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L. B. Schwellenbach, Secretary
Isador Lubin, Commissioner (on leave)
A . F. Hinrichs, Acting* Commissioner


Employment Opportunities
For Welders

For sale by the Superintendent o f Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25^ D. C. - Price 10 ^ent*


Letter of Transmittal

U n it e d S t a t e s D e p a r t m e n t of L abo r ,
B u r e a u of L abor S t a t i s t i c s ,

Washington, D. C., September 18,1945.
The S e c r e t a r y of L abor :
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on employment opportunities
for welders. This is one of a series of occupational studies prepared in the
Bureau’s Occupational Outlook Division for use in vocational counseling of
veterans, young people in schools, and others considering the choice of an
occupation. This study was prepared by Richard H. Lewis with the assistance
of Caiman R. Winegarden.
A. F. H i n e i c h s , Acting Commissioner.
H o n . L. B. S c h w e u l e n b a c h ,
Secretary of Labor.



Summary---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Nature and importance of the occupation-----------------------------------------------Trends in prewar use o f welding----------------------------------------------------------Wartime employment of welders________________________________________
Postwar employment outlook for welders:
Factors affecting the outlook----------------------------------------------------------Advances in welding techniques-------------------------------------------------Relationship o f welding to other industrial processes------------------------Prospective use of welding in particular industries---------------------------General prospects for welding employment-----------------------------------------Effects of technological advances upon requirements for welders______
Postwar supply of welders-----------------------------------------------------------------Employment opportunities in welding-------------------------- :-------------------Training of welders--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Wages and working conditions:
Wages of welders-----------------------------------------------------------------------------Working conditions___________________________________________________



B ulletin 7\[o. 844 o f the
U nited States Bureau o f Labor Statistics
[Reprinted from the M onthly L aboe R eview , September 1945]

Employment Opportunities for Welders

The employment outlook for welders is less favorable than for many
other metalworking occupations, and is especially unfavorable for
persons without broad welding training or experience. This is the
chief conclusion of an analysis of the job prospects for welders made
by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide information for vocational
guidance of veterans, high-school students, and workers released
from war production. An immediate postwar drop in the number of
welding jobs is indicated, despite the evidence of increasing use of
welding in many industries. This decline will be caused mainly by
the sharp cuts expected in welding employment in shipbuilding ana
other war industries.
Hand welders, in general the most skilled, will be more severely
affected than machine welders. Among hand welders, the demand
for fully qualified all-round workers should hold up better than for
those with less skill. A factor depressing the long-run job outlook
for welders is the development of improved equipment which increases
productivity and reduces the degree of skill required. Local repair
and job shops present an opportunity for some skilled welders to
enter business for themselves. The demand for welders to replace
those who leave the occupation through death or retirement is likely
to be low for many years because of the relative youth of most of the
welding labor force.
Welding, although a fairly new occupation, was important even
before the war, with 125,000 welders and flame-cutters employed in
1940. A spectacular increase in welding employment occurred aiming
the war, mainly because of the large requirements for welders in
shipyards. Welders were also important in the production of air­
craft and ordnance. The peak wartime employment of welders and
flame-cutters is estimated at 364,000.
W elders are used in many industries in maintenance work, but the
greatest possibilities for expansion of employment occur in production
work. The principal peacetime industries employing welders were
automobiles, iron and steel industries, machinery industries, electrical
equipment, and local repair services. Although all these industries
are expected to employ large numbers of welders in the postwar
period, and in many cases provide more welding jobs than tney did
before the war, this employment will not be large enough to offset
the loss of welding jobs in war industries. This reduction in jobs is
the more serious when related to the large numbers who have acquired
welding training and experience during the war.

( 1)

Women workers held few welding jobs before the war, but during the
war their number increased to at least 15 percent of the total welding
employment. Women are well adapted to the physical demands of
welding, and the large wartime needs for welders combined with the
manpower shortage to open up many types of welding jobs to them,
particularly in shipbuilding.
There are job opportunities for welders in every State in the country.
Before the war, large proportions of the welders were employed in
Middle Western States. During the war there has been a shift in
importance toward the coastal States, where shipyards and many
aircraft plants are situated. The Middle West should again have the
largest percentage of the welding jobs in the immediate postwar
period, although the actual number of jobs there may be no higher than
it was during the war.
The training of welders is mainly confined to hand welders. About
200 hours of instruction in welding theory and practice are considered
enough to train a welder to do competent production work, but a
period of work experience is required to become an all-round welder.
The wages of hand welders approximate those of many skilled
machine operators. During the war their straight-time hourly earn­
ings have generally averaged above $1 an hour.
Several types of hazards are peculiar to welding work, but proper
safety precautions can adequately protect against them. The nature
of the working conditions of welders depends greatly upon the in­
dustry in which they are employed.
Nature and Importance of the Occupation

T o many people, welding has been a symbol of the “ war job,”
representing the typical war-production occupation as distinguished
from the normal peacetime vocations. The growing importance of
welding in shipbuilding and in aircraft and ordnance manufacture has
been the basis for the current widespread vocational interest in welding.
Popular interest has been stimulated by the dramatic appearance of
the welder, with his bizarre helmet, as he guides the dazzling electric
arc along the weld amid a shower of sparks. Welding, however,
constituted an important occupation before the war, although it is
of comparatively recent origin. The Census of Population reported
125,000 welders and flame-cutters employed in March 1940. This
number has been multiplied during the war in response to the require­
ments of war production.
Welding can only very loosely be considered as a single occupation.
Welding processes vary considerably and even for the same method,
the welders, or welding operators, as they are frequently termed, may
differ in skill and responsibility. In general, welding may be defined
as the joining of metal parts while the edges are in a molten or plastic
state. This fusion is accomplished through the application of heat,
and in some types of welding, mechanical pressure is used simul­
taneously to force the edges together. Additional metal is often in­
troduced into the weld. A characteristic of welding is that the parts
joined actually become fused into one, in many cases actually being
stronger at the joint, while in the similar fabricating processes of
soldering and brazing the metal parts are attached by using such
metals as silver or bronze to bond the edges together without actual
fusion occurring.

