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Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


A word which became popular in the 1980s to indicate the loss of well-paid factory jobs in industrial countries and the move of employment from manufacturing to the service sector. This was not a new phenomenon. Until 1910 most US workers were in agriculture. From that time services have become the dominant sector, employing over half US workers as early as 1920. From the 1970s, however, with increased competition in a global economy and more capital-intensive and efficient industries, the pace of change has increased. Between 1974–88 nearly half the steel-making jobs in the US disappeared, falling from 460,000 to 260,000. Automobile production was affected too: in the 1980s the Auto Workers Union lost half a million members, a third of their total. Some 2.8 million manufacturing workers lost their jobs in the US in the early 1980s and many more in the early 1990s, as the cold war ended and the ‘peace dividend’ brought a decline in the military-industrial colplex , which had sustained the US economy for half a century. In 1992 industrial giants General Motors, General Electric, IBM, IT and T, Xerox and Du Pont announced the closure of plants with resulting unemployment. Boeing and McDonell Douglas cut back in 1993. This does not mean that manufacturing has declined – in the early 1990s it produced the same proportion of US GNP as 20 years earlier – but it employed fewer people: ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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