United States Economics and Business

The United States is the world’s second-largest economy (after China) measured in gross domestic product (GDP), which in 2018 was $ 20 494 billion. The service industries account for around 80 percent of GDP, industry for 19 per cent and agriculture for one percent (2017). GDP per capita in 2018 was $ 62,641.

United States GDP (Nominal, $USD) 2003-2017

Economic development

The emergence of a modern industrial state in the United States occurred in the period between the Civil War in 1861-1865 and the First World War. Under the free market conditions then prevailed, large associations emerged as trusts, cartels and more that threatened to establish monopolies in several fields of the economy. Especially in the Reform Progressive Era during the first two decades of the 20th century, Congress introduced comprehensive legislation aimed at ensuring healthier competitive conditions. President Theodore Roosevelt became known as a “trustbuster,” a title that suited his successor so well,William Howard Taft. Their foremost weapon was the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which prohibited “associations for the purpose of tying the trade”.

In the postwar period, the US business community has been structure rationalized on the basis of efficiency considerations. Associations, mergers, have been a typical feature of development in recent decades. Most of the major fields of industry and commerce are dominated by a small number of large corporations through oligopolies. Many of these are conglomerates with many legs to stand on, which is an equally important feature of development. Direct price co-operation and market distribution are illegal, but competition still exists today primarily as brand competition rather than price competition.The service industries have long been growing strongly in relation to the primary and secondary industries.


In 1945, 20 percent of all Americans lived on farms. In 2006, the figure had fallen to well under one percent, and the number of farms in the same period had fallen from over six million to just over two million. In contrast, the average size of the farms had doubled, from 850 to 1775 acres. While the number of agricultural employees was 6.8 million in 1950, the corresponding figure in 2006 was just over 900,000. Very many of the owners and a large part of the drivers did not live in the farm. Half of the rural population living in the Midwest was white.

In the 1950s the area of ​​cultivated land was almost 500 million hectares. Total cultivated area has subsequently been reduced, primarily as a result of the efficiency of agriculture and the low prices of agricultural products, which have led to closure and relocation. In 2006, the area cultivated was only about 450 million hectares.

About 16 percent of the total land area in the USA is fully cultivated land (2018). One quarter is grazing land/ nature meadow and almost one third of forest including grazing land in the forest, but excluding nature parks and the like. Especially in the mountain states and on the large plains west of 100 ° west longitude there are large plains of natural pasture. There is relatively least cultivation land in the mountain and desert states, in the Pacific states and in New England. In the Corn Belt states, the ” corn belt,” such as Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, two-thirds of the land is cultivated, while only 1-2 percent of land is productive in Nevada and Arizona, where desert and semi-desert dominates.


In the driest areas, agriculture is mostly done by artificial irrigation. Artificial irrigation is also widespread in other areas where the rainfall is modest, such as the Great Plains states of Kansas and Nebraska. Today, over a quarter of the area of ​​use consists of so-called irrigated farms, which comprise 25 percent of the total area of ​​use. In addition, the farmers here have developed cultivation methods, so-called ” dry farming “, to preserve moisture and precious minerals and nutrients. One seeks to lay the plow sheep as horizontally as possible through “contour plowing”, i.e. one plows “along the paws»(Hence the name) in flat slopes rather than pulling up snotty sheep back up and down, as the pioneers did.

Irrigation systems are becoming increasingly important for agriculture west for 100 ° west longitude. Increased vacation and leisure settlements in western states and a growing awareness of water rights among local Native American tribes have increased the number of litigation on such rights. The increased consumption, combined with the effects of a series of dry summers, has caused a significant drop in groundwater levels in several places and a dramatic reduction in Oglala Aquifer, the vast underwater lake stretching from Oklahoma to the Rocky Mountains.

Labor Force

Throughout the US settlement period, there was a labor shortage. Therefore, early emphasis was placed on developing time-saving machinery and operating modes. This was particularly the case for agriculture, which received a high degree of mechanization early on. Large properties can therefore be operated with little human labor while high productivity and cost-effectiveness. However, for large parts of agriculture, operations are extensive, ie the yield is relatively small per unit area compared with, for example, Western Europe.

Low prices of agricultural products caused by the fierce competition have led to a number of bankruptcies and mergers of use. Traditional family farming is no longer typical, but is still important as a nostalgic symbol of folklore and political rhetoric. Agribusiness, farms and ranches owned by large corporations, is an important feature of agriculture today.

An important aspect of US agriculture is the long season and the difference in harvest time in the different parts of the country. Another is the use of migrant workers, migrant workers, who travel around the country with the harvest time and the need for labor. A large part of these are Mexicans. The United States and Mexico have, at times, for example, in 1942–1964, had agreements regulating the use of contract workers, braceros, to secure them better pay and working conditions.

Following some actions in the 1960s and 1970s on strike and bargaining rights, led by the dynamic César Estrada Chávez and his United Farm Workers, things have become more orderly in the industry. Nevertheless, many still live under critical conditions, and there are still many discontent and numerous conflicts.

Many of the approximately twelve million illegal immigrants in the country today are agricultural workers. In the fall of 2006, the Bush administration presented a comprehensive proposal for a new immigration law, which would, among other things, legalize much of these “illegal aliens,” but the proposal was unsupported and put on ice after the November general election. However, the unworthy conditions under which this group lives represent a major problem that may become a recurring issue for later congresses.

Thanks to the enormous range of agricultural land in the United States in terms of climate and soil, most types of crops can be grown. The country is therefore far from self-sufficient in agricultural goods. Only in the case of typical tropical growths such as cocoa, coffee and bananas does the United States need to introduce significant quantities.