Oxyacetylene gas welding, the oldest type* of welding now in
common use, utilizes a direct flame produced by the combustion of
acetylene gas with oxygen to make molten the edges of the material
joined. Electric-arc welding, the method most frequently used,
produces fusion through the intense heat resulting when an electric
arc passes a short distance through the air between the material
being welded and an electrode manipulated by the welding operator.
Electric-resistance welding is quite a different operation from the
two other important types of welding, although its purpose is the same.
In this method the heat which causes fusion is produced by resistance
to an electric current sent through the materials to be welded. The
more important types of resistance welding are spot, butt, flash, and
seam welding.
Besides the three most important methods, several other special
types of welding are in use. Thermit welding is used mainly for re­
pairing large units made of iron and steel, such as locomotive frames,
heavy crank shafts, and railroad rails. A molten steel is produced by
melting aluminum powder and iron oxide together in a crucible and
pouring the resulting liquid steel around the section to be welded,
which has been preheated to protect against the intense heat of the
molten steel. Atomic-hydrogen welding and helium-arc welding are
two variations of arc welding which are finding increasing applica­
tion, the helium-arc method being used particularly in the welding
of aluminum and magnesium.
The techniques of both methods of hand welding, or manual welding
as it is technically called, are similar in many respects. The electricarc welder touches the welding rod (electrode) to the metal to be
welded, completing an electric circuit, and then withdraws it a short
distance, causing an electric arc to pass through the intervening space.
He then makes the weld by guiding the arc, with its intense heat,
along the edges to be joined, usually with metal from the electrode
flowing into the weld. The distance the electrode is held from the
metal surface and the speed of movement largely determine the
nature of the weld.
The principal difference in the oxyacetylene method is that the
operator directs upon the weld a flame resulting from the combustion
of the two gases in the welding torch. The welder must know how to
regulate the flame and adjust the valves which control the mixing of
the gases. Additional metal is introduced into the weld from a metal
rod held in the welder's other hand.
The skill required for a hand-welding job depends primarily on the
scope of the welder's duties. Some jobs involve only the performance
of very repetitive operations, which can be learned in a relativelv
short time. In other cases the welders may be required to have allround metal-fabricating knowledge. Welding is often regarded by
employers as a tool to be applied by skilled metalworkers, rather
than as a separate occupational specialty. A fully qualified welder
must be able to read blueprints, understand welding symbols, plan
the work, and set it up in jigs or other work-holding devices, in addition
to being expert in all phases of the actual welding techniques.
The occupation of oxyacetylene burner or flame-cutter is related
to oxyacetylene welding, the difference being that the torch is used
to cut metal rather than weld. Experience in burning may often
serve as partial preparation for a gas-welding job.

The operators of resistance-welding machines are commonly called
welders and are classified as such by the Census of Population, but
their duties bear little relationship to those of arc or gas welders.
Possible opportunities in resistance machine welding ,are less signifi­
cant from the viewpoint of vocational guidance. The nature of the
machine welder’s job depends upon the particular type of equipment,
with none of the manipulative skills of arc and gas welding being
required, and generalized preemployment training is neither necessary
nor possible.
The development and increasing use of automatic arc-welding
machines may have a significant effect on employment opportunities
for hand welders. The operators of these automatic machines con­
stitute an occupational specialty distinct from manual arc and gas
welders and from resistance machine welders, and one that may tend
to displace hand welders for many welding applications.
Trends in Preu ar Use of Welding

Welding in its modern forms is a comparatively recent development.
The method termed “ forge welding” dates back many centuries but
has been almost entirely superseded by more satisfactory techniques.
The most commonly applied types of welding— electric-arc, gas, and
electric-resistance—were originated in the 1880’s and 1890’s and had a
slow development until World War I. Progress in welding was
stimulated during the war period by its application to several types of
ordnance production and to some extent in shipbuilding. It was
also used extensively in ship-salvaging operations. For a while after
the first World War, welding was used principally as a maintenance
tool and for such specialized purposes as pipe-line construction. About
1929 welding began to be applied more widely and intensively in
production processes. An indication of the growth in the volume of
welding after 1929 is the steady increase in sales of electrodes for
arc welding during the 1930’s, shown in the Census of Manufactures:
the production of arc-welding electrodes, which had been reported at
$1,259,000 in 1929, climbed to $2,598,000 in 1931, $5,379,000 in 1935
and to a peak of $9,888,000 in 1937. In terms of weight of electrodes
produced, the increase was even more striking, the total rising from
15,827,643 in pounds in 1931 to 198,995,000 in 1940.1
The greatly increased acceptance of welding as a production process
indicated by this trend resulted from several factors. Continual
technical progress had been made in welding equipment and acces­
sories, as wen as in new applications or techniques. One of the
hindrances to widespread acceptance had been the doubt felt by
many as to the strength and safety of welds. That attitude was
partly attributable to difficulties experienced in inspecting and
testing welds. Progress was made in creating equipment and new
methods (X-ray and Magniflux, for example) to inspect and test the
soundness of welds. The use of welding was also stimulated as pro­
duction engineers and others began to realize the efficiency and econ­
omy of welding for many types of fabrication. Units joined by
welding are often lighter and stronger than when other methods of
joining are used. Substitution of welding for riveting saves the
1The Welding Engineer (Chicago), March 1944.

