Secondary Sector of the Economy: Definition and Examples

secondary sector of the economy examples and definition

The secondary sector of the economy involves the transformation of raw materials produced by the primary sector into finished goods (McGuffin-Cawley, 2017). Secondary sector examples include automotive, construction, food processing, and manufacturing.

These goods are suitable for sale to domestic businesses or consumers and export. All industries that produce a finished, usable product or are involved in construction are part of the secondary sector.

The secondary sector encompasses manufacturing in all its forms (Fisher, 1946, p. 5). Manufacturing is a vital activity in promoting economic development. Countries that primarily produce raw materials tend to grow slowly.

The process of transforming raw materials into finished goods generally increases profitability and ensures faster economic growth.

What are the Five Sectors of the Economy?

five sectors of the economy

Economic activity can be divided into five main sectors, outlined below.

The five economic sectors are known as the primary sector (raw materials), the secondary sector (manufacturing), the tertiary sector (services), the quaternary sector (information services), and the quinary sector (human services) (Clark, 1940; Kuznets, 1966).

  • The primary sector involves the extraction and production of raw materials. Examples include farming, mining, fishing, logging, and so on.
  • The secondary sector involves the transformation of raw or intermediate materials into goods. Examples include the production of clothing with textiles, bottles with glass, cars with steel, and so on.
  • The tertiary sector involves the supplying of services to consumers and businesses. Examples include accounting, retail, baking, babysitting, and so on.
  • The quaternary sector is an extension of the tertiary sector and includes information or knowledge-based services. Examples include research, media, consultation, education, blogging, etc.
  • The quinary sector is an extension of the tertiary sector with varying definitions. It is often thought of as the sector responsible for services provided by the highest levels of organization in society, including services such as government, military, education, and healthcare.

15 Secondary Sector Examples

  • Automotive manufacturing – This involves the manufacturing of motor vehicles. These include passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, heavy trucks, buses, and coaches.
  • Construction industry – This involves the construction of buildings, infrastructure, industrial facilities, and associated activities.
  • Cotton manufacturing – This involves the cultivation, preparation, spinning, weaving, and finishing of cotton, one of the most important natural fibers.
  • Artificial fiber manufacturing – This involves the extrusion of polymer into a medium where it hardens. Examples of synthetic fibers include polyester, rayon, and microfibers.
  • Natural fiber manufacturing – Sheep, goats, rabbits, silkworms, and other animals along with minerals like asbestos, are all processed to create natural fibers like flax and sisal.
  • Food processing – This involves the transformation of agricultural products into food. Primary food processing is necessary to make most foods edible. Secondary food processing turns the ingredients into familiar foods.
  • Metal manufacturing – This involves the production of metallic components for use in consumer or engineering products.
  • Chemical industry – The chemical industry is a secondary sector industry that produces a variety of products including polymers, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, adhesives, additives, fragrances, and many more.
  • Electrical industry – The electrical industry produces energy that powers much of our daily activities. Generation, transmission, distribution, and retailing are all part of this industry.
  • Heavy industry – This is a broad category that includes all production of large, complex, and capital-intensive products. Examples include shipbuilding, infrastructure construction, machine tool production, and many more.
  • Glass production – The production of glass includes two main methods: the float glass process to produce sheet glass and glassblowing to produce bottles, lightbulbs, and other products.
  • Craft – This primarily includes small and independent product manufacturing. Examples include luxury items that can’t be mass-produced.
  • Semiconductor device fabrication – The process used to manufacture semiconductor devices such as computer processors, memory chips, and microcontrollers.
  • Garment manufacturing – This involves the transformation of materials provided by textile producers into finished garments.
  • Clothing industry – Shops that make fabrics or turn fabrics into clothing are considered to be part of the secondary sector.

Five Top Secondary Sector Industries

1. Automotive Manufacturing

The automotive industry includes all those companies and activities involved in the manufacturing of motor vehicles along with most of their components, such as engines and bodies.

Passenger automobiles, pickups, vans, trucks, buses, and motorcycles are all products of the automotive industry. Commercial vehicles are usually considered of secondary importance.

The automotive industry today is huge. It is the single largest manufacturing enterprise in terms of the total value of products in the US (Rae & Binder, 2022). One of every six American businesses is dependent on this industry.

For other countries, the proportion is slightly smaller, but western Europe and east Asia are rapidly approaching the level of the US. This whole industry concerned with the manufacturing of motor vehicles or their components is part of the secondary sector of the economy.

2. Chemical Industry

The chemical industry involves all processes, operations, and organizations engaged in the manufacturing of chemicals and their derivatives.

The definition of what counts as a chemical varies from country to country. This secondary sector industry produces a variety of products, including polymers, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, adhesives, additives, fragrances, and many more.

The limits of the chemical industry are somewhat variable. It relies on raw materials produced by the primary sector of the economy. These materials include coal, gas, petroleum, water, salt, limestone, sulfur, and many more.

Products of the chemical industry almost always require further processing before they reach the consumer (Killheffer & Standen, 2019).

3. Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry includes all manufacturing concerns about vehicular flight within and beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

This industry is engaged in the research, development, and manufacturing of flight vehicles such as uncrewed aerial vehicles, airships, gliders, spacecraft, missiles, space launch vehicles, airplanes, and military aircraft.

The fabrication of non-aerospace products and systems that make use of aerospace technologies is also a part of this industry (Weiss & Amir, 2021).

An important part of the secondary sector of the economy, the aerospace industry is a world leader in advancing science and technology. This is because aerospace systems have a very high value per unit weight and are among the most complex, as measured by the number of components per unit.

4. Construction Industry

Also called building construction, this is the industry involved in the assembly and erection of structures.

The construction process is highly organized. The manufacturers of building products and systems, the craftsmen who assemble these products on the building site, the contractors who employ and coordinate the work of the craftsmen, and consultants specializing in construction management, insurance, or related aspects are all involved in the construction industry (Chang & Swenson, 2020).

The process by which raw building materials are transformed into buildings, infrastructure, industrial facilities, or other structures is part of the secondary sector of the economy.

5. Clothing Industry

Sometimes called the apparel and allied industries, garment industries, or soft-goods industries, these industries are concerned with producing outerwear, underwear, headwear, footwear, belts, purses, luggage, gloves, scarfs, ties, drapes, linens, and many other useful products (Solinger, 2022).

The clothing industry relies on the raw materials produced by the primary sector. The process by which raw materials are turned into finished consumer goods is part of the secondary sector of the economy.


Economic activities are traditionally grouped into three categories. These are the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. Two additional economic sectors are considered extensions of the tertiary sector: the quaternary and the quinary sectors.

All industries concerned with the production of finished goods from raw materials are part of the secondary sector of the economy.


Fisher. A. (1946). Economic Progress And Social Security.

Clark, C. (1940). The Conditions of Economic Progress. Macmillan.

Chang, P. and Swenson, . Alfred (2020, January 10). construction. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Kuznets, S. (1966). Modern Economic Growth. Yale University Press.

Killheffer, J. V. and Standen, . Anthony (2019, January 10). chemical industry. Encyclopedia Britannica.

McGuffin-Cawley, J. D. (2017). Trends in Raw Materials Usage in the Production of Infrastructure and Engineering Devices. In M. A. Abraham (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Sustainable Technologies (pp. 463–476). Elsevier.

Rae, J. Bell and Binder, . Alan K. (2022, September 20). automotive industry. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Solinger, J. (2022, August 16). clothing and footwear industry. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Weiss, S. I. and Amir, . Amir R. (2021, November 12). aerospace industry. Encyclopedia Britannica.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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