Grain production still occupies about 40 percent of the area cultivated. Most important is wheat and corn, the home- grown grain that Americans call Indian corn or just corn. The corn yields good yields, and a large part is used for animal feed, especially in milk and meat production.

The United States accounts for almost half of the world’s corn production. Corn is grown especially in the corn belt that extends westward from Ohio over Indiana, Illinois, Iowa to Nebraska. Here, flat, fertile soil combined with warm, humid summers make the areas particularly suitable for such cultivation.

Spring wheat and to a lesser extent barley, oats, flax and rapeseed are grown in North Dakota, Montana and neighboring areas, while winter wheat and sorghum and millet are produced further south, especially in the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

The United States is by far the world’s largest exporter of wheat and corn. While wheat production increased significantly in the early 1970s and has remained stable, oat production in 1992 was only one-third of what it was in 1970. Millet, which is mostly used for animal feed, tolerates the dry prairie climate better than corn and is especially grown in Texas. and adjacent areas. Over the past few decades, the area of ​​durum has steadily increased, and now stands only for what is used for corn and wheat. Rice is grown using irrigation, artificial irrigation, on the Texas and Louisiana coasts, as well as in Arkansas and California. After Thailand, the United States is the world’s second largest exporter of rice.

Cultivation of soybeans takes place primarily in the corn belt and is of relatively new date, but the United States has for decades already been the world’s leading soybean producer. Other oil crops include flaxseed production in Dakota and peanuts and tree oil in the southern states.

Ever since the colonial era, tobacco has been an important crop from Kentucky and Virginia and south. Today, North Carolina and Kentucky are the largest tobacco producers. Similarly, cotton cultivation is a traditional main industry in many of the southern states. The United States has long held a dominant position in the world market, with up to 90 percent of world production in the 19th century. Today’s share is in excess of 20 percent.

The depletion of the earth has contributed to the decline, but also attacks from the cotton beetle, boll weevil, which came from Mexico in the 1890s. In order to overcome the beetle, a more varied agriculture had to be introduced. As the earth became depleted, cotton cultivation moved westward. Today, Texas and California are the largest cotton states, but the states of the lower Mississippi Valley are also important producers. The United States today exports both cotton seeds and cotton fibers.

Sugarcane is also an important utility, which has to some extent replaced cotton on farms in the Deep South, “the deep south”. Besides Hawaii, Louisiana and Florida are the most important areas for sugar cane, while sugar beet crops have become a major source of income in California, midwestern states such as Ohio and Minnesota and several of the northern mountain states in the west. Today, sugar beet and cane contribute about the same to sugar production in the United States.

The potato is not as central in the diet as in Europe due to the availability of other vegetables. Like vegetables, potatoes are relatively expensive to transport. They are therefore often produced near the large population concentrations, such as along the northern Atlantic coast and towards the Great Lakes, the Great Lakes. Apart from the potato state over some, Idaho, it is especially in the Pacific States that a lot of potatoes are grown. In the southern states, a good deal of sweet potatoes are grown, yam.

Vegetable production is mainly concentrated in coastal areas with sufficient rainfall or where there is good irrigation potential, and often near large population concentrations. In addition to the traditional small-scale operation, there is now more and more specialization and large-scale operations in fruit and vegetable cultivation. California is a leader in this area and, together with Florida, is the main supplier of early vegetables and fruits to the areas further north. These states have almost a monopoly on citrus fruits, while apple farming, for example, stands strong in both the northwest and northeast states.

Southern states such as South Carolina and Georgia are still important plum suppliers. Grape growing for wine production is a major industry in California, which also produces for export.

Animal Husbandry

Animal husbandry is dominated by cattle and pigs for meat production, especially in the corn belt. Intensive production of consumer milk is being run on the Baltimore – Boston stretch to meet the need for fresh milk and cream in the densely populated areas along the East Coast. The production of butter and cheese and other dairy products takes place especially in the “dairy belt “, the Dairy Belt, which extends from the interior of New England and around the Great Lakes to Minnesota. There is also some herb production for slaughter, but milk and meat production is largely separated.

Cattle breeding for slaughter takes place primarily on the large ranches on the Great Plains and in the corn belt, where pig breeding is also concentrated. Chicago has always been the center of the slaughterhouse industry, an important factor in the expansion of the railroad network westward in the 19th century.

The story of “The Wild West ” is rich in stories of cattle farming on the famous cattle trails, cattle trails. One example is the Chisholm Trail from deep down in Texas north to the railroad, railhead, at Abilene, Kansas, where the cattle were transported by train to Chicago. More than half of the major pig breeding takes place in the central part of the corn belt. The sheep and goat team is mainly run in Texas and in the mountain states of the west. Grass and hay production is closely related to livestock farming. Pressing and silencing ensures that the nutritional value is preserved in the feed.

Forage crops varies with climate and soils, with mainly clover by the Atlantic coast, timothy and alfalfa in the Midwest, and alfalfa on the western prairies. While cattle numbers increased by about 40 percent in the years 1950–1965, the level has been relatively stable over the past decades. Cattle production, which nearly tripled in the period 1940–1970, has since remained at 1970 levels. Today the sheep team is only one fifth of what it was in 1940, while the pig team has remained stable throughout the post-war period.