weight of the rivets and the necessary overlapping of plates, and
the labor involved in making holes for the rivets is eliminated. For
products in which airtight or liquid-tight seams are required, welding
is the superior method of fabrication. In many uses welding is
displacing bolting as a means of assembly. Welding is also competing
with casting as a fabricating method. Units which ordinarily are cast
in one piece can be built up instead by welding plates and other
steel shapes together.
Growth in the use of welding is related to the trend of production
in industries in which it finds greatest application, as well as to its
displacement of other methods of joining metals. The extent of the
use of welding in a particular industry is in turn dependent upon
the functions which welding techniques perform in that industry.
Welding applications can be divided into five main types: Maintenance
welding, salvage welding, toolroom welding, construction welding, and
production welding. Maintenance welding may be found in any
industry in which the repair of metal parts is carried on, and in many
localities throughout the country there are independent repair shops
specializing in welding repairs. Frequently, when welding is used as
a repair process, the welding is done not by welders but by other
workers such as machinists or automobile mechanics. In its salvage
function, welding is used to reclaim for use in production defective
castings and other parts which wrould otherwise be scrapped. Thus,
this application would be found mainly in certain metalworking indus­
tries. Welding is used in tool and die shops in the making of jigs and
fixtures. The use of welding as a construction tool is limited mainly to
pipe-line construction and to structures made at least partly of metal.
In production welding the process is simply used as one of the steps in
tl^p fabrication of the final product of a manufacturing plant. Of
these five functions of welding, production is the most important from
the viewpoint of the employment outlook for welders. Maintenance
work creates a substantial and relatively stable demand for welding,
but the potential expansion of the use of welding is more dependent
upon its application in production processes.
Welding employment before the war was distributed among a large
number of industries because of the widespread use of welding in
maintenance. The greater part of the employment, however, was
concentrated in a relatively few industries— automobiles, machinery,
miscellaneous iron and steel products, electrical equipment, ships
and aircraft— which use welding in production as well as in main­
tenance and other functions. Data from the Census of Population,
presented in table 1, show for March 1940 the distribution of the
121,000 employed male welders, by industry.
Machine welders constitute the larger group of the welders em­
ployed in automobile manufacturing, especially in the production
departments. Many of the hand welders are employed in the main­
tenance departments and in the tool shops (making jigs and fixtures).
Various automatic resistance-welding machines are used in many
phases of the body assembly, as well as in such components as gas
tanks and mufflers. Even when arc welding is used it is often done
by automatic arc-welding machines, which eliminate the need for
skilled hand welders. Hand welding is used in production chiefly on
parts difficult to reach.
668384°—45----- 2

T ab le

1.— Em ploym ent

o f M ale W elders and Flam e-Cutters, b y Industry, M arch 1 940 1
Number employed *


Percent of total

Male welders
and flamecutters as per
cent of total
in each in­
dustry *

All industries.....................................................................




Manufacturing industries..................................................
Blast furnaces, steel works and rolling mills..............
Miscellaneous iron and steel industries......................
Miscellaneous machinery...........................................
Agricultural machinery and tractors.........................
Electrical machinery and equipment.........................
Miscellaneous nonferrous-metal products..................
Automobiles and automobile equipment-.................
Aircraft and parts................................... ...................
Ship and boat building and repairing........................
Railroad and miscellaneous transportation equip­
Furniture and store fixtures.......................................
Petroleum refining......................................................
Miscellaneous chemical industries.............................
Other manufacturing industries4...............................







Nonmanufacturing industries...........................................
Railroads (including repair shops).............................
Gas works and steam plants......................................
Crude petroleum and natural gas..............................
Miscellaneous repair services and hand trades..........
Automobile storage, rental, and repair services.........
Other nonmanufacturing industries *........................




Industry not reported........................................................




i Excludes those employed on public emergency work. Data are from the Census of Population: 1940,
The Labor Force (Sample Statistics), Occupational Characteristics.
* The distribution of welding employment by industry is based on a 5-percent sample of Census returns.
The total is therefore slightly different from the total shown in table 2, of 122, 688 employed male welders
and flame-cutters, which is based on a complete count of Census returns. In addition, there were 2,$53
female welders and flame-cutters employed, but no data on their distribution by industry are available.
* Total employment in each industry includes proprietors, managers, and officials, as well as wage and
salary workers.
4 Includes all manufacturing industries which employed fewer than 1,000 welders and flame-cutters and
manufacturing industries not elsewhere classified.
*Includes all nonmanufacturing industries which employed fewer than 1,000 welders and flame-cutters.
*Includes less than a tenth of 1 percent..

A common use of welding in machinery production is in fabricating
the bases and frames of the machines, where welding often replaces
castings. Among the machinery industries, construction machinery
makes the greatest use of welding in production. Welding is also an
important occupation in the manufacture of blowers and fans, in­
dustrial cars and trucks, oil-field machinery, and mining machinery.
Welding is of considerable importance in the manufacture of
electrical appliances but most of the welders are resistance machine
welders. Hand welding is moderately important in the manufacture
of electrical generating and distributing equipment.
The industrial distribution of welding employment is reflected in
the geographical location of welders in 1940. It is evident from
table 2 that the employment of welders is concentrated in the in­
dustrial Middle Western and Middle Atlantic States, with large
numbers also employed in California and Texas. Some welders and
flame-cutters were reported in every State, however, showing the
influence of the demand for welders in maintenance work.

T a b l e 2.— Em ploym ent o f M ale Welders and, Flam e-Cutters, by Region and State,
M arch 1940 1
Region and State


United States..........................


New England.........................
New Hampshire..............
Vermont.......... ................
Rhode Island....................
Connecticut ....................



Middle Atlantic......................
New York........................
New Jersey.......................



East North Central................

5, 255


West North Central...............
Minnesota...... . ................
Iowa................................ .
North Dakota..................
South Dakota..................



South Atlantic........................
District of Columbia.......



of total

Region and State

Number Percent
employed of total

South Atlantic—Continued.
Virginia............... .............
West Virginia...................
North Carolina................
South Carolina.................
Florida........ ....................



East South Central................
Kentucky....................... .



West South Central...............
Arkansas.. ......................



New Mexico.....................



