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IBM is to take on 15,000 more staff in 2004, the company said at the weekend. Most new positions will be in software and services, and 4,500 net jobs will be created in its American homeland. This will take IBM's headcount to 330,000, its highest since 1991.

Randy McDonald, IBM veep of human resources, said the company is to hire twice as many new staff as originally planned because an upturn in the economy.

"We are going to hire more in the US than we shift" overseas, he told Reuters.

The news may mollify US critics who slammed the company's deliberations, leaked last month to the WSJ, over moving 4,730 programming jobs to India. Internal documents seen by the newspaper show that IBM reckons that such a move could save it $168m a year annually. IBM told Reuters that the WSJ staff numbers were wrong, but kept schtum on the right figure. ®

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