Although American industry has declined as a percentage of the nation's GDP, it remains an integral part of the economy and has experienced some growth in certain areas. Since the 1960s, manufacturing has been in an overall decline, but specific American-made products have increased their sales and become more productive by using new technology and manufacturing methods. For instance, the automotive industry has increased production and produced 1.2 percent of the GDP although there have been cutbacks and shifts in employment. Many automotive workers now work for smaller independent manufacturers instead of the large companies such as Ford and General Motors. One of the main trends in U.S. industry is the increasing consolidation of small and medium companies into larger firms.
In 1999, there were 390,000 manufacturing companies in the United States with 18.5 million employees. There were also 27,000 mining companies with 627,000 workers, and 634,000 construction companies with 5 million employees (this includes individual contractors involved in construction such as plumbers and electricians). The largest industrial companies in the United States in 2000 were General Motors with 392,000 employees, Ford Motor Company with 364,600 employees, General Electric with 316,500, and Boeing with 211,000 employees. Many companies that once concentrated in manufacturing now are engaged in a variety of economic activities. For instance, General Electric is one of the largest industrial companies, but only about half of its employees work in manufacturing. The rest are employed in such activities as media operations (General Electric owns the television network NBC), sales, and marketing.