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U N IT E D S T A T E S D E P A R T M E N T O F L A B O R
Frances Perkins, Secretary
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
Isador Lubin, Commissioner (on leave)
A . F. Hinrichs, Acting Commissioner

Absenteeism in Commercial Shipyards
by

ELEANOR V . KENNEDY

Bulletin 7s[o. 734
[R ep rin ted fr o m th e M o n t h ly L ab or R ev iew ,*
F e b r u a r y 1943, w i t h additional data]

UNITED STATES
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1943

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D. C. - Price 5 cents




CONTENTS

P e
ag
Summary______________________________
Scope and method of study__________
Difficulties in measuring absenteeism
Absenteeism in 1918__________________
Absenteeism in 1942__________________
Causes of absenteeism________________
Methods of reducing absenteeism____________________________________________

13

LETTER OF TRAN SM ITTAL

U nited States D epartment of L abor,
B ureau of L abor Statistics,

Washington, D. C.} February 20, 1943.
The Secretary of L abor:
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on absenteeism in
commercial shipyards. This report was prepared in the Division of
Construction and Public Employment, Herman B. Byer, Chief.
A. F. H inrichs, Acting Commissioner.
Hon. F rances P erkins,
Secretary of Labor.
ii




Bulletin l^o. 734 o f the
U nited States Bureau o f Labor Statistics
{Reprinted from the M onthly L abor R eview , February 1943, with additional data]

ABSENTEEISM IN COMMERCIAL SHIPYARDS, 1942
By E leanor V. K ennedy , Bureau o f Labor Statistics

Sum m ary

ABSENTEEISM in commercial shipyards fluctuated around 7 or 8
percent from April through October 1942. In 81 yards which re­
ported throughout this period, absenteeism rose irregularly from 6.7
percent in April to 7.8 percent in October. In these yards in the
midweek of October the time thus lost was equivalent to 4 hours dur­
ing the week for each wage earner on the pay roll.
Absenteeism is the failure of workers to report on the job when
they are scheduled to work. It is a broad term which is applied to
time lost because sickness or accident prevent a worker from being
on the job, as well as to unauthorized time away from the job for other
reasons. Workers who quit without notice are also counted as absen­
tees until they are officially removed from the pay roll. Although
absenteeism is a continuing problem of industry, it is only in periods
when manpower is at a premium and maximum production is a national
necessity that absenteeism becomes a matter of grave concern.
In yards along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts absenteeism
rates were higher than in yards in the Great Lakes and Inland areas.
The rates varied widely from one yard to another, ranging from less
than 2 percent to over 20 percent of working time. Wide month-tomonth variations in the same yard were also reported. A few days of
bad weather were frequently responsible for unusually high absentee­
ism in a yard.
In general, large yards had higher rates of absenteeism than small
yards. This fact may explain some of the differences between areas,
as the largest yards are all on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts.
Company officials regarded poor housing and transportation facili­
ties and the necessity of recruiting inexperienced workers, many of
whom quit without giving notice, as the major causes of absenteeism.
They were practically unanimous in stating that absenteeism was
highest on week ends.
Scope and M ethod o f Study

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, acting as agent for the War Pro­
duction Board, collects monthly reports of operations from ship­
building and ship-repair companies in the United States. Since April




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1942, companies engaged in the construction of new vessels have been
requested to report the amount of time lost by wage earners because
of absenteeism. The yards from which these monthly reports are
received employ almost 90 percent of all wage earners engaged on new
construction in commercial yards. Because of the irregular working
schedules in ship-repair yards, absenteeism data are not collected from
companies engaged primarily in repair work.
Absenteeism is measured by the full man-days on which persons
scheduled to work fail to appear. Tardiness, or fraction-of-day
absences, vacations, authorized days off, and lay-offs are not included.
The number of absentees is compiled from daily attendance records
and is multiplied by the scheduled working hours to get total man­
hours lost from absenteeism.
Rates of absenteeism may be computed in a variety of ways.
Unless otherwise noted, the rates given in this article represent the
ratio of man-hours lost to man-hours worked plus man-hours lost by
wage earners during the midweek of the month.1
In addition to collecting the monthly reports on absenteeism, in
July 1942 the Bureau of Labor Statistics made a special inquiry of
the causes of absenteeism in 20 selected shipyards which had reported
absenteeism rates of 6 percent or more. The 4 largest shipbuilding
zones were represented in the sample, and the particular yards were
selected because their operations were considered representative.
Each yard was asked to submit daily records of absenteeism over a
2-week period, and company officials were requested to state what
they considered the major causes of absenteeism.
Difficulties in M easuring Absenteeism

Some absenteeism is accepted as a normal factor in industrial opera­
tions. However, only sporadic studies of the extent of absenteeism
have been made and there are no regularly compiled statistical series
(such as have long been available on employment, earnings, indus­
trial accidents, and labor turn-over) to trace the changes in the
amount of absenteeism over a period of years and to evaluate differ­
ences among industries. Also, because no standardized procedure has
been established either for collecting the basic statistical data or for
computing absenteeism rates, it is difficult to compare the results of
such studies as have been made.
Few companies keep detailed records of absenteeism or require
workers to explain their absences. An additional complication is the
fact that practice varies in individual companies on such points as the
length of time during which a worker who fails to appear is carried as
an absentee before he is regarded as a “ quit.” Some companies
count such workers as absentees for as long as a month, whereas others
remove their names from the pay roll after 2 or 3 days. Moreover,
policies regarding the granting of vacations and authorizing time off,
which undoubtedly have some bearing on the amount of unauthorized
leave which employees take, vary from company to company as well
as from time to time within the same company.
1 Other methods of computing absenteeism commonly used are: (a) Ratio of man-hours lost to man-hours
actually worked; (b) average time lost per employee; and (c) ratio of number of absentees to the total num­
ber on the pay roll. (In the last method of computation, the average daily attendance for the week is
expressed as a percentage of the total number on the pay roll; the difference between this ratio of average
daily attendance and 100 percent is the percent of absenteeism for the week.)




