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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok tells Axios it plans to add thousands of jobs in the U.S. over the next few years — ripping a familiar page from the "companies under fire" playbook.

The big picture: Chinese-owned TikTok is working to distance itself from Beijing in the face of a threatened ban from the Trump administration and broader scrutiny out of Washington, where policymakers are looking to blunt China's influence and economic might.

Driving the news: TikTok plans to add 10,000 jobs in the U.S. in the next three years as user growth explodes, spokesperson Josh Gartner told Axios.

  • TikTok's U.S. job growth has already nearly tripled this year, going from almost 500 employees Jan. 1 to just under 1,400.
  • The company plans to hire for jobs in engineering, sales, content moderation and customer service, with a focus on growing workforces in California, New York, Texas, Florida and Tennessee, Gartner said.
  • "It’s supporting the tremendous growth in the country and follows our strategy of building out teams where we have users," Gartner told Axios.

Between the lines: TikTok's ongoing hiring spree also includes the addition of more than 35 lobbyists meant to convince the Trump administration and lawmakers of the company's independence from China, according to a New York Times report.

  • The company also plans to open transparency centers in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to allow outsiders to observe its content-moderation process.

Context: U.S. policymakers are suspicious about the privacy practices and potential Chinese government ties of TikTok's Beijing-based parent company ByteDance.

  • TikTok doesn't operate in China, where ByteDance instead maintains a near-identical app called Douyin. TikTok says it doesn't share user data with China or even store any there.
  • There's no evidence to date contradicting those claims, but China hawks in Congress and the Trump administration remain skeptical, given the expansive powers Beijing has asserted over companies that do business in China.
  • The House on Monday approved an amendment to a must-pass defense bill banning federal employees from downloading TikTok on government-issued devices, while the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will vote Wednesday on similar legislation from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

The big picture: TikTok's hiring plans follow the playbook of other tech companies highlighting their role as job creators and investors in local economies.

  • Google, facing antirust investigations at the federal and state level, pledged a $10 billion investment in expanding its footprint across the country earlier this year.
  • Apple in 2018 announced plans to build a $1 billion new campus in Austin, Texas, while also setting up new offices in several cities.
  • Amazon's competition for its second headquarters saw dozens of cities vying to be the tech giant's choice.

Yes, but: Job promises don't always pan out. Just ask the folks in Wisconsin still waiting for the job postings from that big Foxconn factory.

Go deeper: TikTok caught in a U.S.-China vise

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Oct 28, 2020 - Economy & Business

The Rust Belt jobs boom that never came under Trump

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Rust Belt, the upper Midwest manufacturing hub that was the backbone of U.S. production, has seen jobs and wages erode under President Trump, new data shows — and the decline happened before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

What it means: "While job and wage growth continued nationally under Trump, extending trends that took root under President Obama, the country’s economic weight also continued shifting south and west, according to data from the U.S. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages that was recently updated to include the first three months of 2020," Reuters' Howard Schneider writes.

Why migrants are fleeing their homes for the U.S.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios Photo: Herika Martinez /Getty Images 

Natural disasters in Central America, economic devastation, gang wars, political oppression, and a new administration are all driving the sharp rise in U.S.-Mexico border crossings — a budding crisis for President Biden.

Why it matters: Migration flows are complex and quickly politicized. Biden's policies are likely sending signals that are encouraging the surge — but that's only a small reason it's happening.

Cities' pandemic struggle to balance homelessness and public safety

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Addressing homelessness has taken on new urgency in cities across the country over the past year, as officials grapple with a growing unhoused population and the need to preserve public safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: It’s led to tension when cities move in to clear encampments — often for health and safety reasons — causing some to rethink the role of law enforcement when interacting with people experiencing homelessness.

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