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Industry that provides services rather than goods. Economists divide the products of all economic activity into two broad categories, goods and services. Industries that produce goods (tangible objects) include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and construction. Service industries include everything else: banking, communications, wholesale and retail trade, all professional services such as engineering and medicine, all consumer services, and all government services. The proportion of the world economy devoted to services rose rapidly in the 20th century. In the U.S. alone, the service sector accounted for more than half the gross domestic product in 1929, two-thirds in 1978, and more than three-quarters in 1993. Worldwide, the service sector accounted for more than three-fifths of global gross domestic product by the early 21st century. As increases in automation facilitate productivity, a smaller workforce is able to produce more goods, and the service functions of distribution, management, finance, and sales become relatively more important.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on service industry, visit Britannica.com.
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