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1942

It is difficult, therefore, to determine the irreducible minimum of
absenteeism occasioned by sickness and accidents and similar causes
beyond the control of either management or labor, and that which is
due to irresponsibility among the 'workers, or to managerial or govern­
mental policies which lower worker morale.
Absenteeism in 1918

What was probably one of the most thorough early studies of ab­
senteeism also dealt with the shipbuilding industry. During the first
World War the Emergency Fleet Corporation made a survey of ab­
senteeism in 90 shipyards, for which continuous weekly records were
available from January to September 1918, inclusive. These yards
employed 320,000 workers in September 1918.
The results of that survey, which are summarized in table 1, show
that, during the 9-month period, on the average almost 18 percent of
the workers in steel-ship yards were absent daily. The monthly rates
varied from 26 percent in January to 13 percent in June. Absentee­
ism was lower in yards building wooden ships than in those building
steel ships; the 9-month average for wooden-ship yards was about 13
percent. For both wooden-ship and steel-ship yards there was wide
variation in the extent of absenteeism in different shipbuilding dis­
tricts. Absenteeism was highest in yards in the Northern Atlantic
States and lowest in those on the Pacific Coast. This fact, together
with the observation that absenteeism was greater in the winter than
in the spring and summer months, led to the conclusion at that time
that climatic reasons were a large factor in absenteeism in shipbuilding.2
T a b le 1.— Absenteeism Am ong A ll Em ployees o f 90 Shipbuilding Companies, Janu arySeptember 1918 1
Wooden-ship yards

Steel-ship yards

District

All districts
Atlantic________ _____ ___
Delaware River............. .......
Middle Atlantic...................
Southern__________________
Gulf.......................................
Great Lakes______________
North Pacific_____________
No. IT2..................................
Smith Paeifin
Fabricated 3
..................... .....

absentees as a percent
Num­ Daily of all employees
ber
of
yards
First Second Third
re­
9
port­ months quar­ quar­ quar­
ing
ter
ter
ter

Num­
ber

Daily absentees as a percent
of all employees

Af
01

yards
First Second Third
re­
9
port­ months quar­ quar­ quar­
ing
ter
ter
ter

48

17.8

22.3

16.0

16.5

42

13.2

14.7

12.1

7
6

31.0
20.9
28.7
12.7

23.0
14.6
20.7
16.6

19.6
16.4
22.7
13.8

12

15.1

20.0

13.7

14.5

2
4

23.7
16.9
23.5
14.5

14
8

15.8
12.4

20.1
9.9

14.4
11.3

14.6
15.3

4
3

10.7
21.6

11.3
30.2

9.3
18.5

11.6
18.0

2
4
5
1
6
7
5

21.3
19.1
19.4
11.4
8.4
8.4
8.0

25.7
19.4
20.5
17.5
10.1
8.9
11.1

21.4
17.4
16.9
10.8
7.7
8.1
7.4

20.0
20.3
21.2
.8
8.2
8.5
6.6

13.4

1 From Journal of Political Economy, May 1919, p. 387.
2Includes all wooden-ship yards in Oregon and on Columbia River, except those of Coos Bay.
s Includes yards where parts fabricated in other plants are assembled.

The 1918 survey was made when the shipbuilding industry was ex­
periencing a wartime expansion similar to that at the present time,
and absenteeism was considered extremely high. Unfortunately, it
2 For a more complete discussion, see Journal of Political Economy, May 1919 (pp. 362-396): Labor
Administration in the Shipbuilding Industry During War Time, by P. H . Douglas and F. E . Wolfe.




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is impossible to make direct comparisons of absenteeism rates in 1918
and 1942, because of basic differences in the coverage of the data and
the methods of computing the rates. The 1918 study was based on
continuous weekly records for all employees, while current reports are
for the midweek of the month and cover wage earners only. The
1918 rates were computed on the basis of the percent that the average
daily absentees were of the total employees on the pay roll, whereas
the 1942 rates were computed on the basis of man-hours lost in
relation to man-hours worked plus man-hours lost.
Absenteeism in 1942

Absenteeism in shipyards fluctuated around 7 or 8 percent during
the 7 months from April through October 1942. Shipyard employ­
ment expanded rapidly during this period, and with this expansion
there was some tendency for absenteeism to increase. Time lost from
absenteeism in 81 identical shipyards which reported each month rose
irregularly from 6.7 percent in April to 7.8 percent in October
VARIATIONS AMONG SHIPBUILDING ZONES

Absenteeism was more prevalent among workers in yards on the
Atlantic and Gulf Coasts than in the other shipbuilding zones shown in
table 2. Throughout the 7-month period the Atlantic Coast rates were
above the rates for all zones combined. Absenteeism fluctuated more
from month to month in Gulf Coast yards than in any other area, and
in some months rates for the Gulf area exceeded those for Atlantic
Coast yards. Yards in the Great Lakes zone consistently reported the
lowest rates, ranging between 3.1 percent in August and 4.2 percent
in April. Absenteeism rates in the Inland yards were somewhat higher
than in the Great Lakes area, but well below those in the other 3 zones.
Throughout the summer, absenteeism rose in yards on the Pacific
Coast, and in October this area had almost as high a rate as the Atlantic
Coast yards.
T a b l e 2. — Absenteeism in 81 Identical Commercial Shipyards,1 by Shipbuilding Zone,1
April-O ctober 1942
Man-hours lost as a percent of man­
hours worked plus man-hours lost
Month
All
zones

April................
M ay.................
June.................
July.................
August............
September___
October...........