Oregon. ...........................



i Census of Population: 1940, Volume III, The Labor Force, Reports by States, Parts 2 to 5. Excludes
those employed on public emergency work. These data are based on a complete count of Census returns,
and the total is therefore slightly different from the total shown in table 1, of 121,380 male welders and flamecutters employed (except on public emergency work), which is based on a 5-percent sample of Census

Wartime Employment of Welders

The phenomenal expansion in the use of welding as a production
tool, brought about by war production demands, resulted in a tremen­
dous increase in the employment of welders. By the end of 1943, the
high point of employment in munitions industries, the estimated
number of welders and flame-cutters had risen to a peak of 364,000—
about three times the total of 124,700 shown by the 1940 Census.
The nature of wartime production requirements accentuated the
importance of hand welders in comparison with machine welders.
Of the estimated total welders and burners, about 290,000 were hand
welders using electric-arc or acetylene-gas equipment. Operators of
welding machines (spot, butt, flash, etc.) numbered about 26,000, and
burners comprised the remaining 48,000. These wartime totals
represent a much greater relative as well as absolute increase over
peacetime figures for hand welders and burners as compared to the
machine welders. The magnitude of the wartime increase in welding
employment has established hand welding as the largest single skilled
occupational specialty in the metalworking field.
The urgent wartime demand for welders, coupled with the general
shortage of manpower, enabled women to take over a large number of
the welding jobs. Women were also relatively better qualified to meet
the physical demands of welding work than they were for many other

jobs. In December 1943, it is estimated that women constituted
about 15 percent of the total employment of welders and burners.
This percentage was undoubtedly increased during 1944. Thus
welding represented a major occupational opportunity for women in
the war period. The largest numbers of women welders were engaged
in hand welding, although the ratio of women to men was greater in
resistance-welding jobs.
The remarkable growth of welding employment during the war was
attributable primarily to the extensive use of welding in ship con­
struction. Some new applications of welding in other fields and the
general high level of production of metal goods also stimulated a
demand for welders, but shipbuilding was by far the major cause of
the expansion of welding employment. The result was that the high
wartime employment of welders was based mainly on two related
factors— the large-scale acceptance of welding methods in ship con­
struction, and the importance of the ship-construction program to the
United States war effort.
The data presented in table 3 showing the industrial distribution
of welding employment in the war period clearly indicate the effect
of the shipbuilding demand. An estimated total of 180,000 welders
and burners was employed in public and private shipbuilding in
December 1943, as compared with 9,000 shown by the Census in
1940— an increase of 1,900 percent. The welders and burners em­
ployed in shipbuilding constituted almost half of the total employment
of welders and burners, and the increase in shipbuilding accounted for
over 70 percent of the total increase.
A sharp gain in employment of welders in the manufacture of air­
craft and aircraft engines was also shown. The 16,000 welders shown
for the aircraft category do not account for all the welders actually
employed in production of aircraft and parts during the war. The
industries shown in the table are classified on the basis of their prewar
product, so that the production of aircraft in converted plants is
covered in other industries. The many welders employed on ordnance
production in converted plants are included under several different
categories, principally iron and steel, automobiles, and machinery.
The welders in new ordnance plants and Government arsenals are
covered under the iron and steel group. Plants comprising the pre­
war automobile industry showed a comparatively small increase in
the number of welders employed. This was principally because the
production of passenger automobiles, which had required large num­
bers of welders, was virtually eliminated. The welders in the con­
verted automobile plants were engaged in the production of military
tanks and other ordnance items, army trucks, aircraft parts, and
aircraft engines.
Developments in recent years have established welding as the
principal method of joining, in the construction of steel ships, it
having almost completely displaced riveting and other techniques
for this purpose. Figures from prewar and wartime surveys of ship­
building employment show strikingly the growing importance of
welders in shipbuilding. In August 1936, 4.3 of the total production
and supervisory workers in shipyards were welders, whereas in June
1943 their number had increased to 9.7 percent of the total.2*
* See Employment in the Shipbuilding Industry, 1935-43, in Monthly Labor Review, May 1944.

(Flam e-Cutters), b y Industryt M arch
1940 and December 1943

T a ble 3.— Em ploym ent o f Welders and Burners

Number employed


indu stries


Manufacturing industries.................................................
Iron and steel and their products group4.................
Electrical machinery group».....................................
Machinery, except electrical, group *........................
Transportation equipment, except automobiles,
group............ ....................................................... „
Aircraft and parts, including aircraft engines.. .
Shipbuilding and ship repair, private and public.
Other transportation equipment •......................
Automobiles group7...................................................
Other manufacturing industries................................
Nonmanufacturing industries •........................................

Percent of
1940 to
Percent of

December 1943 *
1940 >














1Industries classified by principal 1930 product.
* Excludes those employed on public emergency work. Data are from the Census of Population: 1940.
The total for all industries is from Volume III, The Labor Force, Part 1: United States Summary. It is
based on a complete count of Census returns and includes 2,053 employed female welders and burners (flamecutters). Data on employment of welders and burners by industry are from The Labor Force (Sample
Statistics), Occupational Characteristics, which is based on a 5-percent sample of Census returns and which
excludes female welders and burners and 1,040 male welders and burners for whom the employing industry
was not reported. Therefore, the number of employed welders and burners shown by industry does not
add up to the total of employed welders and burners in all industries.
* Estimates prepared in the Occupational Outlook Division of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
<In 1943, includes Government manufacturing arsenals, ordnance production in new plants, and ordnance
and other war production in converted plants, as well as production of the 1939 products.
* In 1943, includes ordnance and other war production in converted plants, as well as production of ma­
* Includes locomotive and railway-car plants, and for 1943, also includes military tank production in new
plants and military tank and other war production in converted plants.
7 In 1943, includes aircraft engines, aircraft parts, military tanks, and ordnance production in converted
plants, as well as production of automotive vehicles.
>Includes construction, transportation, service, and other nonmanufacturing industries.

