U.S. Economy

Those levels of production, consumption, and spending make the U.S. economy by far the largest economy the world has ever

U.S. Economy



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nd people to the far-flung American citizenry.

As a result of the nations high energy consumption, the United States accounts for nearly 20 percent of the global emissions of greenhouse gases. These gasescarbon dioxide, methane, and oxides of nitrogenresult from the burning of fossil fuels, and they can have a harmful effect on the environment.CService and Commerce Sector
By far the largest sector of the economy in terms of output and employment is the service and commerce sector. This sector grew rapidly during the last part of the 20th century, creating many new jobs and more than offsetting the slight loss of jobs in manufacturing industries. In 1998 commerce and service industries generated 72 percent of the GDP and employed 75 percent of the U.S. workforce. Most of these jobs are classified as white collar, and many require advanced education. They include many high-paying jobs in financing, banking, education, and health services, as well as lower-paying positions that require little educational background, such as retail store clerks, janitors, and fast-food restaurant workers.

C1Service Industries The service sector is extremely diverse. It includes an assortment of private businesses and government agencies that provide a wide spectrum of services to the U.S. public. Services industries can be very different from each other, ranging from health-care providers to vacation resorts to automobile repair shops. Although it would be almost impossible to list every kind of service industry operating in the United States, many of these businesses fall into one of several large service categories.

C1aBanking and Financial Services
In 1995 the U.S. financial market had a total of 628,500 institutions, which employed 7.0 million people. These institutions included investment, commercial, and savings banks; credit unions; mortgage banks; insurance companies; mutual funds; real estate agencies; and various holdings and trusts.

Banks play a central role in any economy since they act as intermediaries in the flow of money. They collect deposits and distribute them as loans, allowing depositors to save for future consumption and allowing borrowers to invest. In 1998 the United States had 10,481 insured banks and savings institutions with a total of 84,123 banking offices. Because of mergers and closures, the number of banks steadily declined in the 1980s and 1990s while the number of bank offices increased. Combined assets of insured banks and savings institutions totaled $5.44 trillion in 1998.

Banking in the 1990s was a highly competitive business, as banks offered a variety of services to attract customers and sought to stem the flow of investors to brokerage houses and insurance firms. Large banks in the United States, in terms of assets, include Chase Manhattan Corporation, Citibank, Morgan Guaranty Trust, and Bankers Trust, all headquartered in New York City; Bank of America, headquartered in San Francisco; and NationsBank, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In 1998 the United States had 1,687 savings and loan associations (SLAs), with combined assets of $1.1 trillion. SLAs are similar to banks, in that they accept deposits from customers, but SLAs focus primarily on the housing and building industries by making loans to home buyers. The industry was substantially restructured in the late 1980s and early 1990s after some prominent SLAs became insolvent largely because of falling real estate prices in some parts of the country.

In addition, a host of other professions offer financial services to individuals and corporations. Insurance companies provide insurance as well as a variety of other services, including deposit accounts, pension management, mutual funds, and other investments. Stockbrokers, investment experts, pension managers, and personal financial consultants advise consumers on investing money. In addition, corporate finance managers, accountants, and tax consultants make recommendations on financial planning to businesses and individuals.

C1bTravel and Tourism
One of the largest service industries in the United States is travel and tourism. In 1997, individual U.S. citizens took 1.3 billion trips within the United States to destinations that were at least 100 miles (equivalent to 160 km) from home. In increasing numbers, domestic and foreign travelers are visiting theme parks, natural wonders, and points of interest in major cities, and the convention business is booming. New York City is a popular destination, and tourism is a mainstay of the economies of California, Florida, and Hawaii.

In recent decades, visitors from overseas have become an increasingly important part of the U.S. tourism business. In 1970 about 2.3 million overseas visitors came to the United States, spending $889 million. By 1997 the number of overseas visitorschiefly from western Europe, Japan, Latin America, and the Caribbeanwas 48 million. Millions of visitors from Canada and Mexico also cross the border every year. Estimated annual expenditures in the United States by Canadian travelers totaled $6 billion, and spending by Mexicans was $5 billion.

Americas historic sites and national parks draw many visitors. In 1998, 287 million visits were made to the more than 350 areas administered by the National Park Service. Millions of people each year visit the national monuments, buildings, and museums in the Washington, D.C., area. More than 14 million visits are made annually to Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the San Francisco region. More than 19 million people per year travel on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, and about 6 million visit the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Located within a days drive from most parts of the eastern United States, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular national park in the United States, receiving nearly 10 million visitors annually.

Transportation-related businesses are an important part of the service industry. Trucks, railroads, and ships transport goods to markets across the country. Commercial airlines, railroads, bus companies, and taxis move tourists and commuters to their destinations. The U.S. Postal Service and a number of private carriers deliver goods as well as mail to consumers. The U.S. transportation network spreads into all sections of the country, but the web of railroads and highways is much denser in the eastern half of the United States, where it serves the nations largest urban, industrial, and population concentrations.

As of 1996 the 10 largest railroad companies in the United States operated 72 percent of tracks. Takeovers and mergers among the major private railroad companies were common during the 1980s and 1990s. Amtrak (the National Railroad Passenger Corporation), a federally subsidized organization, operates almost all the intercity passenger trains in the United States. It carried 20.2 million passengers in 1997. Although rail passenger travel has declined in importance during the 20th century, some U.S. cities still maintain extensive subways or commuter railways, including New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and the San Francisco-Oakland area of California.

During the early decades of the 20th century, motor vehicle transport developed as a serious competitor of the railroads, both for passengers and freight. Federal aid to states for highway construction began with the passage of the Federal-Aid Road Act of 1916.

The federal aid program was greatly expanded in 1956 when the government began an ambitious expansion of the Interstate Highway System, a 74,165-km (46,084-mi) network of limited-access highways that connects the nations principal cities. This carefully designed system enables motorists to drive across the country without encountering an intersection or traffic signal. It carries about 20 percent of U.S. motor-vehicle traffic, though it accounts for just over 1 percent of U.S. roads and streets. The system is designed for safe, efficient driving, with gentle curves, easy grades and long sight distances. Entering and exiting the highway system is permitted only at planned interchanges.

Air transport began to compete with other modes of transport in the United States after World War I (1914-1918). The first commercial flights in the United States were made in 1918 and carried small amounts of mail. Passenger service began to gain importance in the late 1920s, but air transport did not become a leading mode of travel until the advent of commercial jet craft after World War II. By the 1990s a growing number of Americans flew for personal and business travel, in part because of the need to cover long distances and in part because they like to get to their destinations quickly. In 1997 airlines in the United States carried 598.1 million passengers, the vast majority of whom were domestic travelers.

By the end of the 20th century, large and small airports across the nation formed a network providing air transportation to individual travelers. The nation had 5,129 public and 13,263 private airports in 1996. The largest airports in the United States by passenger arrivals and departures are William B. Hartsfield International Airport near Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago-OHare International Airport in Illinois; Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in Texas; and Los Angeles International Airport in California.

The United States has a relatively small commercial shipping fleet. In 1998 only 473 vessels of 1,000 gross tons and larger were registered in the United States. Only 56 percent were in use; most of the remainder formed part of a government-owned military reserve fleet. However, many American ship owners register their v

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