6.7
6.6
7.2
7.3
7.4
7.4
7.8

Atlan­ Gulf Pacific Great
tic
Coast Coast Lakes
Coast

In­
land

4.2
3.7
3.3
3.4
3.1
3.4
3.5

4.4
3.7
4.2
4.7
4.0
4.6
5.6

7.8
7.7
7.6
8.2
8.7
8.2
8.0

6.6
7.3
8.3
6.7
5.4
6.7
8.9

6.7
4.9.
6.8
6.8
7.3
7.3
7.7

Man-hours lost per week per wage earner
on pay roll
Atlan­
All
Gulf Pacific Great
tic
zones Coast Coast Coast Lakes
3.4
3.3
3.8
3.8
3.8
3.8
4.0

4.2
4.1
4.1
4.4
4.6
4.4
4.2

3.7
4.1
4.5
3.7
2.9
3.5
4.9

2.7
2.4
3.4
3.3
3.5
3.5
3.7

2.1
1.8
1.7
1.7
1.6
1.7
1.8

In­
land

2.6
2.2
2. 5
2.8
2.4
2.6
3.2

1 These 81 shipyards employed 60 percent of the total number of wage earners in commercial shipyards
engaged in new construction in April. Although employment increased in the 81 yards from April to Octo­
ber, they had only 63 percent of all wage earners in October.
2 The Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coast and Great Lakes zones arc those recognized by the Shipbuilding
Stabilization Committee; the Inland zone is the Ohio-Mississippi Valley area.

The average time lost from absenteeism amounted to 4 hours per
week for each wage earner on the pay roll in the midweek of October.
In the Great Lakes yards the time lost averaged less than 2 hours per
week, but in Gulf Coast yards it was almost 5 hours.




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1942

The shipbuilding zones with the highest absenteeism rates included
by far the largest share of shipyard workers. In October almost 42
percent of all wage earners in commercial yards engaged in new con­
struction were working in yards situated on the Atlantic Coast, 37
percent were in Pacific Coast yards, and 15 percent were in Gulf Coast
yards. Thus, nearly 94 percent of the wage earners were in areas
where absenteeism averaged at least 7.7 percent in October. Yards
in the Great Lakes area had less than 5 percent of the workers and
Inland yards less thaii 2 percent.
VARIATIONS AMONG YARDS

Opinion varies as to where to draw the line between absenteeism
which must be expected as a “ normal” part of industrial operations
and that caused by situations which, theoretically at least, could be
remedied. However, the wide variation in the absenteeism rates of
individual shipyards, shown in table 3, leads to the conclusion that
in some yards absenteeism far exceeds that which can be .explained
by sickness and accidents auc! a moderate amount of time off for other
reasons. In April, 57 of the 81 yards for which absenteeism records
were available each month reported that man-hours lost from absen­
teeism were less than 6 percent. These 57 yards employed 47 percent
of the wage earners in the 81 reporting yards. More than half of the
wage earners in the 81 yards worked in yards where absenteeism was
equal to 4 to 8 percent in April. If 8 percent is arbitrarily set as the
maximum amount of absenteeism which can be regarded as “ normal”
in shipyards, it would appear that excessive absenteeism occurred in
yards with almost 25 percent of the wage earners in April.
T ab le 3.— Distribution o f 81 Identical Commercial Shipyards According to Absentee•
ism Rates 1 in A p ril and October 1942
April 1942
Absenteeism rate
Number
of yards

October 1942

Percent of
total wage
earners in
81 yards

Number
of yards

Percent of
total wage
earners in
81 yards

Total____ ____________________________________________

81

100.0

81

100.0

0.1 and under 2 percent.........................................................
2 and under 4 percent............. ....................... ....................
4 and under 6 percent........ ............. __................... ..............
6 and under 8 percent.......................................................... _
8 and under 10 percent...... ....................... .........................
10 and under 12 percent........................................................
12 and under 14 percent........................................................
14 and under 16 percent._____ _______ ________________
16 and under 18 percent.......................................................
18 percent and over___________________________________

17
25
15
13
4
4
2
0
1
0

9.2
13.0
25.0
28.2
8.6
7.9
1.6
0
6.5
0

13
19
16
13
8
5
3
2
1
*1

7.7
6.0
19.8
23.1
11.2
19.2
7.0
5.0
.9
.1

1 Ratio of man-hours lost to man-hours worked plus man-hours lost.
2Absenteeism rate between 20 and 30 percent.

By October, employment in these same 81 yards had increased 50
percent, and the number of yards reporting absenteeism rates of 8
percent or more had grown. Less than 34 percent of the wage earners
in October worked in yards where absenteeism was under 6 percent,
while more than 43 percent were in yards where the rate was 8 percent
or more.
Absenteeism appeared to be more of a problem in large shipyards
than in small ones. Although the figures in table 4 show that some




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yards with fewer than 500 wage earners in October reported absen­
teeism of 8 percent or more, in three-fourths of these yards absenteeism
was below 6 percent. In a few yards with 5,000 or more wage earners
absenteeism was kept below' 6 percent, but almost half of these large
yards reported rates of 8 percent or more.
Table 4 throws some light on the differences in the extent of absen­
teeism in various shipbuilding zones which were observed earlier.
Practically all of the yards in the Great Lakes and Inland zones,
where absenteeism was lowest, had fewer than 5,000 wage earners
each. As a matter of fact, employment in over half of the yards in
these 2 zones was below 500 each in October. In practically 9 out of
10 yards in these areas absenteeism was kept below 8 percent.
T ab le 4.— Distribution o f A ll Commercial Shipyards Reporting in October 1942 , Accord­
ing to Absenteeism Rates 1 and Size and Location of Yards
Number of yards distributed according to number of wage
earners
Zone and absenteeism rate
All
yards

Less
than
500

500 and 1,000
and
under under
1,000
5,000

5.000
and
under
10.000

10,000
and
under
20,00

20,000
and
over

All zones................................................................
0.1 and under 2 percent...............................
2 and under 4 percent...................................
4 and under 6 percent..................................
6 and under 8 percent...................................
8 and under 10 percent.................................
10 and under 12 percent...............................
12 and under 14 percent..............................
14 percent and over.......... ............................

206
41
51
47
29
18
8
4
8

102
28
27
22
16
5
2
0
2

32
6
11
8
2
3
0
0
2

35
5
10
9
5
3
1
0
2

13
1
2
2
2
3
0
2
1

12
0
0
4
3
1
2
1
1

12
1
1
2
1
3
3
1
0

Atlantic. Gulf, and Pacific zones......................
0.1 and under 2 percent...............................
2 and under 4 percent - .................................
4 and under 6 percent..................................
6 and under 8 percent-................................
8 and under 10 percent.................................
10 and under 12 percent.............................
12 and under 14 percent...............................
14 percent and over. ....................................

