More Detailed Information about Its Jobs Calculation Methodology Could Improve Transparency

May 23, 2013

What GAO Found

The U.S. Export-Import Bank's (Ex-Im) methodology to calculate the number of U.S. jobs associated with the exports it helps finance has four key steps. First, Ex-Im determines the industry associated with each transaction it finances. Second, Ex-Im calculates the total value of exports it supports for each industry. Ex-Im implements these first two steps using its own data. Third, Ex-Im multiplies the export value for each industry by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ratio of jobs needed to support $1 million in exports in that industry--a figure known as the "jobs ratio." Finally, Ex-Im aggregates across all industries to produce an overall estimate.

Ex-Im reports the number of jobs its financing supports and the methodology it uses but does not describe limitations of the methodology or fully detail its assumptions. Although the BLS data tables that Ex-Im relies on are based on a commonly used methodology, this methodology has limitations. For example, the employment data are a count of jobs that treats full-time, part-time, and seasonal jobs equally. In addition, the data assume average industry relationships, but Ex-Im's clients could be different from the typical firm in the same industry. Further, the underlying approach cannot answer the question of what would have happened without Ex-Im financing. Ex-Im does not report these limitations or fully detail the assumptions related to its data or methodology. GAO's Standards for Internal Controls in the Federal Government states that, in addition to internal communication, management should ensure adequate communication with external stakeholders, which could include Congress and the public. Because of a lack of reporting on the assumptions and limitations of its methodology and data, Congressional and public stakeholders may not fully understand what the jobs number that Ex-Im reports represents and the extent to which Ex-Im's financing may have affected U.S. employment. 

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