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July, 1986, Vol. 109, No. 7
An analysis of regional
employment growth, 1973-85
Reference to the transfer of economic power from old industrial regions of the North to the South and West has become almost a cliche. The term "Sunbelt" is generally associated with population growth, economic prosperity, and a bright future, while "Snowbelt" connotes economic decline. How then do we reconcile these perceptions with the fact that New England, which a decade ago was rapidly losing population and jobs, presently has the lowest unemployment rate of any region; or that in late 1985, a considerable majority of the States in the West and South had jobless rates above the national average; or that, since the recession trough in late 1982, housing costs in Boston have risen dramatically while those in Houston, an often cited symbol of the prosperity of the new South, have declined?1
Such recent developments have made it clear that the situation is more complex than commonly thought. There has been, and most likely will continue to be, a shift in economic influence towards the South and West. Such movements are the expected result of historic differences in regional income, wages, and cost of living, as well as shifts in the importance of each region's geographic and resource endowments. Yet within that context, long-term changes in the structure of our economy, cyclical swings, and unanticipated "shocks" all can alter regional advantage. The economic "Power Shift,"2 as it has been called, is clearly not as immutable as once thought.
This excerpt is from an article published in the July 1986 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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1 Unemployment data are presented in Employment and Earnings and Consumer Price Index data in CPI Detailed Report, both published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2 Kirkpatrick Sale, Power Shift (New York, Random House, 1975).
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