157
33
34
33
23
16
7
4
7

75
21
20
15
12
4
1
0
2

20
6
6
5
0
2
0
0
1

26
4
6
5
5
3
1
0
2

12
1
1
2
2
3
0
2
1

12
0
0
4
3
1
2
1
1

12
1
1
2
1
3
3
1
0

Great Lakes and Inland zones...........................
0.1 and under 2 percent................................
2 and under 4 percent...................................
4 and under 6 percent...................................
6 and under 8 percent........... ......................
8 and under 10 percent............... .................
10 and under 12 percent...............................
12 and under 14 percent..............................
14 percent and over...... ................................

49
8
17
14
6
2
1
0
1

27
7
7
7
4
1
1
0
0

12
0
5
3
2
1
. 0
0
1

9
1
4
4
0
0
0
0
0

1
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

i Ratio of man-hours lost to man-hours worked plus man-hours lost.

All the very large shipyards, i. e., those with more than 10,000
wage earners each in October, were on the Atlantic, Pacific, or Gulf
Coasts. Half of these large yards reported that absenteeism was at
least 8 percent in October. Similarly high absenteeism occurred in
half of the yards with 5,000 to 10,000 wage earners in these 3 zones.
However, the small yards in these areas reported absenteeism rates
which compared very favorably with those reported by similar yards
in the Great Lakes and Inland zones. Almost 9 of every 10 yards
with fewer than 500 wage earners in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf
yards reported absenteeism rates of less than 8 percent in October,
as w as the case in the other 2 zones.
T
These differences between large and small yards in the same areas
lend some weight to two of the explanations frequently given for the




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current high absenteeism—inadequate housing and transportation.
Although these two factors constitute problems in all localities where
shipbuilding employment has expanded rapidly, it is probably true
that the problems of overcrowding and poor transportation increase
disproportionately with the expansion of large yards as compared
with expansion of smaller ones. It is also probable that in the smaller
yards closer contacts can be maintained between management and
workers, as well as between individual workers, than is possible in
yards with 20,000 or 30,000 workers.
Causes o f Absenteeism

Fourteen of the 20 yards from which the Bureau obtained informa­
tion through its special survey of the causes of absenteeism furnished
daily records of the amount of absenteeism for 2 weeks during July
(see table 5), but the remaining information obtained through this
survey consisted of opinions of company officials.
In most cases a general tendency was observed for absenteeism to
rise over the week end. Absences on Saturday and Monday accounted
for about 40 percent of the man-hours lost throughout the week.
Several explanations of this attendance pattern were offered. Friday
is pay day in many yards. Many workers whose homes were quite
distant visited their families over the week end and frequently did
not return until Tuesday. Others took Monday off to rest up from
week-end activities. In yards scheduling Sunday work regularly,
absenteeism was usually greatest on Sunday.3
T able 5.— D a ily Record o f Absenteeism in 14 Selected Shipyards. J u ly 6 - J u ly 1 8 ,1 9 4 2
July 6-July 11
Man-days
lost as
percent of
man-days
worked
plus mandays lost

Period

M o n r l a v th r o u g h S a t u r d a y

July 13-July 18

_

______

.. ..... _____

Monday__________________ ___________________________
Tuesday............................................................................ .......
Wednesday............. .................................... ..........................
Thursday...............................................................................
Friday................................... .......................................... .
Saturday................................................................................

Percent
of total
man-days
lost each
day

Man-days
lost as
percent of
man-days
worked
plus mandays lost

8.3

100.0

8.2

100.0

10.2
8.3
7.7
7.0
7.2
9.4

20.2
16.6
15.5
14.1
14.7
18.9

9.8
8.1
7.7
7.1
7.3
9.4

19.6
16.4
15.7
14.5
14.8
19.0

Percent
of total
man-days
lost each
day

The other reasons offered by company officials for the high absentee­
ism in their yards are summarized in table 6. Most of them felt that
absenteeism resulted from a combination of factors. In specific areas
inadequate housing and transportation facilities were decidedly the
most important causes of absenteeism. High on the list of other rea­
sons was the large number of workers quitting without notice, which
was associated with the increasing number of inexperienced workers
being hired.
3 In one yard with 14.5 percent absenteeism, almost a third of the absenteeism occurs on Sunday,
which is the seventh day of work in this yard. All workers in some departments are offered an oppor­
tunity to report for work on Sunday, although it is understood that many of them will not report.
Those who do not report in these departments are counted as absent.
514425—43------2




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T able 6.— Causes of Absenteeism in Selected Commercial Shipyards

Zone and yard

Atlantic Coast:
I-A ......... ...............
I-B______________
I-C......... — ..........
I-D ___________
I - E ........... ............
I-F.........................
I-G____ _________
I-H_____________
I-J......................
Gulf Coast:
II-A ...... ..............
II-B......................
I I -C .....................
II-D
........... —
Pacific Coast:
I I I -A ...... .............
III-B
.................
I I I -C ............... —
III-D ................
I I I -E ...... ..............
I I I - F ___________
Great Lakes: I V -A ...

Quits
Sick­
Week­ with­
Inex­
Other
Cli­
Trans­ High Long ness
end
work
out Hous­ porta­ earn­ hours and (farms, mate peri­
ab­
ing
or
enced
no­
tion
ings
acci­
sences tice
etc.) weather labor
dents

X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X

Unex­
plained
or
miscel­
laneous

X
X
X*
X
X
X
X

X

X

X
X
X
X

X
X
X
X

X
X

X

X

X

" x ""

X

X
X

X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X

X
X

X
X
X

X

X
X
X

X
X

X

X

X

X
X
X

X

X
!