Erosion and lack of ecological considerations have created serious problems for American agriculture, and one assumes that the soil has lost 40-50 percent of its original fertility. This is due to several factors: Unilateral operation year after year with special cotton, but also tobacco, wheat and maize, without the soil being supplied with sufficient new nutrition. Flood damage due to the forest being cut out in many places so that the rivers have very varying water flow. Wind erosion in the western plains after loss of natural vegetation or overgrazing.

The most dramatic consequences of land destruction were in the 1930s. For example, Oklahoma lost 13 percent of its farm population as a result of farmland being transformed into a semi-desert, Dust Bowl by wind erosion. This tragedy is dramatized in literature and film in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

More appropriate plowing methods, nutrient and moisture supply through alternation and fallowing, and planting of forest forests have reduced these problems to a considerable extent. The “green wave”, the ecological awareness that came to light in the late 1960s, has also done much to curb the harms of modern agriculture.

The ecological awareness has also created a greater willingness to protect agricultural lands against degradation. Federal legislation, such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, has also forced agriculture to take ecological considerations into runoff from agricultural lands, the use of fertilizers and pesticides, grass and straw burning, and more. In Florida, the Everglades wetland area is subject to extensive pollution, not least from the sugar industry, which has spread throughout the state in recent years and has caused major changes in ecology through drainage and discharges.


Forestry has been run as a distinct harvesting operation. The forest closest to the markets has first been cut out, and the center of harvesting has shifted, first from the east coast to the Great Lakes area and then south. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Pacific States became important forests and have since been the most important forestry area.

Large-scale operations with a high degree of mechanization have been a characteristic feature of American forestry, but in recent years environmental considerations have gained ever more recognition in the industry. Authorities, with the United States Forest Service, USFS, at the forefront, have also imposed environmental restrictions on the business. Thus it was not until the 1990s a protracted conflict between conservation and forest companies about logging in virgin forests where the endangered Great Gray Owl, spotted owl, nest. Courts allow repeatedly banned the felling Having regard to the law on endangered species, the Endangered Species Act. The USFS is now concerned with the preparation of regulations for the utilization of forests owned by the public, with regard to recreation and wildlife management.

However, effective environmental legislation has been difficult to enforce in both the federal congress and the states. In response to the difficulties in the northwest states, more forest companies have moved more of their operations to the southern states, where they face fewer restrictions, the growing season is longer, and prices for both forest and land are lower.

In 2002, the forest area amounted to approximately 3.3 million square kilometers. Two-thirds of this is referred to as “potentially productive forest land,” and is found primarily in the Pacific States, the Northern Mountain States, the Southern States, and the Great Lakes. About 930 square miles are national parks, 83 percent federal area. 40 percent of the commercial forest is currently located in the southern states, where most of the hardwoods can be found, and this region produces 60 percent of all wood pulp. About 70 percent of the natural forest cover in the country remains today, while only 10 percent of the original sawn timber resources. The annual harvest is five percent higher than growth, while taxation of certain softwoods in Oregon has been twice as high as renewal in recent years.

The forest area is distributed by 24 percent in the federal state and seven percent in states, counties and municipalities. The rest is privately owned, a large part of which is owned by wood processing companies such as Weyerhauser, Georgia-Pacific, International Paper and the like. Harvesting was reduced by 43 percent from 1909 when production culminated until 1945. Harvesting in 2004 was 458 million cubic meters. This is far from the need, and the United States is a major importer of wood, paper and pulp, mainly from Canada. In 2004, the country wooden products for 12.3 million USD, while it carried out for 1.8 million. However, for wood pulp, paper and used paper, the figures were $ 19.9 and $ 16.9 million, respectively.


Fisheries are regulated today by a federal law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1982. This law gives federal authorities oversight of fishing resources and fishing activities by US and foreign vessels within the US economic zone of 200 nautical miles. In 2003, the fisheries yielded US $ 4.3 million tonnes worth US $ 3.3 billion. This represented 1.3 percent of total catches in the world.

The catch quantity covers just over one third of the domestic demand. In 2004, the country exported fish and fish products for USD 3.1 billion, while it imported for a full USD 11.2 billion. Two-thirds of the catch is taken on the Pacific coast, approximately 16 percent on the Atlantic coast and 18 percent in the Gulf of Mexico. Freshwater fishing, mainly in the Great Lakes and Mississippi, contributes two percent. In value, the catch on the west coast represents almost half.

The most important fishing state is Alaska, both by quantity and value. Sail is the most important type of fish according to both criteria, while salmon fishing, which amounts to only about a fifth, is almost as lucrative because of its value. The herring menhaden comes in number three. Tuna and shellfish also mean a lot economically. Taken together, shellfish in 2003 accounted for 55 percent of the value of the harvested quantity, while menhaden and saithe together made up about 60 percent of the catch. 13 percent of the fished quantity goes to canned food, while eight percent goes to fresh fillets and frozen fish.

Fishing on the northern Atlantic coast has lost importance in recent years, while the Pacific coast has increased in importance. The largest fishing ports are now found on the west coast (Dutch Harbor – Unalaska and Kodiak in Alaska) and in the Gulf of Mexico (Empire – Venice and Cameron, Louisiana).


The United States is rich in raw materials of all kinds. The country is the world’s largest producer of coal, natural gas, copper, molybdenum, lead, sulfur and more. There are only a few raw materials in the country, including chromium, manganese, nickel, tin and diamonds. However, the United States has long imported all its consumption of columbium, manganese, strontium, tungsten and bauxite. In 2004, the country imported 95 percent of asbestos, 68 percent of magnesium(used in aluminum production), 56 percent of silicon and twelve percent of iron ore. For some products such as petroleum and iron ore, production is among the world’s largest, yet the country is dependent on imports due to high consumption.