The importance of welding in ship construction varies with the
type of ship. A study of the workers in private shipyards in June
1943 8 revealed that welders were relatively most numerous in yards
building tankers; there 15.1 percent of the total employed in produc­
tion ana supervisory jobs were welders. The next highest percentage
of welders was found in the building of landing craft, with 12.0 percent,
followed by Liberty cargo vessels with 11.3 percent. Welders were
least important in repair yards, accounting jfor only 4.7 percent of
the total workers.
Of the total of 180,000 welders and burners employed [in shipyards
in December 1943, a little over one-fifth were burners. Most of the
welders were hand welders, the exception being the operators of
automatic arc-welding machines, which have been extensively used
in shipbuilding.
Welding has been used for many purposes in aircraft manufacture,
mainly in the production of parts and subassemblies rather than in
the final assembly of the aircraft. Landing gear, engine mounts,
fuel tanks, and bomb bays are examples of aircrait components in
which welding is used.
Welding found many uses in ordnance production, especially in
tanks, which are now all-welded. Important applications were also

Employment in the Shipbuilding Industry, 1935-43, in Monthly Labor Review, May 1944.

made in such items as bomb casings, depth charges, and heavy gun
mounts, as well as in others too numerous to detail.
The increases in the welding labor force indicated by the threefold
increase in employment was achieved through one of the largest
training programs ever attempted. An estimated 1,500,000 received
some welding training during the war years July 1940-December 1944.
A great many of these trainees were actually paid while learning
welding in schools maintained in shipyards and factories. The dis­
crepancy between the large number of persons enrolled in welding
courses and the estimated peak employment of welders and burners
is accounted for mainly by turn-over and the failure of many trainees
actually to take or remain at welding jobs.
The greatly expanded use of welding during the war also stimulated
the development of new equipment and methods. These develop­
ments tended in many cases to reduce the skill required for welding
jobs. This reduction was achieved partly through the ability of
many producers to break down some of the welding operations under
conditions of quantity production.
The great importance to welding employment of such industries as
shipbuilding and aircraft has resulted in a considerable shift in the
distribution of welding jobs among geographical areas. Largely
because of the influence of these war industries, a very large propor­
tion of welder employment during the war was in the coastal States,
while in the Middle West welding jobs showed a smaller increase.
Posttm r Employment Outlook for Welders

The spectacular increase in the employment of welders during the
war and the publicity given to new welding methods and broadened
applications in industry have drawn attention to the probable number
of postwar welding jobs. Because of the importance of such informa­
tion in vocational guidance of both returning veterans and highschool students, it is essential to evaluate the principal factors which
affect the postwar employment opportunities for welders.
Certain factors stand out as determinants of the number of postwar
welding jobs. First is the question of the future changes in the
relative use of welding in industry as affected by the continued develop­
ment of new welding techniques and by increased acceptance and
utilization of welding in production. Second, and perhaps more
important, is the magnitude of the employment and the direction of
the postwar trends in the industries which will probably be the chief
users of welding. From the point of view of vocational guidance, a
highly significant trend will be the relative use of hand and machine
methods of welding, a trend which will be affected by the relative
importance of the industries using welding, as well as by advances in
technique. Another main factor to be taken into consideration is
the effect of improvements in welding methods on the man-hours of
employment required to perform a given volume of welding—whether,
in other words, they will result in substantial increases in the man­
hour productivity of welders.


A full consideration of possible gains in the use of welding would
depend upon a complete and objective technical appraisal of welding
methods and their points of advantage over other production methods.
As indicated previously, welding has many advantages for certain
uses and these have contributed to its steady and rapid growth. The
influence of the war in hastening the eventual acceptance of welding
for many purposes is difficult to measure precisely.
Many of the wartime applications of welding will decline in impor­
tance when the output of the products concerned is reduced. How­
ever, the manufacturers who gained additional experience in welding,
or who installed welding equipment and were convinced of its advan­
tages, will want to carry over welding into their peacetime production
where feasible and profitable. The significance of this development
cannot be ignored, yet it is easily possible to overstate the importance
of many of the new applications that are anticipated for peacetime.
In many cases the total volume of employment in the production of
the items concerned will never bulk large, because the nature of the
product is such that demand is definitely limited. In other instances,
the proclaimed new use of welding is of such minute importance in the
production process that the resulting new employment of welders
can never be very large. A further limitation on the increased use
of welding is the extensive use it has already achieved in many
In the production process as now organized, welding can be used
only at a certain number of points. Even in those industries in
which welding has achieved its greatest use and in which no further
large applications are expected, welders will remain only a small
proportion of the total labor force, although they may in some cases
constitute the largest single occupation. This indicates that even
should welding become the principal method of assembly for many
additional products, not all nor even a large proportion of the workers
will be welders.

With these limitations in mind, it still appears reasonable that there
will be a further expansion in the use of welding in many industries.
One of the main areas in which gains are expected by some observers
is in competition with castings as components of many types of prod­
ucts. By taking basic metal shapes, such as plates and bars, and
welding them together, so-called “ weldments” can be fabricated to
substitute for castings in many uses. It is not yet possible to gener­
alize regarding the extent and timing of future displacement of cast­
ings by weldments. Whether castings or weldments are more effi­
cient in a particular case depends upon such factors as the size and
complexity of design of the part and the quantity to be produced.
Even if weldments could be established as more efficient, there is con­
siderable inertia to overcome. Many plants have large investments
in foundry capacity, and savings from welding would have to be con­
siderable to persuade them to abandon the foundry facilities and in­
stall expensive welding equipment. For the most efficient utilization
of welding it is usually preferable that the design for the product be
made specially for application of welding, and this would have to be

done for countless products in order to achieve widespread displace­
ment of castings. In view of these technical and economic uncer­
tainties, it is most reasonable to assume, in projecting the use of weld­
ing, that weldments will be substituted gradually for castings in many
fields, but that a substiantial displacement is only a long-run possi­
bility and not at all assured.
Welding will also be in competition with plastics and with the stamp­
ing and pressing of sheet metal, but in these instances it is more likely
that welding may be affected adversely. Plastics compete with metal
products generally, and a large increase in their use could cut into the
requirements for welding. The development of methods of stamping
larger sections of sheet metal tends to reduce the need for welding in
joining smaller units in assembly of many products.