X

HOUSING AND TRANSPORTATION

Lack of housing accommodations was undoubtedly the principal
cause of absenteeism in many yards, particularly in the Gulf and
Pacific areas. The tendency of "workers to take time off for week­
end visits to their families has already been mentioned. In some
areas workers bringing their families with them were forced to live
in trailer or tent camps without adequate facilities for water supply
and sewage disposal, and being accustomed to and able to pay for
decent housing, took time off to look for better accommodations or,
in extreme cases, quit their jobs because housing conditions were
intolerable.
Shortage of housing facilities has caused many workers to commute
as much as 50 to 150 miles (round trip) daily. Rationing of tires and
gasoline have resulted in w orked forming car pools, and a blow-out
or engine trouble may keep 5 or 6 workers away from work. As pre­
viously stated, absenteeism in this report does not include fraction-ofday absences. If time lost because of tardiness vrere included, trans­
portation would be a still more important factor, because automobile
trouble and congested traffic make many workers tardy. Some
workers traveling long distances prefer to work fewer days and make
less money than to make the long trip to and from work every day.
Although both publicly and privately financed war housing has
been built in shipbuilding centers, in many areas the supply of housing
has failed to keep pace with the increase in employment. Since the
natural requirements for launching large vessels limit the number of
possible locations for certain types of yards, many of the proposals
for placing war industries where labor and housing are already avail­
able are not applicable to the shipbuilding industry. Moreover,
shortages of critical materials preclude any large-scale building of
new ways.




A B S E N T E E IS M

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1942

9

QUITS WITHOUT NOTICE AND INEXPERIENCED WORKERS

A large percentage of absenteeism resulted from carrying on the
pay roll persons who had quit work without giving notice to the
company. Such workers are counted as absentees for varying
periods (in some yards for as long as a month) until their names are
removed from the pay roll. Detailed records of one shipyard, employ­
ing more than 2,500 workers and reporting an absenteeism rate of
9 percent, illustrate the effect of unreported quits in absenteeism rates.
Approximately one-fifth of this company’s absenteeism was caused
by keeping on the pay roll persons who were probable terminations.
Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reports on labor turn-over in the ship­
building industry show that quits rose from 4.29 per 100 workers
in April 1942 to 5.39 per 100 workers in October. This was in addi­
tion to discharges, military separations, and lay-offs. Shipbuilding
officials attribute a large share of the quits to the necessity of hiring
inexperienced workers who are recruited from a wide variety of
occupations. Many workers after a few days find they cannot do
the work or cannot stand the grind, take time off to look for another
job, and do not return. One large shipbuilding company on the
Atlantic Coast submitted reports showing that of over 500 workers
who had quit in the first half of November, almost half had been
employed no longer than a month. Nearly seven-eighths of those
quitting had been employed by this company 6 months or less.
Many workers after being trained believe they can obtain better
wages elsewhere, take time off to seek other employment, and then
leave permanently. In some localities shipyards were\ hiring each
other’s workers. A survey of workers hired by representative ship­
yards on the west coast during June 1942 showed that 14 percent of
the new persons hired had come from other shipyards. However,
about a third of the workers reported as recruited from other ship­
yards were, in reality, employees shifted between two yards operated
by the same company, and were doubtless transferred by an arrange­
ment of the management.4
HIGH EARNINGS AND LONG HOURS

Officials of 4 companies attributed absenteeism to high earnings in
combination with other causes, and an official of a fifth company men­
tioned high earnings alone. Frequently workers who were separated
from their families preferred a visit home to more money. However,
many of these workers probably would not have taken jobs away from
home in the first place had it not been for the inducement of high
wages and the prospects which they afforded of visits to the families.
Company officials also felt that some workers were interested merely in
making a living and would work only until they made enough to
satisfy their wants. During the first World War “ wage income higher
than the standard of living” was also advanced as a cause of absentee­
ism in certain sections of the shipbuilding industry.5
Comparison of average weekly earnings and absenteeism rates for
the 20 companies does not show any consistent relation between
changes in earnings and changes in absenteeism. In fact, the absentee­
ism records of individual companies show chiefly that absenteeism*
•
4 Monthly Labor Review, November 1942 (p. 926): Sources of Labor Supply in West Coast Shipyards
and Aircraft Parts Plants.
• Political Science Quarterly, December 1919 (p. 603): Absenteeism in Labor, by Paul H. Douglas.




10

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1942

rates change so erratically from month to month that in all yards the
explanation must lie in a variety of factors. In one Atlantic Coast
yard absenteeism rose from 2 percent in April to over 9 percent in
August and declined slightly in the following 2 months. In another
Atlantic Coast yard absenteeism dropped from 11.3 percent in April
to 8.0 in June, but rose to 14.4 in October. In a Pacific yard where
employment was more than doubled from April to October, but where
average weekly hours and average weekly earnings were about the
same in both months, absenteeism rose from 0.8 percent in April to
10.0 percent in October. In other yards absenteeism remained be­
tween 3 and 7 percent throughout the 7-month period. On the other
hand, in a large yard on the Atlantic Coast absenteeism was consistently
high, but whereas employment increased 50 percent, absenteeism was
reduced from 16.0 percent in April to 11.9 percent in October. This
yard also reduced average weekly hours from 54.5 to 49.9 per week
over the 7 months.
The two Gulf yards which mentioned long hours, along with other
causes, as the explanation for high absenteeism reported average
weekly hours of 52.8 and 53.6 in July, w hen the average for all ship­
T
yard workers was 48.3. Scheduled workweeks in these yards were
54 and 58 hours, respectively.
T a ble 7.— Em ploym ent, H ours, Earnings, Absenteeism , and Quit Rates in Selected
Commercial Shipyards, April-O ctober 1942

Zone, shipyard, number of wage earners,1 and month

Employ­
ment
index
(April=
100)

