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De-industrialization can be understood as the steady erosion of the industrial base of the United States, especially in the North-Eastern "fertile crescent" of heavy industrial investment from Chicago to New England. It is associated both with cheap industrial imports from newly industrialized countries as well as with the ongoing transformation of the maturing economy of the United States itself. The availability of import items (cars, for instance) at lower cost has created intensely competitive conditions for industrial employment in the United States. As the steel plants and automobile factories built in the early twentieth century got older and less efficient, jobs disappeared, and many U.S. blue-collar workers had to seek jobs outside of the traditional, often unionized and highwage industries. They often found employment in mostly non-union, relatively poorly paying service jobs. In the 1970s, many U.S. corporations began to shut down their plants in high wage areas and relocated them in the newly industrialized, cheap labor areas of South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. Low-skilled workers in U.S. industry have experienced the biggest losses. Workers displaced by foreign competition were forced to seek jobs in lower paying service industries, while industrial production in the United States eroded. De-industrialization, which began in the 1970s, the corporate merger-mania of the 1980s, and government neglect of trade policy all seem to have set the stage for a massive loss of high-paying jobs for millions of U.S. workers during the last three decades of the twentieth century.

See also: Corporate Restructuring, Rust Belt