The United States produces around 20 percent of all coal in the world. More than half of the production falls on the fields in the Appalachians, especially Kentucky, as well as West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Also significant is the field in Illinois – Indiana. The third coal area is located in the northern mountain states, especially Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. Here, lignite and inferior coal dominate.

Of non-metallic minerals, the United States produces 13 percent of all nitrogen; of metals, 42 percent of molybdenum, 18 percent of copper, and six percent of the world’s iron ore. Only a minor part of the value of the country’s mineral production comes from mining of metals. The majority of the value comes from crude oil and natural gas production as well as coal production.

The mining of iron ore together with the coal mining operation formed the basis for industrial development in the United States. Iron ore production has subsequently declined sharply. Just before World War II, the United States’ share of world production by metal content was 31 percent, while today’s figure is six percent.

Also in the production of iron, steel and ferro alloys, the US has lost ground internationally. From about 1970, the former Soviet Union has been a leader in the production of iron and ferro alloys, but per capita US production is still higher. The most important iron ore deposits are at Lake Superior in Minnesota and in Michigan. Particularly famous is the Mesabi Range in Minnesota with the world’s largest open-pit mine. Otherwise, there are deposits in California and in mountainous areas in Montana.

Copper ore is mined almost exclusively in the mountain states, especially Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, and production is increasing. Zinc ore mining has been stable in recent years and is approximately 500,000 tonnes annually, mainly in Alaska, Tennessee and New York. Lead production in states such as Alaska, Missouri and Idaho has declined somewhat in recent years. The United States has a large production of precious metals: for example, gold with 250 tons in 2005, substantially in Nevada, California and Utah, and silver with 1,300 tons, primarily in Nevada, Alaska and Idaho. In 2003, the country’s share of world production was eleven and seven percent for gold and silver respectively.

The United States was the world’s largest producer of crude phosphate by 38 million tons in 2005, with Florida, North Carolina and Idaho as the leading states. Large quantities of sulfur and salt are also produced, which are mined in Louisiana, Texas and New York. The production of uranium, with 2700 tons in 2005, and plutonium takes place primarily on the Colorado Plateau, a good deal on indigenous peoples territory.


The United States has long been the world’s largest consumer of primary energy, but is now bypassed by China. In 2016, consumption was 90.7 EJ (exajoule). The most important energy sources are oil and natural gas, which in 2016 accounted for 36 and 30 percent of consumption respectively. Until 1950, coal was the most important source of energy, but the share of coal has now been reduced to 16 percent.

Self-generated energy was 80.2 EJ, which is also the world’s second highest. Of its own energy sources, oil and natural gas are the most important, and the country has again become the world’s largest producer of crude oil. In 2017, 563 million tonnes of crude oil was produced, representing 12.9 percent of the world’s total oil production. Oil recovery began in 1859 in Pennsylvania. The United States was the world’s leading oil producer for a long time and had a 58.5 percent share of world production in 1948. After around 1970, production began to decline, from around 475 million tonnes per year to 255 million tonnes in 2005. The share of the world’s total oil production was then reduced to 8 percent.

In addition to self-production, it has also been necessary to import large quantities of crude oil. Falling oil production was offset by increased imports, which peaked around 2005 with annual imports of over 500 million tonnes. Subsequent increase in self-produced oil reduced imports to 360 million tonnes (net) in 2016.

The United States is also a major producer of natural gas. Production in 2017 was 760 billion cubic meters. This corresponds to 20.2 percent of the world’s total production of natural gas, making the country also the world’s largest gas producer.

Coal was the fossil fuel that first came into extensive use in an industrial context. With increasing crude oil production, coal production declined until the 1960s, but later production stabilized and occasionally increased in size. Production peaked in 2007 when 1,200 million tonnes were produced. Subsequently, production has slowed down, and in 2017 fell to 702 million tonnes. The country is now the world’s third largest coal producer. Most of the coal mined is used in coal-fired power stations, and only a small part (17 million tonnes) goes to the iron and steel industry.

After the war, a significant nuclear industry was built up, but in recent years this industry has suffered severe setbacks. Nuclear power produced growth until around 2000, but has subsequently remained stable. With production in 2016 of 840 TWh, the United States is still the world’s largest producer of nuclear power with a 32 percent share.

The United States is also a major producer of hydropower. In 2016, production was 292 TWh, making the country the fourth largest hydropower producer in the world. Hydroelectric plants are found especially in the Pacific States. Otherwise, hydropower is particularly developed in the Appalachians, for example in the Tennessee Valley, in addition to the Saint Lawrence River and the Colorado River. In many cases, development for power purposes has occurred in parallel with regulation to prevent flood damage. This includes the Tennessee Valley Authority under President Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, a giant project with 38 women’s facilities. Hydropower has in many places provided the basis for significant irrigation agriculture.

The final consumption of energy in the US has stabilized over the last ten years and was 63 EJ in 2016. The consumption was distributed as follows: petroleum: 49.2 per cent, natural gas: 22.3 percent, electrical energy: 21.7 percent, coal: 1, 2 percent, bioenergy: 5.3 percent and other renewable energy: 0.2 percent.

The consumption of electrical energy has also been approximately stable over the last ten years. Production in 2017 was 4,058 TWh. Coal and natural gas were the main sources of energy, both of which accounted for 30.5 percent of electricity production. Nuclear power contributed 19.8 percent, while renewable energy, mainly hydropower and wind power, accounted for 18 percent.