Average
weekly
hours

100.0
101.4
102.6
103.0
100.5
103.6
108.6

47.1
47.2
47.6
47.9
47.7
47.7
48.2

$49.19
49.24
50.08
55.03
55.85
58.77
55.28

5.3
5.4
4.3
6.1
6.9
6.8
4.5

3.03
2.39
2.45
2.26
3.72
5.93
3.95

100.0
117.4
139.4
146.5
164.8
197.6
234.8

54.3
56.4
55.8
52.3
56.3
55.2
55.9

53.39
58.92
51.36
51.45
59.63
60.05
58.39

5.7
8.8
10.4
10.5
10.4
9.3
10.6

5.54
6.99
6.02
6.77
6.47
5.73
5.20

100.0
104.3
108.4
112.3
116.1
116.8
114.2

46.5
48.0
49.6
51.2
50.2
51.1
48.2

43.90
45.29
47.91
50.18
53.36
58.10
53.74

10.2
(2
)
8.2
9.7
10.6
9.6
10.7

3.37
4.17
4.68
3.23
6.67
6.25
4.59

100.0
113.3
125.2
139.7
153.7
156.7
146.8

54.5
52.7
53.4
48.0
47.2
49.7
49.9

57.88
55.84
57.23
58.04
(2
)
63.85
61.39

16.0
15.0
14.6
13.0
13.2
13.9
11.9

5.69
8.82
11.93
5.68
8.19
9.07
6.55

100.0
117.2
125.6
124.1
133.4
133.0
148.6

46.0
42.7
44.7
45.7
43.7
46.3
48.8

49.40
44.97
46.65
52.82
50.97
56.72
59.66

7.6
8.1
8.5
9.3
6.5

2.35
2.32

Average Percent of Quit rate
(per 100
weekly
absen­
wage
teeism
earnings
earners)

Atlantic Coast
Shipyard I-A (20,000-25,000 wage earners):
April............................................. ...............................
M ay..............................................................................
June................ ............................... ................... ..........
July...............................................................................
August........... .............................................................
September........................ . ........................................
October____________ _____ _____ . . . ____________
Shipyard I-B (under 5,000 wage earners):
April............................................................................
M ay..............................................................................
June..............................................................................
July..............................................................................
August-........................................................................
September....................................................................
October_____________________________ __________
Shipyard I-C (25,000-30,000 wage earners):
April.................... .......................................................
May..............................................................................
June...............................................................................
J u ly .............................................................................
August..........................................................................
September..................................................................
October____________________ _______ ___________
Shipyard I-D (30,000-35,000 wage earners):
April.................... ........ ...............................................
M ay...............................................................................
June...............................................................................
July...............................................................................
August........................................................................
September..................................................................
October.......... ............ .................................................
Shipyard I-E (under 5,000 wage earners):
April.............................................................................
M ay..............................................................................
June...............................................................................
July...............................................................................
August.........................................................................
September....................................................................
October.........................................................................

See footnotes at end of table.




7.7

7.4

2.22
2.10
(*)

5.85
6.79

A B S E N T E E IS M

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11

1942

T able 7.— Em ploym ent, H ours, Earnings, Absenteeism , and
Rates in Selected
Commercial Shipyards, April-O ctober 1942 — Continued

Zone, shipyard, number of wage earners,1 and month

Atlantic Coast—Continued
Shipyard I-F (10,000-15,000 wage earners):
April
_______________________________________
May
________ ____________________________
June _________________________________________
J u ly ...................................................... ......................
August ______________________________________
September _
______________________________
October
________ ________ ___________________
Shipyard I-G (25,000-30,000 wage earners):
May

_________________________________________

J u ly ..............................................................................
August___________ ____________________________
September_____________________________________
October
________ ___________________________
Shipyard I-H (15,000-20,000 wage earners):
M ay __________________________________________
June . ________________________________________
J u ly __________________________________________
September
_________________________________
October
______ _______ ______________________
Shipyard I-J (25,000-30,000 wage earners):
June__________________________________________
J u ly ___________________________________________
A ugust
.., • ,,... .
September____—_______________________________
October
____________________ - ____ ___ _____
Gulf Coast
Shipyard II-A (5,000-10,000 wage earners):
April_____________________________■
______ _ __
_ _
May _______________ ________________ _______
June_____—___________________ ________________
J u ly ____ ______________________________________
August___ . . . . . . . . . . . . _________________________
September________________________________- ___
October
_____________________________ ____ . . .
Shipyard II-B (10,000-15,000 wage earners):
April
________________________________________
M ay . . . . . . . . _____ _____________________ _____
June
. . . . ________ _______ _____________ ____
July
________________________________________
August________ ___ _ _________________________
_
September
_________________________________
October
_____________________________ __ __
_ _
Shipyard II-C (10,000-15,000 wage earners):
April__________________________________________
May . . . . . __ - ___ - ___________________________
June
__ — _. . . . . ____ ______________________
July ..............................................................................
August
_- _________ - ________________________
September
______________________________ __
_
October
__________________________________ - _
Shipyard 11-D (10,000-15,000 wage earners):
April........................................................ - ...................
May __________________________________________
June . . . . . . . . . _______________________________
July _____ . . . . _. . . _. . . . . . . _________________
August
......
_
September . . . ________________________ . . . . . ___
October
__________________________ — ____
Pacific Coast
Shipyard III-A (20,000-25,000 wage earners):
April
,
May ___ . . . . . . . . . . . . . __________ ____________
June
__ __ . . . ___ _____ ______ . . . _. . . ________
_
J u ly _________ . . . . . . _____ ______ ___ _____ . . . __ - _____________
A llgUSt
t r- . r
- ppptetnbftr
October...................................................................- ........................................

See footnotes at end of table.




Employ­
ment
index
(April =
100)

