Canada and the US continue to undergo rapid deindustrialization. Our economies are increasingly service-based, and that should worry us.
The graph above looks complicated, but the key idea is contained in two trends. And both are negative. First, note the declining contribution manufacturing is making to United States (US) Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The red, dotted line shows manufacturing’s percentage contribution.
Manufacturing now makes up just 12 percent of US GDP, and less than 10 percent in Canada. The decline of manufacturing is even more evident when we look at employment rather than GDP. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, goods-producing industries (manufacturing, mining, construction, agriculture, etc.) now employ roughly 15 percent of America’s working population. Nearly 85 percent are employed in the service sector. The situation is similar in Canada. According to Statistics Canada data , approximately 77 percent of Canadian workers are employed in the service sector, and this percentage continues to rise. Both nations continue to deindustrialize.
Second, note the rise in the importance of three service sectors: 1. Finance, insurance, real estate, and rentals (the broad blue line); 2. Professional and business services (green line); and 3. Education and healthcare (red line). A US economy built upon General Motors, General Electric, and U.S. Steel has given way to one built upon JPMorgan Chase, Walmart, and UnitedHealth Group.
Note, especially, the blue line: finance and real estate. With the 2008 financial crisis still fresh in our minds, and its effects still resonating through global economies, it should worry North Americans that banking and real estate have replaced manufacturing as the one of the largest economic sectors.
Manufacturing is declining, our energy sectors may have to contract as we deal with climate change, most North American fisheries have been depleted and agriculture seems to need fewer farmers and workers each year, low-wage nations continue to claim Canadian and American jobs, and we’re told that the robots are coming. By mid-century there will be more than 450 million people living in Canada and the US. Every politician in every party and every engaged citizen should be asking the same question: what are nearly half-a-billion North Americans going to do for a living?
We are not doomed to decline, but decline will be our lot unless we actively engage in a collective democratic effort to build a new, sustainable economy for North America.
Graph source: US Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis