Economic Sectors: Primary, Secondary & Tertiary

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  • 0:06 Primary Sector
  • 1:26 Secondary Sector
  • 2:01 Tertiary Sector
  • 3:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will seek to explain the different sectors of the economy. In doing so, it will concentrate on the primary sector, the secondary sector, and the tertiary sector. It will also highlight the service industry.

Primary Sector

Right this moment, as I'm working on this lesson, a contractor is in my house. He is busy using lumber he didn't make, that came from trees he didn't plant, to transform my unused basement space into a guest room. Very serendipitously for us, this is a perfect example of the different sectors of an economy, the very thing our lesson is focusing on today. Being more specific, today we are going to explore what is meant by the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors of an economy.

We'll kick it off with the primary sector. This is pretty easy to remember, since primary often denotes first. The primary sector of the economy actually removes or harvests products directly from the earth in order to extract raw materials or food. In other words, they provide the raw materials which will be used in the production process. Things like mining, farming, hunting, and forestry are all parts of the primary sector.

Using my house project as an example, the guy who grows the trees that are used to make the lumber is part of the primary sector. Other examples of the primary sector are the ranchers who raise the cows that most of us eat rather often, or the guy who mines the coal that will eventually heat some of our homes.

Secondary Sector

Staying on track, we move from the primary sector to the secondary sector. The secondary sector takes raw materials from the primary sector and manufactures them into goods. In other words, the secondary sector is the second step on the path from the earth to the consumer. Some good examples of this are factories that turn raw metal into pipes or food producers who turn grains into yummy pasta.

Again using our contractor friend, the lumber he is using was produced by a secondary sector mill that got their trees from the primary sector.

Tertiary Sector

With this, we come to the last sector we'll be discussing: the tertiary sector. With tertiary denoting third in a sequence or a level, the tertiary sector is the sector which provides the goods and services to businesses and consumers. Some easy and familiar examples of this are retail stores, grocery stores, restaurants, big box stores, and many more.

The tertiary market also includes the service industry, which is generally defined as an industry that does work for a customer but is not involved in manufacturing. Some common examples of this are stylists, technical support specialists, and even those in the health care industry.

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