An appraisal of the outlook for welding employment is best ap­
proached by considering the possibilities in specific industries in
which welding is either actually or potentially important. The auto­
mobile industry was the largest employer of welders before the war,
but employment of them showed much less of an increase during the
war than was the case in many other industries, mainly because its
normal product was so drastically curtailed. Welding had already
achieved a high degree of utilization in automobile production before
the war and the possibilities for future expansion are more limited
than in other fields where welding was less widely used. The postwar
volume of welding employment in this industry will thus be more
closely related to its general level of employment. Automobile pro­
duction is expected to be at high levels for at least several years after
the war and may then settle down to a long-run level higher than that
immediately prior to the war, if economic conditions are at all favor­
able. The net result is an indicated moderate increase in welding
employment in the automobile industry.
The use of welding varies considerably among the different machin­
ery industries. In many of them there are possibilities for some
extension of welding applications. There are definite limits, however,
upon the extent of welding in machinery assembly, because of the
necessity to provide for moving parts and for ready disassembly of the
machine for repairs. One of the main possibilities for increased use
of welding lies in the substitution of weldments for castings in such
parts as bases, frames, and gears.
There are few industries in the iron and steel group in which a sub­
stantial increase in welding can be anticipated. Industries such as
fabricated structural steel and boiler shops already make heavy use
of welding and will continue to do so. In other industries, however,
such as the manufacture of castings, forgings, tin cans, and screwmachine products, the nature of the product precludes significant
increases in the utilization of welding.
One of the fields in which welding is likely to have greater use is
the manufacture of railroad cars. However, this industry has already
been using welding extensively during the war in producing tanks,
and any increase over wartime levels in the number of welders em­
ployed may be small.
Some opportunities in welding, both for self-employment or as an
employee, may arise through the establishment of additional small

welding repair and job shops. The prospects for successful operation
of this type of business depend upon such factors as the competition
and the potential demand for welding services in the particular com­
munity in which the shop is to be located. The proprietor of a small
welding shop should possess a combination of all-round welding skill
and business ability. There will probably be some continued expan­
sion in this field after the war, but there are limits to the need for such
service, and a substantially increased volume of employment cannot
be expected.
One of the principal activities which should employ more welders
after the war is building construction. Welding is being more ex­
tensively used in the erection of metal structures, and the volume of
construction after the war is expected to be at very high levels.
Much of the construction activity anticipated, however, will be in resi­
dential housing, which will probably make but small use of welding.
The industries thus far enumerated are peacetime industries with
established civilian markets. The outlook for welding employment
in the war industries, which have been important users of welding, is
for a considerable decline. A definite drop in the number of welding
jobs in aircraft production seems clearly indicated. The steady rise
in the importance of welding in aircraft, combined with the fact that
many types of planes for civilian use are more suitable for welded
fabrication than most of the military planes, indicates that the
'percentage of aircraft workers who will be welders may be even higher
after than during the war, but even the most optimistic predictions do
not show postwar aircraft employment as more than a small frac­
tion of the wartime peak. The use of welding in the production of
tanks and other ordnance will, of course, also be reduced, consistent
with the relatively low level of activity in that field after the war.
The industry of crucial importance to postwar welding prospects
is shipbuilding, the industry which accounted for almost half of the
wartime welder employment. There is definite possibility that the
relative importance of welders among shipyard employees may be
reduced, because of the elimination of a great deal of the wartime
mass production of ships, and because ship repair, which uses fewer
welders, will be a larger proportion of shipyard activity. More­
over, total shipbuilding employment will fall far below the wartime
level. The possible extent of the decline may be indicated by the
fact that the number of wage earners employed in private shipbuild­
ing averaged only 69,200 in 1939 compared with a figure of 1,284,900
in December 1943. No specific forecast of postwar shipbuilding
employment has been made in connection with the present study, but
to illustrate the effects upon the number of welding jobs of the prospec­
tive drop in ship-construction work, the average employment—
224,000— in a high prewar year, 1941, may serve as an assumption as
to the level of employment that will be reached several years after
the war. If shipbuilding employment does stabilize at about that
level, it will mean an extremely large reduction in the number of
welders required in shipyards—so large that it will dominate the
outlook for welders.

The net effect of the anticipated decrease in welding employment in
shipbuilding, combined with varying trends in othe^industries, is a

postwar employment estimate for welders amounting to considerably
less than the wartime figure. This conclusion is based upon a detailed
appraisal of the outlook for welding employment in specific industries,
in which the assumptions as to both the use of welding and the postwar
level of total employment in each of the industries were relatively
favorable. The estimate covered two periods, one immediately fol­
lowing the completion of reconversion and the other relating to an
assumed full-employment economy which, it was assumed, would be
attained between 5 and 10 years after reconversion. For the imme­
diate postwar period following reconversion, the indicated employ­
ment of welders and burners was about 200,000, compared with the
wartime peak of 364,000. Even under the assumed full-employment
situation, the number of welders and burners would be considerably
less than the wartime figure. The principal factor underlying the
relatively unfavorable prospects for welding jobs is, as already noted,
the drastic reduction in the number of welders in shipbuilding, which
more than offsets increases expected in other fields.

The total demand for welding is indicated by the anticipated use
of welding among industries and their volume of employment. Still
another factor, however, may influence considerably the actual num­
ber of jobs for welders. A great many welding improvements have as
their objective the reduction either of the number of welders required
for a given volume of welding or the degree of skill required, or both,
and it is likely that the degree of future acceptance of welding as a
method of fabrication in many industries is related to— perhaps even
contingent upon— the cutting of the welder man-hours required in
production. Prominent among these innovations are automatic arcand acetylene-welding machines, which are being applied to an
increasing number of production processes. Their main usefulness
is in situations involving large quantities. A typical use is the welding
of long lengths of steel plate in ship construction. The large mechani­
cal positioners, which revolve the work piece so that all the welding
can be done in the easier and faster downhand position, eliminate
both some of the welder jobs and a portion of the skill required.
A considerable reduction in man-hour requirements is possible
through the use of automatic arc-welding machines and positioners.
The experience of one company engaged in constructing welded steel
cargo vessels has been that, in certain types of welding, 7 feet of weld
can be laid in the time that it takes to weld 1 foot by using manual
methods. The use of positioners to place the work for flat horizontal
welding has reduced the time required for some welds as much as
50 percent.

