More and more, the products of work in America are services and information rather than goods -- health care and computer programs, for example, instead of cars and television sets.
Even in the Washington area, the service economy has surpassed government during the past five years as the metropolitan area's major employer.
Services account for 30 percent of the jobs in the metropolitan area, followed by retail and wholesale trade (20 percent); federal government (19 percent); state and local government (10 percent); construction (6 percent); finance, insurance and real estate (6 percent); transportation, communication and utilities (5 percent), and manufacturing (4 percent).
Nationally, the service sector of the economy has grown from 53 percent of all U.S. jobs in 1943 to 59 percent in 1950, 67 percent in 1970 and 74 percent in 1984. The service sector -- including government -- encompasses all jobs except those in manufacturing, construction and mining. Nine out of 10 new jobs added to the U.S. economy over the next decade will be in the service sector, the Department of Labor predicted last November. Of the 20 fastest-growing occupations, half were in the computer and health fields, the Labor Department said.
Although there are increasing numbers of women in the work force, segregation by sex persists. Half of all men and women work in occupations that are 80 percent male or female, according to a new study by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.
Some jobs that used to be predominantly male -- such as bank tellers, insurance adjustors and real estate agents -- are now predominantly female, the study found. Among the most sex-segregated jobs today are secretaries, nurses and bookkeepers (predominantly female) and auto mechanics, truck drivers and carpenters (predominantly male).