods and services last year through a government formula known as an "employment multiplier." Among the final figure's assumptions: that 45% of existing work in the app world can be tied to Apple devices, and that every 40 packages it ships daily through UPS equals one job. Trouble is, "if you say, 'If there had been no Apple, those people would not have jobs,' that’s not true," notes a business professor. If a customer hadn't spent $500 on an iPad, she'd likely have spent it on something else, and it's nearly impossible to say if that would have been a better or worse move. Apple directly employs 47,000 US workers, but has created more jobs—some 700,000 of them—overseas. (Read more Apple stories.)