In order to obtain a balanced judgment as to employment oppor­
tunities for welders in general and the prospects for newly trained
welders in particular, the indicated postwar reduction in the number of
welding jobs must be related to the probable supply of experienced
welders. The number of jobs for hand welders will be considerably
less than the number at the wartime peak. This might in itself create
a presumption of an oversupply of welders. Some of the people who

held welding jobs during the war may not, however, be candidates
for postwar welding jobs. This applies to many of the women who
entered the occupation, as well as to many men who left their usual
occupation to take war work, and to those welders who will retire
from the occupation because of death, old age, or changing to another
The possibility of such withdrawals would be a factor tending to
reduce the postwar supply. The peak war employment of welders,
however, does not measure the total number of people who worked as
welders during the war, because it applies only to one period. Many
experienced welders who worked at some time during the war were
drafted; other turn-over also added to the number who held welding
jobs. The estimated total of 1,500,000 persons who received at least
a superficial introduction to welding indicates the magnitude of the
wartime labor force, although many may not have actually worked at
welding for a sufficient period of time to qualify as experienced
The general picture perhaps should be modified to some extent to
consider separately the outlook for fully qualified, all-round welders
when industries change over from the production-line methods used
for large-scale war production to the making of a variety of goods
in small quantities. This factor, combined with the limited qualifi­
cations of many of the war-period welders who received brief training
or who worked at fairly simple repetitive tasks, may imply relatively
more favorable prospects for the more highly skilled workers.
Several other factors, however, may limit the need for additions to
the skilled welding labor force. Many of the wartime developments
resulting in the break-down of welding jobs into less-skilled duties may
persist, particularly if a continuation of this trend should be a require­
ment for expanding the use of welding in some industries. There are
also potential pools of skilled labor supply, not previously discussed,
which may enter the picture. The>e consist largely of supervisory
workers, many of whom may be forced to accept skilled production
jobs if they lose their war jobs and cannot get supervisory jobs in
other industries. In shipbuilding alone there were at least 15,000 to
20,000 welding supervisors, including leadmen and foremen, at the
war peak, and this source may be drawn upon to fill a large part of the
demand for all-round hand welders. These workers are not included
in the December 1943 employment estimate of 290,000 hand welders.

The balancing of the probable postwar supply of welders against the
probable demands of industry leads to the conclusion that the employ­
ment opportunities in hand welding for persons without welding
experience will be relatively unfavorable for a number of years after
the war. This situation also applies to a large proportion of the
wartime welders, whose jobs have been highly specialized, and who
may find that their welding experience is not readily transferable to
many types of peacetime jobs.
Replacement of workers who leave the occupation because of death
or retirement probably will not provide a substantial number of job
opportunities in welding for many years. Most of the welding labor
force is relatively young in contrast to many other occupations having

large proportions of workers in the older age groups in which retire­
ment and death more frequently create job vacancies. Only 16
percent of the employed welders were over 44 years old, at the time
of the 1940 Census, compared to over 50 percent in such occupations
as carpenters, blacksmiths, and boilermakers.
The nature of the postwar demand for welding employment is
likely to result in relatively more favorable opportunities for machine
welders than for hand welders. Many of the new welding developments
are in the field of resistance-machine welding. In addition, this type
of welding is used extensively in the manufacture of many consumer
goods—for example, automobiles, refrigerators, electrical appliances—
the production of which will be at high levels after the war. During
the war the importance of shipbuilding as a source of demand for
welding stimulated the employment of arc welders. The prospective
greater importance of machine welding among postwar welding jobs is
significant from the viewpoint of vocational guidance, because the
resistance types of welding do not require preemployment training, a
short period of on-the-job training usually being sufficient.
The readjustments related to reconversion from war production will
involve considerable shifts in the geographical location of welding
employment. The number employed in coastal States, where ship­
building and aircraft have been important during the war, will be
substantially reduced, whereas the Midwest industrial areas should
increase their proportion of welding employment, although the actual
number of welding jobs in these localities may be no larger than the
wartime, total.
Training of Welders

Training courses for welding are largely restricted to the teaching
of hand-welding methods. Operation of resistance-welding machines
is usually learned quickly on the job.
Before the war, the objective of training programs was usually to
produce all-round welders, but it was generally considered that the
graduates of these welding courses needed a period of work experience
before they could actually qualify as such. About 200 hours of
welding instruction ordinarily constituted the training programs
operated by many industrial companies and served as a standard
suggested for trade and vocational schools.
In order to standardize and regulate the scope and quality of
training provided for welding, the American Welding Society has
sponsored a Code of Minimum Requirements for Instruction of
Welding Operators. The first part of this code covers the arc welding
of steel H e to % inch thick, and its objective is to provide standards
for courses which would produce, not an experienced operator, but
one with “ enough skill and knowledge so that he will have immediate
value to industry as an operator on less-difficult work, and will be
able, by gaining experience, to progress rapidly to work of greater
difficulty ana responsibility.,, 4
According to the code, a minimum of 150 hours should be devoted
to actual welding, exclusive of time spent in witnessing demonstra­
tions, preparing plates, and testing specimens, and not less than 20
hours to instruction in welding theory.*
* Published in tentative form in 1942 and as a standard in 1945. The American Welding Society has,
in addition, issued a code applicable to instruction for oxyacetylene wAldin? of steel aircraft. Codes are
being prepared relating to training for other operations.