The industry experienced strong growth in the latter half of the 19th century, with an average of five percent a year from 1849 to 1899, and especially in the post-Civil War era, industrialization began fully. Between 1899 and 1920, growth averaged over eight percent annually. The emerging industry had seemingly inexhaustible quantities of all kinds of raw materials and energy sources, which, by rapid development of communications such as railways, canals and later roads, were easily accessible. In addition, it had a steady stream of cheap and partly skilled labor from Europe and a certain injection of capital from there.

The rapidly growing population provided a large and ever-expanding market, outwardly protected by high tariff walls and inwardly unmoved by tariff boundaries and other restrictions. The United States soon became the world’s largest industrial power and accumulated significant industrial commodity exports, which exceeded agricultural exports in value before World War I. In recent years, there has been a specialization in industrial production and a twist towards highly advanced and low labor-intensive, partly brand new, products. This has also led to changes in the industry’s location.

Characteristic of the US industry is that a few, large, integrated, and often international companies tend to dominate the market in one industry to the extent that oligopolies arise. About one-third of the processing value comes from companies with more than 1,000 employees. Most recently, the concentration process has come in the production of aerospace equipment, certain organic fibers, telephone equipment, rubber products, cigarettes and cars, where practically 100 percent of the processing value falls on a few large companies.

Other industries with a strong concentration are the automotive rubber industry and the aerospace industry. The legislation seeks to reduce the influence of individual companies on production and marketing. Thus, the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 prohibits “combinations that bind the competition”. In practice, however, the authorities have enforced this law very reliably, as they have allowed mergers of companies both horizontally and vertically to an unusually large extent compared to before.

The largest corporation, Wal-Mart, is found today in the trading industry. Wal-Mart has sales of USD 290 billion. The industrial companies Exxon Mobil, General Motors and General Electric will follow in the next places.

Heavy industry

The industry has traditionally been concentrated in the northeastern part of the country, in a belt from the Atlantic coast between southern New England and Chesapeake Bay and west to the Chicago area. However, the share of industry located here has declined sharply in recent decades in favor of the states further south and west. The northeast area still has about half of both employment and output measured by value. Large fields of coal and iron are located here close to each other (iron for the most part just outside the area, at Lake Superior), and have enabled the world’s largest iron and steel industry.

Local iron ore production has declined sharply since 1980, but in 2005 the United States still had five percent of world iron ore production, 4.5 percent of rough iron and 8.5 percent of crude steel. Most importantly, the Pittsburgh – Youngstown area is on the west side of the Appalachians in Pennsylvania/Ohio. There are large quantities of good coal here, and the area has reasonable shipping for iron by boat from the fields at Lake Superior. Other important and recent iron and steel districts are the areas at the south end of Lake Michigan where Chicago and Gary are located. Here, Lake Superior ore is mined with coal from the Indiana/Illinois fields, from Birmingham, Alabama where iron ore and coal are found side by side, and from Baltimore- Philadelphia, where imported iron ore is used extensively with coal from the Appalachians.

The opportunities for cheap transport of the raw materials have been crucial for the location of the iron and steel industry to areas between the coal and iron ore deposits where the total transport costs are the least. In the United States this may have been particularly close to or near the coalfields. The railways were at the time the most important buyer of the steel and steel products – today most of them go to the automotive, machinery, tools and building industries. The mountain states have large metal smelters for non-ferrous metals in close proximity to the mining districts there. Most important is copper processing in Arizona and Utah. Imported metals are processed near the ports, for example for the copper part in Baltimore and elsewhere on the Atlantic coast.

Production of light metals shot up in the weather after World War II. In particular, the demand for aluminum was high in the aerospace and automotive industries, but also in the construction industry and in the production of household goods, especially cookware. The aluminum industry is clearly power-oriented. The oldest factories were located in areas with great access to power, as close as possible to the bauxite deposits that formed the starting point for the processing. These were found in the southern states.

Since the 1950s and 1960s, the need has increased greatly for aluminum, and thus also for bauxite, which is now imported in its entirety, especially from Australia, Jamaica and Guinea. The most important areas for the aluminum industry besides the traditional ones in the southern states and the Appalachians are found in connection with the bauxite import ports in Washington and the Gulf of Mexico. Although the US aluminum industry has declined sharply in recent decades, it still accounted for 10 percent of world production in 2003.

The food industry

In the case of the least processed goods, the food industry is located at traffic hubs in close proximity to the richest agricultural areas. The mill industry is dominated by Kansas and Minnesota, especially Minneapolis. Also Buffalo at Lake Erie and other cities have large milling industry. The largest slaughterhouses are located in Chicago, Illinois, St. Louis Missouri, Omaha Nebraska and St. Paul Minnesota.

When it comes to more processed goods, the market orientation means more, and the industrial states in the northeast have a bigger influence. The tobacco industry is raw material oriented with a clear center of gravity in the central and southern parts of the Appalachian region. Production of chocolate and confectionery, for example, is more market-oriented, with Pennsylvania and New York as the leading states.

The sawmill and timber industry

The sawmill and timber industry is largely concentrated in the forest areas of the Pacific states and the southern states. The pulp mills have shown somewhat greater inertia in adhering to the changed raw material base, and the paper mills are still mostly in the northeast despite the fact that the forest yield here has been sharply reduced. The industry here relies to a large extent on imported timber and cellulose.

Print Industry

The printing industry and publishing business have a clear center of gravity in New York City with Boston and Chicago as important secondary centers.

