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June 1999, Vol. 122, No. 6

High-technology employment: a broader view

Daniel Hecker

High technology enjoys high visibility. Industry developments are tracked closely in the United States and abroad and the implications for productivity, international competitiveness, national defense, and the general standard of living are of increasing interest.1 This statement, presented in a 1983 Monthly Labor Review article, is still true, as is clear from a number of recent pronouncements. For example, according to the testimony of Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, dramatic improvements in computing power and communication and information technology are resulting in higher rates of productivity growth and higher real wages, and are helping to control costs.2 Also, a 1998 National Science Foundation report describes the success of U.S. high-tech industries in foreign markets.3 Other recent publications report that biotechnology is revolutionizing medicine, agriculture, and environmental fields; miniaturization and new materials are likely to bring major changes in manufacturing, and automobiles are incorporating even more advanced technology.4 These developments, which suggest that high technology is creating many jobs in the economy, prompted this review of employment trends.

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1 Richard W. Riche, Daniel E. Hecker, and John U. Burgan, "High technology today and tomorrow: a small slice of the employment pie," Monthly Labor Review, November 1983, p. 50.

2 Monetary Policy Testimony and Report to Congress, Testimony of Alan Greenspan, Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Before the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy of the Committee on Banking and Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, Feb. 24, 1998.

3 "Industry, Technology, and Competitiveness in the Marketplace," Science and Engineering Indicators (Arlington, VA, National Science Board, National Science Foundation, 1998), ch. 6, and Lawrence M. Rausch, "High-tech drives global economic activity," National Science Foundation Issues Brief, NSF 98–319 (Arlington, VA, Division of Science Resources Studies, July 20, 1998).

4 See U.S. Industry and Trade Outlook (DRI/McGraw-Hill, Standard and Poor’s and U.S. Department of Commerce/International Trade Administration, 1999), pp. 11–13 through 11–15, 16–1, and ch. 36; "John Carey, "We Are Now Starting the Century of Biology," and Neil Gross and Otis Port "The Next Wave for Technology," Business Week, Aug. 24–31, 1998, pp. 80–87; David Stipp, "Engineering the future of food," Fortune, Sept. 28, 1998, pp. 128–44; and Daniel McGinn and Adam Rogers, "Operation: Supercar," Newsweek, Nov. 23, 1998, pp. 48–53.

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High technology employment: another view.July 1991.

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