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August 1996, Vol. 119, No. 8
Francisco A. Moris
The U. S. semiconductor industry is renowned for its record of technological breakthroughs. These advances have increased the speed and capabilities of computer chips and led to employment growth in the industry that runs against the grain of recent U. S. manufacturing history. On the demand side, this feat has been sustained by an apparently insatiable worldwide demand for what is the enabling technology of computers, telecommunications equipment, and consumer electronic products. Indeed, semiconductor companies produce the very building blocks of the information revolution.
Semiconductor producers are also engaged in a costly, worldwide race of technology development evident in the continuous flow of advanced products, high research and development (R&D) expenditures, and expensive fabrication facilities. This has required a growing, highly trained work force, with hourly earnings substantially above the average in manufacturing. In 1995, the industry employed 236,000 workers, 10 percent more than in 1993.
Interaction between technology and employment in semiconductor manufacturing affect worker productivity, offshore employment, technology diffusion, and R&D employment. Following a background section, the discussion covers three major topics: the organization of the industry (including a geographic profile of production and employment), employment and trade, and manufacturing technology and labor (including the economics of chip assembly and the cost structure of the industry). The final section contrasts a recent slowdown in the semiconductor market with the positive long-term outlook based on industry expansion plans.
This excerpt is from an article published in the August 1996 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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