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June 1997, Vol. 120, No. 6
William Luker, Jr. and Donald Lyons
High-technology industries are the most important source of strategically transformative products and processes in the U.S. economy. Changes in employment patterns in these industries thus command the interest of researchers, policymakers, and the general public. This article uses data from the BLS Current Employment Statistics (CES) program from January 1988 through January 1996 to survey the shifting levels and composition of employment in research-and-development (R&D)-intensive high-technology industries. The data reveal three noteworthy developments:
- Employment in R&D-intensive industries increased slowly over the period studied, contributing very little to the overall growth of total nonfarm employment. The result was that, at the beginning of 1996, employment in R&D-intensive high-technology industries was an appreciably smaller share of total nonfarm employment than at the beginning of 1988.
- The industrial composition of employment in R&D-intensive high-technology industries is shifting dramatically toward services industries, as employment in R&D-intensive, defense-de-pendent manufacturing industries declines, and employment in civilian high-tech manufacturing remains essentially static. In fact, R&D-intensive services accounted for all of the net increase in employment in the R&D-intensive sector since 1988 and grew more rapidly than did employment in the services division as a whole.
- There are reliable indications that the demand for high-tech R&D workersthat is, those actually engaged in R&D in any given high-technology industryis also shifting toward occupations that are more involved with the production of services than the production of goods.
In what follows, we consider these shifts in more detail and interpret their causes and consequences in light of recent observations about the evolving character of manufacturing and service industries both inside and outside of the high-tech sector.
This excerpt is from an article published in the June 1997 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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