Despite The U.S. economy's disappointing Q1 2015, most economists agree that the economy is finally putting in a broad-based recovery from the 2008 Great Recession. Jobs are being created by the millions, wage growth is picking up and foreign trade is only 30% of the nation’s GDP. These signs indicate a prosperous recovery and a healthy, self-sufficient economy.

What industries are propelling America’s self-contained economy? This article will take a closer look at the respective sectors that are both sustaining and fueling the economy’s continued growth as it moves farther out of the recent economic downturn.

Energy

America is in the midst of an energy renaissance. Thanks to technological advancements in drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale formations, oil and gas production has increased dramatically. The industry’s three-year growth between 2010 and 2013 reached 168%.

As a result of this energy boom, the United States has ousted both Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s biggest oil producer and surpassed the latter as the world’s largest natural gas producer. The U.S. also has more wind energy powering its grid than any other global nation and is making strides in solar power technology.

The explosion in shale oil production has been instrumental in aiding the nation’s recovery, bringing both economic and wage growth to the country. In 2012, the sector introduced 2.1 million new jobs. Consumer wallets have also been affected, with the average household disposable income increasing by $1,200. Currently, the U.S. invests a record $200 billion in oil and gas and is moving towards reversing the decades-old ban on crude exports.

Though the recent drop in oil prices has put a dent in oil companies' exploration budgets, on the macro level cheaper oil is likely a net benefit for the economy. (For more, see: Get Ready for Deeper CAPEX Cuts in the Energy Sector.)

Manufacturing

Manufacturers contribute $2.09 trillion directly to the economy, an increase from $1.73 trillion in 2009. The sector accounts for 12% of the GDP and supports 17.6 million U.S. jobs.

The industry is expanding, meaning there is an increase in output. Though factory expansion slowed in December, The Institute for Supply Management – a trade group of purchasing managers – reported its manufacturing index was at a three-year high just two months before. The Institute also reported manufacturing employment measured a four-month high.

The energy sector’s growth has directly impacted that of manufacturing. Fracking has created a boom in manufacturing jobs and the cheaper gas prices has made manufacturing more competitive. It is estimated that 4.2% of all manufacturing jobs in 2025 will be linked to the United States’ current oil and natural gas surge.

Transportation

Not surprisingly, growth in manufacturing has led to an enhancement of the logistics and transportation sector. Private companies in the general-freight trucking sector have showed continued sales and profit growth since 2010. As a general indicator of national freight transport, gains in the trucking industry show a greater demand for domestic shipments.

Mass transit has seen record ridership as gas prices continue to plummet. Transit ridership has risen almost 40% since 1995, and buses, trains and subways were used by more Americans in 2013 than in any year since 1956. As the economy improved, transit agencies upgraded services as more people utilized the systems to get to an increasing number of jobs.

Spending in the industry, which includes air, freight, maritime and trucking services, totaled $1.33 trillion in 2012, representing 8.5% of the annual GDP.  (For more, see: The Economics Of Owning A Tesla Car.)

Healthcare

At the end of 2013, the healthcare industry enjoyed a 135% three-year growth rate and brought in $21.8 billion, making it one of the fastest-growing industries. Thanks to an aging population and rising incidence of chronic diseases, the sector continues to grow and is indeed growing faster than the rest of the market.

Increased access to healthcare and technological advancements have also become a widespread trend. As a result, healthcare spending as a percentage of the nation’s GDP boosted to 17.4% in 2014.

Investor interest in healthcare and biotech stocks was huge last year, and the healthcare sector dominated the IPO market. Of the 288 IPOs registered in 2014, nearly 40% of those were healthcare-related. Healthcare stock growth has proven strong and also safe during turbulent economic times.

Agriculture

The agriculture sector was one of few to fare well during both the recession and recovery, and promise for the industry still remains. The industry has been bolstered by exports as the global demand for agricultural products continues to surge. Last year the United States exported a record $152.5 billion worth of agricultural goods, up from $141 billion in 2013. Exports have also scaled 41% in value over the past five years.

In 2013, 16.9 million jobs, including those on farms and in the areas of forestry and fishing, were attributed to the agriculture sector. This accounted for 9.2% of total U.S. employment. Employment in agriculture-related industries supported an additional 15.6 million jobs.

Thanks to technological advances in the industry, low farm unemployment and investment in agricultural infrastructure, the sector is likely to continue strengthening the U.S. economy.

The Bottom Line

Economic growth in the United States is flourishing and continuing upward. The energy industry has been key to the economy’s recovery. Though the recent drop in oil prices has put a crimp in GDP growth, other sectors mentioned in this article – financial services, information technology and telecommunications – have also contributed to the economy's broad-based recovery.

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