Clothing Industry

The textile industry was among the first industries in the United States, substantially in New England. The cotton industry has moved south to the South Atlantic states, while the wool industry has largely stayed in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.

The apparel industry is partly in the same areas as the textile industry, but is somewhat more closely related to the markets with a particular center of gravity in the big cities, primarily New York City. This is most pronounced for the manufacture of children’s and women’s clothing. The footwear industry has traditionally played a major role in New England, which still has some factories in the industry. For the entire textile and clothing industry, there is a tendency to shift west and south. This is a general feature of most industries.

Other industry

Production of glass and other ceramic products is particularly developed in Alleghenyområdet and New Jersey. The chemical industry is very varied. A very large part is found in areas with good access to oil, gas and coal, which are important raw materials in this context. The United States is the world’s largest producer of several important chemical products, including artificial fertilizers and sulfuric acid. There is also a substantial production of pharmaceutical products. Rubber production is the world’s largest. About a third of the rubber goods industry is located in Akron, Ohio. The strong evolution of petrochemicals Industry has largely taken place on the Gulf Coast.

It is the engineering industry’s products that dominate the industry with about half of the processing value and exports. The most important is the production of machinery, transport equipment and electrical and electronic appliances and equipment. The machine industry has a clear center of gravity in the Midwest and the North Atlantic coast, especially in southern New England, the oldest center of mechanical engineering in the United States. In recent years there has been significant growth within this branch in the Pacific States.

In the electrical and electronic industries, companies are consistently larger, and this applies even more to the transport industry. Almost half of this industry’s processing value comes from the automotive industry, dominated by the Detroit auto city. About a third comes from the aerospace industry, over 40 percent when one includes manufacturing for the aerospace business. While the United States produced 76 percent of the world’s vehicles in 1950, the figure in 2004 had dropped to 19 percent.

The airline industry initially had a strong concentration in the northeast, but a significant shift westward has taken place. Today, the major factories are located in the Pacific states of California and Washington, as well as the Great Plains with Kansas. However, aircraft production in particular is still significant in the northeast. The strong growth in the electronics industry has largely fallen on California and Silicon Valley. Other important centers are the Front Range at Denver, Colorado, Everett – Seattle Corridor of Oregon and Washington, Highway 128 around Boston, Massachusetts, and the “Research Triangle “Research Triangle in North Carolina between Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

Postal and telecommunications services

While the US Post Office is a state institution, telephone and telegraph services are run by private companies. The U.S. Postal Service was established as a standalone directorate , agency, by the Postal Reorganization Act in 1971, and replaced with the former Post Office Department. However, parcel shipments are also carried out by several private companies, with United Parcel Service being the largest.

After an antitrust case that took 13 years, the Department of Justice and the American Telephone and Telegraph entered into a legal settlement in 1982 that split the close-knit Bell system, ” Ma Bell,” into 22 local companies. Later, a number of other companies have entered the telecommunications sector in competition with Bell, such as MCI. In 1991, there were 56 telephone companies, carriers, and two telegraph service companies in the United States. 1328 companies offered telecommunications services. In 2002, there were 330.8 million fixed-line subscribers and 194 million mobile-phone subscribers. In addition, with 190 million machines, the United States had the world’s highest PC rate, 659 per 1,000 inhabitants.

Foreign Trade

In relation to national income and population, US foreign trade is modest. This is related to the country’s resource access and technological development, which makes the country self-sufficient in most areas. Throughout the post-war period up to the mid-1970s, the United States largely had a substantial surplus of goods exchanged abroad. From 1976, however, the United States has had a deficit in foreign trade. This is primarily due to the strong increase in petroleum imports. In 2018, the trade deficit was a whopping $ 621 billion.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Find major trading partners of United States, including major exports and major imports with latest trade value and market share as well as growth rate.

Exports show a steady shift towards more processed goods. In the 1920s, around 40 percent of exports consisted of more processed goods, compared to over 60 percent from 1960 onwards. Although the commodities have accounted for a declining share overall, the United States is by far the largest exporter of several important commodities. This applies to both food and pleasure products such as cereals and tobacco, textile raw materials such as cotton, fatty substances such as soy as well as a number of minerals and metals.

The share of raw materials has also declined since the 1960s, with a significant exception for the fossil fuels oil, coal and gas. Imports of the crude oil and coal group increased strongly from 10.5 percent in 1960 to a peak of 33.9 percent in 1980. In 2004, the import value of oil and gas products was 31 percent.

Imports of more processed goods have increased since 1960. This is due to a very strong growth in imports of electrical appliances, machines and cars. Machinery and transport equipment accounted for 43.5 percent and passenger cars alone 8.8 percent. In 2004, 28.6 percent of all cars sold were imported.

At the beginning of the 20th century, most of America’s foreign trade was with Europe. Later this has slowed down considerably. It is primarily trade with the rest of America, after World War II, also Japan, which has replaced trade with Europe. In 2004, besides China and Japan, Canada and Mexico were also very important trading partners, accounting for approximately the same share of the trade deficit as Western Europe, with 111.5 against 113.4 billion USD.

After the 1960s, petroleum imports have been an important factor in influencing US foreign trade. Thus, trade with Africa, especially Nigeria and Algeria, and Asia, including Indonesia, has increased significantly. In 2005, Norway had a US $ 4.8 billion trade surplus.

