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In Bloomberg magazine, I saw this sentence:

Rust Belt states that have bled manufacturing jobs.

Does it mean they have lost the jobs or gained more jobs?

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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Bleed means to lose something steadily in a way that is dangerous to the life of something, as bleeding is to human life. The example you cite means Rust Belt states have lost jobs. If they lose too many — bleed too many jobs — the Rust Belt is in danger of dying. Which it is.

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It means to drain or to allow fluid (or gas) to escape from a closed system. It does not necessarily mean in a way dangerous or harmful to life. Rather it refers to a long, slow, gradual process of losing something. Auto mechanics bleed air from the brake lines after servicing the breaks. There's nothing bad about that. –  Old Pro May 7 '12 at 2:39
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Just to add to Robusto's answer, to bleed can also be used as a transitive verb:

drain of liquid or steam; "bleed the radiators"; "the mechanic bled the engine"

(Bleeding a radiator (the kind used to heat a house, not the one in a car) is the most common usage that I'm familiar with, and refers to opening a valve in the top of the radiator in order to let out any air that may have entered the system.)

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Note that bleeding can also refer to the out-dated practice of bloodletting. If you read older literature from when bloodletting was accepted, you might read about "bleeding someone" in reference to an attempt to heal them from some malady through bloodletting. In this case, it could be considered positive. I haven't seen "bleeding something" used in a similar sense in older literature, but it's plausible that you could find examples of it.

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