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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essels in foreign countries such as Liberia and Panama, where crew wages, taxes, and operating costs are lower.

In terms of the number of ships docking, New Orleans, Louisiana, is the busiest port in the nation; each year it handles more than 6,000 vessels. Other leading ports include Los Angeles-Long Beach, California; Houston, Texas; New York, New York; San Francisco-Oakland, California; Miami, Florida; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Crude petroleum accounts for 22 percent of the waterborne tonnage of the United States. Petroleum products make up 18 percent. Coal accounts for 14 percent, and farm products for 14 percent.

The inland waterway network of the United States has three main componentsthe Mississippi River system, the Great Lakes, and the coastal waterways. Some 66 percent of the annual water freight traffic is on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, 17 percent is on the Great Lakes, and most of the remainder is on the coastal waterways. A major thoroughfare of the coastal waterways is the Intracoastal Waterway, a navigable, toll-free shipping route extending for about 1,740 km (about 1,080 mi) along the Atlantic Coast and for about 1,770 km (about 1,100 mi) along the Gulf of Mexico coast. About 45 percent of the total annual traffic on all coastal waterways travels on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, about 30 percent is on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, and about 25 percent is on Pacific Coast waterways.

Most goods in the United States travel by railroad and truck, which compete vigorously for freight transport. In 1996, 38 percent of all United States freight moved by rail and about 27 percent traveled by truck. However, other modes of transportation more easily handle special freight items. An additional 20 percent of all freight, by volume, moved through pipelines, mainly oil and natural gas pipelines originating in Texas and Louisiana with destinations in the Midwest and Northeast. Another 16 percent, mainly bulk commodities like coal, grain, and industrial limestone, moved by barge on inland waters.

Federal, state, and local governments provide a sizeable portion of services delivered in the nation. In 1996, government workers made up 4 percent of all workers and together produced 12 percent of GDP. Government services include items as such Social Security benefits, national defense, education, public welfare programs, law enforcement, and the maintenance of transportation systems, libraries, hospitals, and public parks.

The government sector in the U.S. economy has increased dramatically in size during the 20th century. Federal revenues grew from less than 5 percent of total GDP in the early 1930s to more than 20 percent by the late 1990s. Much of this growth took place during two time periods. In the 1930s, following the economic downturn of the Great Depression, U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted sweeping social programs designed to provide basic financial security to individuals and families. Many of these programs, such as unemployment insurance and Social Security payments to retirees, have remained in place since then. During the 1960s, U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson instituted a series of programs designed to fight poverty, promote education, and provide basic medical coverage for less-affluent Americans. In addition, during the last half of the 20th century, government expenditures increased for medical care and national defense as a result of technological advances. The cost of transportation construction also rose as the growing population demanded more and better highway systems.

Another leading industry is the entertainment business. Motion picture production has been centered in Hollywood, California, since the early decades of the 20th century, when the budding motion picture industry discovered that the warm climate and sunny skies of southern California provided ideal conditions for film production. Other entertainment industries include theater, which tends to be located in larger urban areas, particularly New York City, and television, with major networks operating out of the New York City area. .

C2Commerce The 1990s have been years of unrivaled prosperity in the United States, with per capita GDP reaching $30,450 by 1998. This high quality of life results partly from a rapid expansion of commerce in the years following World War II.

C2aDomestic Trade
Convenience is the key to consumer markets in the United States, whether it is fast food, movie theaters, clothing, or any of hundreds of different types of consumer goods. Products are being delivered to citizens in a more efficient manner, as industries and business firms have decentralized to more closely fit the distribution of population. Malls have sprung up in suburban areas, making the downtown department store obsolete in many smaller cities. Manufacturers also market their goods directly to customers in factory outlet malls. Prices are often lower in these outlets than in regular retail stores. Customers often travel hundreds of miles to shop at larger factory outlet malls. At the other end of the spectrum, mail order catalogs and Internet sites have made it possible for many consumers to purchase products directly from companies by mail or using personal computers.

Wholesalers and retailers carry on most domestic commerce, or trade, in the United States. Wholesalers buy goods from producers and sell them mainly to retail business firms. Retailers sell goods to the final consumer. Wholesale and retail trade together account for 16 percent of annual GDP of the United States and employ 21 percent of the labor force.

Wholesale establishments conducted aggregate annual sales of $3.2 trillion in 1992. The leading type of wholesale business is the distribution of groceries and related products, which accounts for 16 percent of all wholesale activity. Next in rank are motor-vehicle parts and supplies; petroleum and petroleum products; professional and commercial equipment, and machinery, equipment, and supplies. Wholesalers tend to be located in large urban centers that enable them to distribute goods over wide sections of the nation. The New York City metropolitan area is the countrys leading wholesale center. It serves as the national distribution center for a variety of goods and as the main regional center for the eastern United States. Other leading wholesale centers include Los Angeles, the main center for the western part of the United States; Chicago; San Francisco; Philadelphia; Houston; Dallas; and Atlanta.

In the mid-1990s retail establishments in the United States had aggregate annual sales of $2.2 trillion. Automotive dealers, with 23 percent of the total yearly retail trade, and food stores, with 18 percent, are the leading retailers. The volume of retail sales is directly related to the number of consumers in an area. The four leading states in annual retail salesCalifornia, Texas, Florida, and New Yorkare also the four most populous states.

C2bForeign Trade
The United States is the worlds leading trading nation, with total merchandise exports amounting to $683 billion, and imports to $944.6 billion. Despite its massive size, large population, and economic prosperity, the United States economy can provide a higher quality of life for consumers and more opportunity for businesses by trading with other nations. Foreign, or international, trade enables the United States to specialize in producing those goods that it is best suited to make given its available resources. It then imports products that other nations can make more efficiently, lowering prices of these goods for U.S. consumers.

Nonagricultural products usually account for 90 percent of the yearly value of exports, and agricultural products account for about 10 percent. Machinery and transportation equipment make up the leading categories of exports, amounting together to one-third of the value of all exports. Other leading exports include electrical equipment, chemicals, precision instruments, and food products. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the nations imports of petroleum from the Middle East and manufactured goods from Canada and Asia (especially Japan) created a trade imbalance.

DInformation and Technology Sector
By the end of the 20th century, many technological innovations had been introduced in the United States. Communications satellites orbited the earth, computers performed day-to-day functions in many businesses, and the Internet provided instant information on most aspects of U.S. life via computer. Developments in communications and technology have transformed many aspects of daily life in the United States, from improvements in kitchen appliances to advances in medical treatment to television broadcasts that are transmitted live via satellite from around the world.

An increasing number of job opportunities are opening in fields related to the research and application of new technology. Entirely new industries have emerged, such as companies that build the equipment used in space explorations. In addition, technology has opened new opportunities for investment and employment in established industries, such as those that manufacture medicines and machines used in the detection and treatment of diseases and individuals who market and sell products via the Internet.

The communications systems in the United States are among the most developed in the world. Television, radio, newspapers, and other publications, provide most of the countrys news and entertainment. On average there are two radios and one television set for every person in the United States. Although the economic output of the communications industry is relatively small, the industry has enormous importance to the po

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