The need for economic renewal in the United States remains urgent. Years of disappointing job growth and stagnant incomes for the majority of workers have left the nation shaken and frustrated. At the same time, astonishing new technologies—ranging from advanced robotics and “3-D printing” to the “digitization of everything”—are provoking genuine excitement even as they make it hard to see where things are going.
Hence this paper: At a critical moment, this report asserts the special importance to America’s future of what the paper calls America’s “advanced industries” sector.
Characterized by its deep involvement with technology research and development (R&D) and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workers, the sector encompasses 50 industries ranging from manufacturing industries such as automaking and aerospace to energy industries such as oil and gas extraction to high-tech services such as computer software and computer system design, including for health applications.
These industries encompass the nation’s “tech” sector at its broadest and most consequential. Their dynamism is going to be a central component of any future revitalized U.S. economy. As such, these industries encompass the country’s best shot at supporting innovative, inclusive, and sustainable growth. For that reason, this report provides a wide-angle overview of the advanced industry sector that reviews its role in American prosperity, assesses key trends, and maps its metropolitan and global competitive standing before outlining high-level strategies to enhance that.
The overview finds that:
1. Advanced industries represent a sizable economic anchor for the U.S. economy and
have led the post-recession employment recovery. Modest in size, the sector packs a massive economic punch.
As an employer and source of economic activity the advanced industry sector plays a major role in the U.S. economy. As of 2013, the nation’s 50 advanced industries (see nearby box for selection criteria) employed 12.3 million U.S. workers. That amounts to about 9 percent of total U.S. employment. And yet, even with this modest employment base, U.S. advanced industries produce $2.7 trillion in value added annually—17 percent of all U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). That is more than any other sector, including healthcare, finance, or real estate.
At the same time, the sector employs 80 percent of the nation’s engineers; performs 90 percent of private-sector R&D; generates approximately 85 percent of all U.S. patents; and accounts for 60 percent of U.S. exports. Advanced industries also support unusually extensive supply chains and other forms of ancillary economic activity. On a per worker basis, advanced industries purchase $236,000 in goods and services from other businesses annually, compared with $67,000 in purchasing by other industries. This spending sustains and creates more jobs. In fact, 2.2 jobs are created domestically for every new advanced industry job—0.8 locally and 1.4 outside of the region. This means that in addition to the 12.3 million workers employed by advanced industries, another 27.1 million U.S. workers owe their jobs to economic activity supported by advanced industries. Directly and indirectly, then, the sector supports almost 39 million jobs—nearly one-fourth of all U.S. employment.