Average
weekly
hours

100.0
116.2
137.9
152.8
175.9
183.3
192.8

48.8
50.6
49.2
52.5
50.4
48.3
53.8

$52.81
53.18
54.69
64.95
61.36
59.95
64.75

6.9
9.3
6.5
7.4
8.1
9.2
6.7

100.0
108.2
122.3
132.5
138.8
143.3
154.1

49.9
48.9
49.3
49.6
47.3
48.7
45.2

$58.92
57.97
57.38
62.97
57.55
64.50
55.87

2.0
4.1
4.5
7.1
9.4
7.7
8.5

100.0
107.1
120.4
137.5
150.2
156.4
174.6

48.0
50.8
51.7
49.8
46.6
49.0
45.4

39.86
43.73
45.01
(3
)
46.49
52.80
45.45

11.3
9.8
8.0
8.8
10.1
8.8
14.4

100.0
110.2
116.6
125.1
141.7
152.7
155.5

47.7
49.8
48.6
50.0
48.8
49.5
46.5

56.62
60.35
60.60
66.41
64.47
66.87
60.58

5.4
4.2
5.2
8.0
7.8
5.6
5.7

100.0
114.2
135.2
144.7
170.1
178.9
186.9

49.2
50.6
51.8
52.8
52.7
49.9
48.2

43.70
44.14
44.89
47.61
52.41
49.91
47.89

8.8
6.4
6.1
8.3
7.8
10.4
13.0

100.0
107.5
112.7
109.8
117.8
117.7
127.1

53.5
51.4
51.8
53.6
57.5
44.7
45.1

51.21
47.17
51.59
53.53
58.79
49.34
44.36

6.8
10.4
9.8
6.8
4.7
5.8
8.2

8.54
14.22
10.65
11.93
20.98
25.05
24.04

100.0
123.0
161.2
166.2
201.9
179.2
187.1

47.9
45.2
44.6
45.4
41.6
50.0
49.9

48.07
47.30
46.27
47.89
50.57
58.97
63.76

3.9
4.9
5.8
6.6
3.9
4.5
4.9

7.58
3.59
7.25
5.04
5.22
4.74
3.86

100.0
123.9
141.4
160.4
177.5
187.1
197.0

56.1
58.4
53.3
56.1
56.9
57.0
57.3

$58.35
61.00
56.08
58.77
66.12
70.42
67.53

7.7
7.1
10.0
7.0
6.4
5.5
7.3

1.62
1.83
1.30
1.80
1.45
1.81
1.65

100.0
118.0
132.8
147.2
161.6
165.0
162.7

43.0
42.8
42.4
41.6
40.0
41.8
41.8

51.56
52.03
51.90
50.44
46.00

10.0
6.8
10.0
8.6
8.7
8.3
12.0

Quit rate
Average Percent of (per 100
weekly
absen­
wage
teeism
earnings
earners)

0

56.67

1.89
2.39
2.39
1.73
2.34
2.50
2.23
1.86
0

2.50
1.55
2.67
3.56
2.92
2.92
2.81
3.23

0

3.71
4.95
3.89
1.40
1.04
1.10
1.10
1.45

0
0

6.14
.72
3.72
6.15
8.74
9.58
0

0

11.97
12.42
12.67
12.14
13.08
9.19

12

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1942

T able 7.— Em ploym ent, H ours, Earnings, Absenteeism , and Quit Rates in Selected
Commercial Shipyards, April-O ctober 1942 — Continued

Zone, shipyard, number of wage earners,1 and month

Employ­
ment
index
(April=
100)

Average
weekly
hours

100.0
126.0
134.3
164.6
193.9
204.4
212.6

42.6
43.0
42.7
42.4
43.5
43.6
43.6

$50.16
50.79
51.66
51.46
57.00
60.77
56.82

6.2
7.7
10.7
11.7
11.7
8.9
11.2

(2
)
8.93
10.65
9.31
10.19
(2
)
6.26

100.0
114.2
127.5
136.6
148.6
157.0
154.0

41.8
43.1
47.4
44.9
45.0
44.6
44.9

51.18
51.63
55. 45
55.10
60.06
63.73
60. 52

8.2
6.9
6.1
7.3
5.6
5.3
(2
)

13.39
11.42
7.94
6.94
6.20
6.97
4.92

100.0
91.2
201.7
?58.8
450.0
578.7
733.8

46.2
39.7
40.7
42.2
42.6
(3)
42.2

60.16
48. 53
51.27
49.92
57.75
59.85
58.20

(2
)
5.3
10.4
6.2
5.9
(3
)
(3
)

(2
)
(2
)
(2
)
(2
)
(2
)
(2
)
(2
)

0)
100.0
378.5
1,206.7
2. 274. 5
2.867. 2
3, 221. 2

0)
25.0
33.4
36.1
37.9
38.6
40.1

0)
39. 74
40. 77
43.97
49.04
57.85
52.83

(4
)
6.8
9.6
7.8
10.1
9.1
12.2

(4
)
(2
)
(2
)
(2
)
(2
)
(2
)
(2
)

100.0
112. 1
138.9
159.6
184.3
196.7
204.5

41.7
47.8
45.7
43.2
40.1
43.1
41.9

$55. 50
50. 65
55. 25
54.16
55.00
51.37
54.51

.8
.7
5.0
7.0
8.3
9.3
10.0

(2
)
(2
)
(2)
(2)
(2)
(2
)
(2)

100.0
138.2
132.7
154.8
178.8
196.3
215. 7

42.7
53.2
55.1
52.8
54.5
57.5
53.9

42. 86
55.09
(2 v
)
57.40
59.84
72.79
62.40

12.7
6.2
4.3
7.3
4.0
6.9
7.3

(2
)
(2)
(2)
(2)
(2)
(2)
(2)

Average Percent of Quit rate
(per 100
weekly
absen­
wage
earnings
teeism
earners)

Pacific Coast—Continued
Shipyard III-B (25,000-30,000 wage earners):
April...... ........................ .......................... ...................
M a y ..................... ........ - ............ ........ .......... ............
June............ ............ ........................ .................. ........
July..........................................................- ____ _____
August....... ............ ................. ............. ........ ............
September_____________ _____ __________ ____
October----------------------------------------------- ------Shipyard III-C (10,000-15,000 wage earners):
April------------ ---------*
-------------- ---------------------------May___----------------------------------------------------- ------June..... ................... ........................ .......... .................
July............................................... - ..............................
August.................... .......... ..............- ..........................
September_________________ _____ _____________
October. __-------------------------------------------------------Shipyard III-D (15,000-20,000 wage earners):
April----------------------------------------------------------------M ay........ .......................................- ............................
June..... ........................................................................
J u ly ............................................................ ...............
August..........................................................................
September___________________________ _________
October_________________________ ____ _________
Shipyard III-E (10,000-15,000 wage earners):
April...................... .......................... ........ ........ ..........
M a y ......................................................... .......... ........
June..... ............................................................ ........ .
July................................................................... ..........
August.....................................................................
September_____ ____ ________________ _________
October_____ ________________ ________ ________
Shipyard III-F (25,000-30,000 wage earners):
April........ .......................... .......... ..........___............ .
M ay_______________ ____ _____________ ________
June___________________________________________
July___________________________________________
August__________________________ ___________ —
September_________ _____________ ____ _________
October------------------- ------------------------- ---------------Great Lakes
Shipyard IV -A (under 500 wage earners):
April____________________________ ___________ —
May___________________________________________
June________________ __________________________
July___________________________________________
August------------------------------------------------------------September_____________________________ _______
October________________________________________
1 Wage earners in October 1942.
2 Not reported.
8 Data questionable.
* Yard not in operation.

