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Tech Industry

U.S. call center jobs moving to Canada

Research firm predicts closure of more than 3,000 U.S. centers as jobs fly north.

More than 140,000 call center jobs will vanish from the United States over the next four years as companies seek to lower customer service costs by shipping work to Canada and other countries with lower labor costs, according to a study released this week.

The report, published by market researcher Datamonitor, predicts the number of American call centers will decline 6 percent by 2008, from 50,600 today to 47,500. At the same time, Canada will sprout 800 new ones, along with 93,000 new call center agent jobs, the report says.

Canada isn?t the sole beneficiary of the call center migration, however. American companies are opening call center operations in India, Mexico and the Philippines, the Datamonitor study said. A large pool of English-speaking workers and lower wages make these locales appealing to U.S. companies.

The scarcity of call center jobs is also as a result of new technologies and the passage earlier this year of the federal Do Not Call list, which has curtailed telemarketing campaigns. High-tech call center systems that allow callers to pay bills or change address without ever talking to a call center agent means companies need fewer workers to man their call centers as well.

The same shift is happening in the United Kingdom, according to another Datamonitor study release earlier this month. Companies with U.K. operations are moving call centers to Eastern European countries--including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania--and North Africa.

The phenomenon, sometimes called "nearshoring," allows companies to shift jobs offshore while minimizing customer service problems that can crop up by relocating call centers halfway across the globe. For instance, Dell stopped using a Bangalore, India, call center for some U.S. technical support calls after customers complained about language difficulties and delays in reaching senior technicians.