Since the election, Facebook is up 11 percent, Google is up 21 percent, and Apple is up a gobsmacking 34 percent. Perhaps this is even more remarkable, given that tech company employees gave Hillary Clinton 60 times the money they gave to Donald Trump ($3 million to $50,000).
The tech labor force is a tiny fraction of the automotive industry’s.
The other crucial difference is that tech’s leading companies employee far fewer people than Detroit’s Big Three did. This point can be made in the single chart above,  but it’s worth unpacking in three ways.
One, even though the big industrial giants did employ a lot of people, by the 1950s they were already automating away some of the jobs that they’d just created by building huge factories. “Between 1948 and 1967—when the auto industry was at its economic peak—Detroit lost more than 130,000 manufacturing jobs,” the historian Thomas J. Sugrue has written. To me, that’s startling. This was the absolute golden age of manufacturing, yet in the seat of the most important industry, companies were shedding jobs.
Two, the car companies’ employees were far more concentrated in Detroit and the surrounding cities than the tech companies’. Apple only has 25,000 employees in the “Santa Clara Valley.” Google likely has around 20,000 at its home. And let’s call it at around 6,000 Facebook folks in Menlo Park.
Three, the tech companies have many, many, many subcontractors, from content moderators in the Philippines to manufacturing people at Foxconn in China to custodians on their own campuses to bus drivers dragging people up and down from San Francisco. The way modern companies work, they try to keep employees off their own balance sheets unless absolutely necessary, especially lower-wage workers.
The original Big Three were the motive power for a whole region’s economy. By employing so many people at decent wages, they created broad-based prosperity. In Silicon Valley, the wealth that the Big Three create goes to a much smaller slice of the population, building wealth for thousands instead of hundreds of thousands of workers. In 2016, Facebook generated $600,000 of net income per employee.
That is to say, the tech world, for all its disruptions, is a supercharged example of how the American economy as a whole works right now: The skilled and the already rich make huge amounts of money, and everyone else gets the leftovers.