SICKNESS AND ACCIDENTS

None of the shipbuilding companies questioned reported sickness
and accidents as a major cause of absenteeism. One company re­
porting an absenteeism rate of 11.8 submitted a detailed analysis of
this time lost, which showed that industrial injuries accounted for 1.8
percent and reported sickness 0.3 percent of the total.




A B S E N T E E IS M

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1942

13

WEATHER AND CLIMATE

Weather is probably a more important factor of absenteeism in
shipbuilding than in any other industry with the possible exception
of the construction industry. Much shipbuilding work is in the open
and is affected by heavy rains and severe heat or cold. It is very
common for shipyards to report on their monthly schedules that high
absenteeism was caused by heavy rain, and this may account for some
of (the apparently erratic fluctuations in absenteeism rates for individual
companies. Since the available 1942 data cover only the months
from April through October, it is too early to tell whether the increase
in absenteeism which occurred during the winter of 1918 will be
duplicated in 1942 and 1943.
OTHER CAUSES

All of the reasons offered by shipyard officials for the current high
absenteeism rates had been observed by Prof. Paul H. Douglas in a
general article on absenteeism, written shortly after the close of
World War I.6 In addition, his list of causes included: Employment
of women; nature of employment, e. g., heat, dust, excessive noise,
monotony; payment of overtime bonus; lack of materials; liquor; and
separation of interests between workman and employer.
Although woman workers in shipyards increased appreciably in
number during the summer of 1942, they represented no more than 2
percent of the workers in commercial shipyards in October.7 The
increasing employment of women may result in higher absenteeism,
but women were not numerous enough in the fall of 1942 to have much
effect on the rates.
Absenteeism attributable to the nature of the work was doubtless
implied when shipyard officials called attention to the large number
of quits, particularly among new workers. The effect of liquor was
probably also associated by company officials with week-end absences.
Separation of interests of workman and employer may have some
bearing on the fact that absenteeism seemed to be more of a problem
in large than in small yards in 1942.
The payment of overtime bonuses was regarded as such an impor­
tant factor in absenteeism in the spring and summer of 1942 that an
agreement abolishing calendar premium days, which will be discussed
later, was made effective in all zones by August 1, 1942.
The extent to which worker morale is lowered and absenteeism is
thereby increased because of faulty planning of work and lack of
materials and equipment cannot be measured. Eapid expansion of
yards and difficulties in getting materials have unquestionably com­
plicated the orderly planning of work and the most effective use of
workmen in many yards.
M ethods o f Reducing Absenteeism

Although the majority of shipyard officials questioned stated that
they had taken steps to eliminate as much absenteeism as possible,
many reported that they had been unable to reduce it to any appre­
ePolitical Science Quarterly, December, 1919 (pp. 600-604): Absenteeism in Labor, by Paul H.
Douglas.
7 For data on employment of women in shipyards, see Monthly Labor Review, February 1943, p. 277.




14

A B S E N T E E IS M

IN

C O M M E R C IA L

S H IP Y A R D S ,

1942

ciable extent. The Navy Department, U. S. Maritime Commission,
War Production Board, and other Federal agencies have also at­
tempted to assist labor and management in minimizing this loss of
working time.
Abolition oj calendar premium days.—One step to reduce absentee­
ism was the abolition of calendar premium days as the result of the
Shipbuilding Stabilization Committee agreement which was effective
in all zones by August 1, 1942. Shipbuilding companies were of the
opinion that employees were working on Saturday and Sunday in
order to receive premium pay and were then taking time off during
the week. The agreement provided that Saturdays and Sundays
would be considered as regular workdays and that work performed
on these days would be paid for at straight-time rates except when
Saturday and Sunday were the sixth or seventh regular shift of the
established workweek. Time and a half would be paid for the sixth
regular shift and double time for the seventh regular shift worked in
an employee’s regularly established workweek.
Personal appeals to workers.— Most yards considered that appeals
made to the workers through foremen, through posters supplied by
the War Production Board, Navy, and Maritime Commission, and
through labor management committees were the most effective
methods of reducing absenteeism.
One Pacific Coast shipyard planned to maintain large bulletin
boards showing the relative percentage of absentees by crafts, shifts,
and divisions, with the hope that these boards would stimulate com­
petition and thus reduce absenteeism.
A popular method of appealing to the workers was to have speakers
in the yards, who pointed out to the workers the value of every day’s
work and the importance of their jobs in the war.
One of the most direct appeals was reported by a Pacific Coast
yard which printed an “ Open Letter to Joe Lay-off” in the plant
magazine. This letter set forth the number of workers who were
absent on 1 day, the losses in terms of production, the essential
part that shipping plays in the war, and the importance of every
worker to his job and his country.
Assistance in housing and transportation problems.—Two companies
reported taking steps to alleviate transportation and housing difficul­
ties. One of these companies arranged for shuttle train service be­
tween the city in which the yard was situated and a neighboring city
where a large proportion of workers were forced to reside because of
housing shortages. The second company established a division re­
sponsible for trying to eliminate the causes of absenteeism, which
assisted employees in obtaining houses.
Decrease in hours oj work.—Although two yards reported that long
hours undoubtedly were a principal cause of absenteeism, only one of
them reduced hours—from a scheduled workweek of 58 to 48 hours.
Another yard reported that by allowing employees to work only 6
shifts a week, absenteeism had been reduced 50 percent.





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