Employment trends among tech hubs.

New Geography contributor Richey Piiparinen looks at the sea change, over time, in the American labor force, from a manufacturing labor base, to the current services dominated workforce.

Piiparinen notes that the decline in the share of people who make their living as laborers doesn’t mean we don’t manufacture things—manufacturing output is at an all-time high nationally—it’s just that we need fewer people to produce more goods. He writes about a number of cities who are trying to take a page out of the economic success of tech hubs like Silicon Valley:

The ... issue for regions looking for their economic future in Silicon Valley’s past is whether or not that’s even a sound strategy in the first place. Specifically, the tech economy is also a maturing, prone to the same job contractions, offshoring, and wage declines that hallmarked deindustrialization.

According to data compiled by the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, four out of the top five tech clusters in the United States lost jobs from 1998 to 2013. San Jose, CA, the metropolitan area comprising Silicon Valley, led the way in contraction, going from nearly 160,000 tech jobs in 1998 to fewer than 74,000 in 2013—a decline of 54%. Telling, automotive employment in Detroit declined by less over the same time period, at 32%.

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