Until the 1970s, New York was the nation's foremost industrial state, ranking 1st in virtually every general category. However, US Commerce Department data show that by 1975 the state had slipped in manufacturing to 2nd in number of employees, payroll, and value added, 4th in value of shipments of manufactured goods, and 6th in new capital spending. Manufacturing shipments in 1998 totaled $168 billion, or 7th in the nation. Important sectors are instruments and related products, industrial machinery and equipment, electronic and electric equipment, printing and publishing, and textiles.
The Buffalo region, with its excellent transport facilities and abundant power supply, is the main center for heavy industry in the state. Plants in the region manufacture iron and steel, aircraft, automobile parts and accessories, and machinery, as well as flour, animal feed, and various chemicals. The Buffalo area's biggest private industrial employer, Bethlehem Steel, closed its Lackawanna plant in 1983. Republic Steel also closed its plant, and General Motors cut employment at its Tonawanda facility by two-thirds. Light industry is dispersed throughout the state. Rochester is especially well known for its photographic (Kodak) and optical equipment (Bausch & Lomb) and office machines (Xerox); the city is the world headquarters of the Eastman Kodak Co., a world leader in photography with sales of $15.968 billion in 1997. The state's leadership in electronic equipment is in large part attributable to the International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), which was founded in 1911 at Endicott, near Binghamton. In 1997, IBM ranked as the 6th-leading US industrial corporation, with sales of $75.9 billion. Its world headquarters is at Armonk, in Westchester County, and it has important facilities at Endicott, Kingston, and Poughkeepsie. The presence of two large General Electric plants has long made Schenectady a leader in the manufacture of electric machinery.
New York City excels not only in the apparel and publishing trades but also in food processing, meat packing, chemicals, leather goods, metal products, and many other manufactures. In addition, the city serves as headquarters for many large industrial corporations whose manufacturing activities often take place entirely outside New York. In all, 61 Fortune 500 firms had their headquarters in New York State in 1997.
Earnings of persons employed in New York increased from $407.4 billion in 1997 to $432.6 billion in 1998, an increase of 6.2%. The largest industries in 1998 were services, 31.4% of earnings; finance, insurance, and real estate, 20.0%; and state and local government, 12.2%. Of the industries that accounted for at least 5% of earnings in 1998, the slowest growing from 1997 to 1998 was state and local government, which increased 2.3%; the fastest was finance, insurance, and real estate, which increased 9.0%.