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November 2004, Vol. 127, No.11
Employment and wages for the U.S. ocean and coastal economy
Charles S. Colgan
Although national trends in employment have shown a marked shift away from manufacturing and natural resource extraction over the past 40 years, interest in the economic use of major natural resources remains a matter of substantial concern. This has long been the case with agriculture, where the farm/nonfarm distinction is a staple of employment statistics. It is increasingly true of other resources, including those of the oceans and Great Lakes. A substantial debate about how to manage those resources is about to be engaged, driven in large part by two recent major reports, one from a private foundation and the other from a commission chartered by Congress.1
The analysis of major natural-resource-oriented economic sectors is relatively straight-forward in most cases. Agriculture is well documented; it and minerals both have their own divisions within the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Forest products are well defined in SIC 24, 25, and 26, and in several NAICS codes. Moreover, each of these resource industries is usually clearly defined geographically, with well-recognized agricultural, forest products, and mining regions. The analysis of the ocean economy, however, has none of these advantages.
The ocean economy consists of activities measured in a number of industries, though none, with the exception of ship and boat building, is a measured major industry or sector level. In the SIC codes, all are at the three- or four-digit level, and in the NAICS codes, most are at the six-digit level. The span of industries includes primary production, manufacturing, transportation, retail, and services. Moreover, while the ocean economy is concentrated in the 30 coastal States (including the Great Lakes states), it is found throughout the United States. Seafood stores are found in Nebraska, and North Sails builds the sails for the America’s Cup class boats at a sail loft in Nevada. Even within the coastal States, the ocean economy can be found in the largest cities and smallest towns, making it geographically specific, but across a wide range of regional economies.
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1 See America’s Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change (Washington, Pew Oceans Commission, May 2003) and An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century: Report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, September 2004), on the Internet at www.oceancommission.gov
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