With rising cost levels, the US business sector, especially in terms of price, has faced increasing problems with competitiveness both in the international arena and in the domestic market. In recent years, this has created a permanent deficit in the trade balance with foreign countries, in 2004 USD 651 billion. At the same time, as a result of the restructuring of fiscal policy in the early 1980s, a substantial deficit was created in the federal budget. When Bill Clinton entered the White House in 1993, he inherited a $ 290 billion budget deficit. When he left the presidential office in 2001, he left a $ 230 billion surplus on the state budget.

The war in Afghanistan in October 2001 and in Iraq in March 2003 tapped the US economy for large resources. At the end of 2006, the budget deficit was approaching USD 400 billion. At the same time, US foreign debt was approximately $ 9.5 trillion. The two deficits place strong ties on the US economy and represent the main problem in the country’s position in the international economy. The deficits were largely funded by investors from US-critical regimes, such as China, which created a delicate problem for President George W. Bush.

As in the rest of the Western world, there has been a high degree of deregulation in many sectors of the business community in recent years. Furthermore, in 1989, a free trade agreement was signed with Canada, with a ten-year implementation period. From January 1, 1994, this agreement was extended to Mexico through the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. With a run-in phase of 15 years, NAFTA opened a free trade market of 360 million people for American business, but also faced the country with major restructuring problems, not least because of the cheap labor in Mexico.

The United States was, within the GATT organization, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a driver for tariff reductions. When the Uruguay Round ended in the fall of 1993, this was considered a victory for US trade policy principles. In 1995, GATT became the World Trade Organization, the WTO, which in 2019 had 164 members.

President Clinton was also active in establishing closer trade cooperation in the Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim, through the then-new APEC, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, established in 1989. This was particularly important for the United States as a counterbalance to the EU, but also because the large trade deficit with Japan and China was and is one of the biggest economic problems in the United States.

Foreign Trade

Percentage of foreign trade by country in 2017:

Trading Partner Export Import
Canada 18.3 12.8
Mexico 15.7 13.4
China 8.4 21.6
japan 4.4 5.8
Germany 5


Exports by percentage by main product groups in 2003:

Foods and live animals 6.0
Petroleum, petroleum products, coal 2.0
Other raw materials 4.6
Chemical products 12.3
Machines and means of transport 48.6
Including machinery and equipment for power generation 9.6
Industrial machinery 16.3
Cars and car equipment 18.0
Aircraft and aerospace equipment 12.0
Telecommunications and audio equipment 5.8
Other industrial products 11.7


Imports by percentage by main product groups in 2003:

Categories Sort
Foods and live animals 3.5
Petroleum and petroleum products 10.5
Chemical products 7.8
Machines and means of transport 40.9
Other industrial products 17.6

Transport and Communications


The most important years of communication in the first pioneer era were the rivers and the great lakes. All in 1807 wheel steam traffic started on the Hudson River, in 1811 on Ohio and Mississippi. The natural waterways were next linked to canals. The Erie Canal or the Erie Canal between the Hudson River and Lake Erie was opened in 1825. It meant a great deal to colonization westward, alongside making New York the United States most important port city. In 1835, a connection was established between Lake Erie and the Ohio River, later between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, thereby creating a continuous waterway from the Atlantic coast across the Great Lakes and Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1855, the so-called Soo Canal at Sault Sainte Marie, which connected Lake Huron with Lake Superior, was opened to traffic. This was of great importance to the timber and ore transport from Wisconsin and Minnesota. At the end of the 19th century, canal traffic declined as a result of competition from the railway. Competition conditions were regulated at the beginning of the 20th century, and canal traffic is of major importance today in the US transport pattern.

In total, it is estimated that the United States now has 41,000 kilometers of navigable rivers (2012), of which nearly half fall on the Mississippi waterway alone. The last significant growth in the navigable river and sea system was the opening of the St. Lawrence Canal in 1959, allowing larger boats to enter the Great Lakes via Canada. Besides the Great Lakes on the border with Canada, where especially the ore transport from Duluth/Superior to the iron and steel industry farther east is very extensive, there is considerable shipping on Mississippi and its bees and other navigable rivers, especially Delaware, Hudson and the canals. Shipping on the canals, rivers and lakes means so much that pure coastal traffic, that is, traffic from one coastal port to another, represents less than a third of total domestic sea transport measured in tonnes. In 2003, freight transport by rail was 2.5 billion tonnes. In 1982, 17 percent of the total domestic freight transport measured by tonnes was on ships.

  • According to AllCityPopulation, the capital city of United States is Washington DC with a population of 720,000 (2020). Other major cities include New York with a population of 8.6 million, Los Angeles with a population of 4.1 million, Chicago with a population of 2.7 million, Houston with a population of 2.4 million, Phoenix with a population of 1.7 million, Philadelphia with a population of 1.6 million, San Antonio with a population of 1.6 million, San Diego with a population of 1.5 million million, Dallas with a population of 1.4 million, San Jose with a population of 1.0 million (2020).

Measured by weight, close to 40 percent of imports go over the ports of the Atlantic coast. There has been a sharp shift in imports towards the Gulf Coast from the mid-1970s, and almost half of the imports now fall in this area. The Gulf Coast, especially New Orleans and Houston, is the most important area for export, followed by the Atlantic Coast with its most important port of Norfolk in Virginia. In total, the ports of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast account for 70 percent of exports by weight. The most important port city on the west coast is San Francisco. Other part of foreign trade goes over the ports of the inland waterways, especially the big lakes.

