The industrial sector began to grow in the mid-19th century, but Switzerland's emergence as one of the most prosperous nations in Europe, sometimes termed the "Swiss miracle" was a development of the short 20th century, among other things tied to the role of Switzerland during the World Wars.
During World War I, Switzerland suffered an economic crisis. It was marked by a decrease in energy consumption, energy being mostly produced by coal in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. The war tax was introduced. As imports were difficult, attempts were made to strengthen the Swiss economy.
Switzerland's total energy consumption, which was dropping from the mid 1910s to the early 1920s, started increasing during the early 1920s. The same got stagnated during the 1930s before dropping again during the early 1940s before an exponential growth which started in the mid 1940s.
In the 1940s, particularly during World War II the economy profited from the increased export and delivery of weapons to the German Reich, France, Great Britain, and other neighbouring and close countries. However, Switzerland's energy consumption decreased rapidly. The conduct of the banks cooperating with the Nazis, but not exclusively, they also cooperated extensively with the British and French. and the commercial relations with the axis powers during the war became the subject of sharp criticism, resulting in a short period of international isolation of Switzerland from the world. After World War II, Switzerland's production facilities remained to a great extent undamaged which facilitated the country's swift economic resurgence.
In the 1950s, annual GDP growth averaged 5% and Switzerland's energy consumption doubled. Coal lost its rank as Switzerland's primary energy source, as other fossil fuels such as crude and refined oil and natural and refined gas imports increased. This decade also marked the transition from an industrial economy to a service economy. Since then the service sector has been growing faster than the agrarian and industrial sectors.
In the 1960s, annual GDP growth averaged 4% and Switzerland's energy consumption doubled. By the end of the decade oil was Switzerland's primary energy source.
In the 1970s GDP growth rates gradually declined from a peak of 6.5% in 1970 until contracting 7.5% in 1975 and 1976. Switzerland became increasingly dependent on oil imported from its main supplier, the OPEC cartel. The 1973 international oil crisis caused Switzerland's energy consumption to decrease from 1973 to 1977. In 1974 there were three nationwide car-free Sundays when private transport was prohibited as a result of the oil supply shock. From 1977 onwards GDP grew, however Switzerland was also affected by the 1979 energy crisis which resulted in a short term decrease of Switzerland's energy consumption.
In the 1980s, Switzerland was affected by the hike in oil prices which resulted in a decrease of energy consumption until 1982 when the economy contracted by 1.3%. From 1983 on both GDP and energy consumption grew.
In the 1990s, Switzerland's economy was marred by slow growth, having the weakest economic growth in Western Europe. The economy was affected by a 3-year-recession from 1991 to 1993 when the economy contracted by 2%, which also became apparent in Switzerland's energy consumption and export growth rates. Switzerland's economy averaged no appreciable increase (only 0.6% annually) in gross domestic product (GDP).
After having unemployment rates lower than 1% prior to 1990, the 3-year-recession also caused the unemployment rate to rise to its all-time-peak of 5.3% in 1997. And thus, as of 2008, Switzerland is at the second place among European countries with populations above one million in terms of nominal and purchasing power parity Gross Domestic Product per capita, behind Norway (see list). On numerous occasions in the 1990s real wages decreased since nominal wages couldn't keep up with inflation. However, beginning in 1997, a global resurgence in currency movement provided the necessary stimulus to the Swiss economy. It slowly gained momentum and peaked in the year 2000 with 3.7% growth in real terms.