There’s gold in them thar vaults! But how much?
A reader’s curiosity about how much of the shiny stuff is stored at Fort Knox inspired one of three questions in this edition of ‘‘Ask AP,’’ a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.
If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions(at)ap.org, with ‘‘Ask AP’’ in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.
How many jobs are currently being outsourced overseas? I could really use one of those jobs, as could so many unemployed Americans.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to that question, in part because it depends on what is meant by ‘‘outsourcing’’: Does it include only jobs that once were done in the United States but are now overseas? Or does it also include new jobs created by U.S. companies overseas that at least theoretically could have been located in the United States?
The closest official answer can be found in a quarterly Labor Department survey of companies that have laid off 50 or more workers. That survey asks the companies whether the layoffs occurred because the jobs were moved offshore. In the April-June quarter, only about 2,700 job cuts out of nearly 300,000 layoffs were attributed to jobs being moved overseas, the department found.
But many economists feel the survey captures only a small fraction of layoffs and isn’t particularly reliable.
A study in January by the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated that 15 million to 20 million jobs might be vulnerable to outsourcing, but didn’t say how many actually have moved overseas. That’s out of a labor market of about 140 million jobs.
Also, some foreign companies invest in the United States, potentially creating jobs. The Commerce Department says 5.3 million Americans were employed by overseas firms in 2006, the latest data available.
Christopher S. Rugaber
AP Business Writer
How much gold is stored at Fort Knox? And is it all the property of the American public?
Salt Lake City
The vaults hold 147.3 million ounces of gold, all of which is owned by the United States. The gold, which is worth more than $100 billion, is stored at the United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, Ky. That’s part of the U.S. Mint, which makes the nation’s coins. The Fort Knox depository is a classified facility; no visitors are permitted.
Interestingly, Fort Knox isn’t the largest depository of gold in the country — a full 216 million ounces of gold, worth $160 billion, is stored at the New York office of the Federal Reserve. Tours of the Fed’s gold vaults are available to the public.
The gold at the New York Fed belongs to foreign governments, central banks and international monetary organizations, with only small portion belonging to U.S. government.
AP Economics Writer
Is it true that American Samoa has a minimum wage lower than all the other states, commonwealths and protectorates?
It depends on what industry you work in.
The minimum wage rates in American Samoa, a U.S. territory, were once established by special industry committees that met every other year. But in 2007, Congress passed a bill that increased the federal minimum wage, and also changed the minimum wage for American Samoa.
The minimum wage in American Samoa now differs by industry — the lowest is $3.68 an hour, for garment manufacturing, and the highest is $5.09, for shipping activities. The minimum wage in American Samoa will go up 50 cents each year until it reaches the federal minimum wage, which will be $7.25 in July 2009.
There are several states — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina — without a minimum wage law at all, and the state minimum wage in Kansas is $2.65 a hour. So you don’t have to leave the continental United States to find people who can legally make less than workers in American Samoa.
Most employees in these states and others are covered under the federal minimum wage law if their employers have at least $500,000 in gross receipts per year, or if the employee’s individual work in some way involves interstate commerce. That covers most workers — but for those who don’t fall into these categories, their state’s minimum wage laws will generally apply.
Jesse J. Holland
AP Labor Writer
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