The United States’ shipping was rapidly advancing in the early days after independence in 1776. The merchant fleet soon became the second largest in the world. When all vessels over five tonnes are counted, in 1861 it consisted of 5.5 million tonnes, of which 2.5 million tonnes in foreign trade. Later it declined somewhat, and then increased again at the end of the 19th century, now with an emphasis on coastal shipping. In 1898, only 15 percent of the tonnage of foreign vessels fell.

During the First World War the fleet was greatly expanded and in 1922 consisted of 18.4 million gross tonnes, of which 58 percent were ships in foreign trade. Then there was a decline in tonnage until World War II, when major expansions were made in the fleet through new construction. At year-end 1945/1946 it reached 38.5 million gross tonnes.

In recent years, the US merchant fleet has declined somewhat, partly as a result of a major transition to convenience flags. In 2004, the fleet consisted of 10.7 million gross tonnes. In addition, 2.5 million tonnes were added to the so-called reserve fleet. The average age of the vessels is very high.


Railway construction began in 1830. While the colonization of the eastern states had been based on sea, river, canal and road transport, the railroad became of fundamental importance for the colonization westward, in the first time, along with the use of the other means of transport. Of particular importance was the railway for the utilization of land areas westwards, such as grain cultivation, meat production and mining. The first transcontinental railroad was opened in 1869.

In 1842 the railway network was 6479 kilometers and in 1865 48,000 kilometers. In 1916, after 50 years of colossal development, it reached its greatest length by 428,607 kilometers. The railway construction was supported by the public through, among other things, reasonable loans and the allocation of free land for the facilities, but the railway operation has always been primarily on private hands.

After the First World War, there has been a continuous closure of lines, especially low-traffic siding, and a reduction to single tracks on double- track sections. In 1981, the 288-kilometer rail network was owned and operated by a number of different companies. In 2014, the United States had a total of 293,564 kilometers of railroad.

Today, long-distance passenger traffic is mainly operated by Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, a federal aid company founded in 1971. In terms of freight transport, the amount of freight transported on rails has been increasing, although the line length has been declining. The major part of freight transport is currently run by 15 major operators, with Conrail, a public limited company, public corporation, in line with Amtrak, as the most important.

The railway has primarily lost competition with the private car, after it became popular in the interwar and post-war years. The private car fit well with central American ideas of individualism, freedom and mobility. The colossal growth in the car park meant a corresponding reduction in traditional public transport such as trains and trams, but also gradually with the bus. This development was accelerated with the development of the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s. On the longer distances, however, it was primarily air traffic that took passengers from the railroad.

Road transport

The United States has a very well developed road network. In 2012, it amounted to 6.5 million kilometers. A coordinated national network of multi-lane highways begun in the 1950s, Interstate Highways, has contributed greatly to the increase in road traffic in the United States in recent decades. The high road standard has created the basis for extensive transport by trucks and trucks in free competition with the railway to an extent unknown in Europe. The amount of goods transported on the road has increased in recent years. Also with regard to long-distance passenger transport, the railways have competition from road transport.

The development of motels, taverns and rest areas and the development of more comfort in the form of air-cooled compartments, coolers and other amenities have made the private car popular also on longer trips. However, bus routes, such as the once popular Greyhound Lines, have had some decline in their business. The United States has the world’s largest car park, both in absolute terms and in terms of population. In 2003, 135.7 million cars were registered. A total of 42,636 people were killed in road traffic accidents in 2004. In 2003, private passenger cars drove an average of 19,000 kilometers.


From 1978 onwards, aviation in the United States was heavily deregulated. This has led to increased competition, lower prices and other offers to travelers, but has also led to closures of unprofitable routes, especially to places served by only one or a few airlines. A number of associations of companies and reorganization of the business have also been undertaken, often as a result of financial problems.

A distinctive feature of American aviation today is the so-called hub system. This means that the companies concentrate their operations on a certain number of bases, and that passengers often have to fly via such a hub, or a ‘hub’ where the flight routes run like the spokes in a wheel. Critics believe this prolongs and deepens flight, while the defenders of the system argue the opposite: that rationalization provides a net saving for everyone.

During a wage dispute in 1982, President Ronald Reagan fired several thousand striking air traffic controllers. A far lower number of partially unqualified personnel was eventually deployed to replace them. This was strongly criticized by many teams as a gambling with security. Some serious aviation accidents have contributed to the debate about lack of air insurance. Some critics claim that airlines have further contributed to reducing safety through their savings measures. The Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, has top responsibility, and in recent years has put the spotlight on this side of the business.

The busiest airports in 2013 measured in total passenger numbers are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta with 94.4 million, Chicago O’Hare with 66.7 million, Los Angeles with 61.9 million, Dallas/Fort Worth with 57.7 million and Denver with 52.8 million. Atlanta is the world’s busiest airport, while Chicago occupies fifth place, Los Angeles sixth place, Dallas ninth place and Denver fifteenth place.


An important feature of the transport of oil and gas, as well as some other liquid minerals, are the pipelines. In 1992, these accounted for 19.3 percent of freight transport in the United States measured in tonnes. Especially important is the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which transports oil and natural gas from the oil fields of inner Alaska to the ice-free port of Valdez on the state’s south coast. It was the oil crisis in 1973 that realized the plans for the construction of this pipeline, which met strong resistance in environmental protection circuits.

The grounding of the Exxon Valdez tanker 40 kilometers south of Valdez on March 24, 1989 illustrates the danger the oil business represents to the vulnerable Arctic environment. Over 40 million liters of crude oil poured into Prince William Sound, causing irreparable damage to the environment, primarily wildlife and bird life.

Also in connection with offshore oil recovery, the oil pipelines are important means of transport.

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