In the early 2000s, Jordan had an official unemployment rate of about 15%, although the unofficial rate was almost twice that. Poverty and a large foreign debt remain major problems. Less than 5% of the country's land is arable, and farm output is further limited by the small size of most farms, inefficient methods of tilling the soil, and inadequate irrigation. The principal crops are citrus and other fruits and berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, grains, lentils, and olives. Many Jordanians support themselves by raising sheep, goats, and poultry.
Manufactures are largely limited to basic items such as clothing, construction materials, and consumer goods; some pharmaceuticals and inorganic chemicals are also produced. Nearly 50% of the country's industry is based in Amman. Numerous artisans make items of leather, wood, and metal. Phosphate rock, fertilizers, and potash are produced in significant quantities. Oil was discovered in 1982, and a small oil industry that includes petroleum refining has been developed. Tourism also contributes to the economy. During the 1970s and 80s aid from other Arab countries and remittances from Jordanian workers living abroad were important factors in the country's economy. A slowdown in both sources of income in the 1990s and early 2000s, as well as an influx of refugees, particularly Palestinians and Iraqis, has slowed economic progress.
The annual cost of Jordan's imports usually far exceeds its earnings from exports. The principal imports are crude oil, textile fabrics, machinery, transportation equipment, and manufactured goods; the main exports are clothing, pharmaceuticals, potash, phosphates, fertilizers, and agricultural products. Jordan's leading trade partners are the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.