Students must pass a specified series of qualification tests (before
completing the course), consisting of actual applications of welding,
with the requirement that sound welds of various types be produced.
The code also covers the equipment and facilities that should be
furnished by the school, in addition to the qualifications and duties
of the instructors.
The urgent wartime requirements for a large number of welders
to do specialized work resulted in a series of training programs whose
scope and length were below the standard of the American Welding
Society. These courses have turned out welders able to begin on
simple welding jobs, such as tack welding, after 30 hours of instruc­
tion, although the training period usually covered about 120 or 130
hours. Between July 1, 1940, and December 31, 1944, approximately
1,500,000 individuals, of whom about 1,100,000 were enrolled in
courses sponsored by the U. S. Office of Education, are estimated to
have received some instruction in welding, principally in electricarc welding.
After the war, courses will continue to be given in public and
privately operated trade schools. Before taking a course in a private
school, the prospective trainee should check on the quality of the
instruction offered. Local and State directors of vocational educa­
tion are good sources of information on this point, and also on the
opportunities for instruction in public vocational schools. It should
be ascertained whether the school meets the minimum standards
provided in the code of the American Welding Society. The local
section of the society may be able to provide such information.
In general, welding has not been considered an apprenticeable
occupation, although some industrial firms have provided a small
number of formal apprenticeships of 3 to 4 years’ duration, mainly
to train maintenance welders. The Federal Committee on Apprentice­
ship has viewed welding as a tool of many trades, rather than as a
separate trade, and, for that reason, has registered no welding ap­
prenticeship programs.
The skill rating of welders depends to a large extent upon the
welding qualification tests they have passed. Qualification proced­
ures have been established by the American Welding Society, the
U. S. Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, private insurance
companies, and other agencies. In addition, licenses are often
required for certain types of construction work in some localities.
The main aptitudes required to be a successful welder are manual
dexterity and general dependability. (Physical strength is not so
Important a factor as in many other types of metal assembly work.)
Dependability is essential because it is often difficult to inspect and
judge the finished weld and a poor weld, may result in a failure of
the complete product at a critical time.
Wages and Working Conditions

The wages of welders are comparable to those of other metal­
working occupations requiring equivalent skill and training. A
study of straight-time earnings in 18 machinery industries in 1938
and 1939 showed that hand welders averaged 82 cents an hour,

which was lower than the earnings of most of the skilled machinetool operators but higher than those of semiskilled machine operators.5
In 1940, hand welders in automobile-manufacturing plants were paid
average straight-time wages of $1.03 an hour, which was higher than
machine-tool operators1 earnings and about the same as the wages
of skilled repairmen.6
During the war the hourly earnings of welders increased greatly, in
accordance with the general advance in wages. As shown m table 4,
welders' earnings reached particularly high levels in shipbuilding, a
high-wage industry. In the fall of 1942, straight-time hourly earnings
of first-class welders in Atlantic coast ship-construction yards averaged
$1.52 and those of other classes, $1.17. Hourly earnings in Pacific
coast shipyards were somewhat lower, with first-class welders aver­
aging $1.20 and other classes $1.07. On the Atlantic coast, first-class
welders were among the highest-paid workers, but on the Pacific
coast many occupations earned more than the first-class welders.
This geographic difference, which is in contrast to the generally
higher wage level of Pacific coast yards, may be explained primarily
by the prevalence of incentive-pay systems in Atlantic coast shipconstruction yards.
In most of the machinery industries employing substantial numbers
of welders, male first-class welders in 1942 earned slightly over $1.00
an hour on the average, ranging from $1.28 in the communicationequipment industry to $0.94 in textile-machinery plants. However,
it is important to note that industry averages conceal major variations
among plants within each industry.
In the machinery industries, the earnings of first-class welders
tended to approximate those of first-class turret-lathe operators and
bench assemblers.
T a b le 4.— W artim e Earnings o f First-Class Hand W elders

Industry, and year of study

Transportation equipment (except auto­
Ship construction, private (1942):
Atlantic Coast.............................
Pacific Coast................................
Ship repair, private (1943):
Atlantic Coast.............................
Pacific Coast.
Aircraft engines (1943)4......................
Metal airframes (1943)......................
Electrical machinery:
Generating, distribution, and in­
dustrial apparatus (1942)®..............
Electrical appliances (1942)®.............
Communication equipment (1942)...

earnings ®



Selected Industries *

Industry, and year of study

Machinery, except electrical (1942):
Construction machinery...................
Oil-field machinery...........................
Mining machinery and equipment—
Internal-combustion engines.............
Machine to o ls ...................................
Machine-tool accessories....................
Miscellaneous metalworking ma­
chinery .........................................
Textile machinery..............................
Food-products machinery.................
Refrigerating equipment...................
Miscellaneous industrial machinery.



1Males only, except in ship construction and ship repair, in which earnings of both males and females are
8 Data arc from studies by the Bureau's Division of Wage Analysis.
8 Straight-time earuings of day-shift workers.
4Includes converted automotive engine and equipment plants.
*Earnings of gas welders only.
®Includes plants converted to war production.*
*See Earnings of Machine-shop Employees, 1938-39, in Monthly Labor Review, November 1940.
•See Wage Structure of the Motor-Vehicle Industry, in Monthly Labor Review, February and March 1942.


The working conditions characteristic of the welding occupation
result from two groups of factors: those inherent in the use of welding
equipment and those associated with the various industrial processes
in which welding is employed. In general, the working conditions
peculiar to welding compare favorably with many other metalworking
operations, but those arising from the industrial environment of weld­
ing vary greatly among industries.
Welding is accompanied by moderate physical strain, and, in many
of its applications, by a marked degree of monotony. The welder
must exert close attention and employ considerable muscular control
to guide the arc or flame along the edges of the metal. In common
with other metalworkers, he is subject to the noise and dust character­
istic of metalworking establishments. Shipyards and construction
projects are among the least favorable of welding environments, and
machinery and automobile plants the most satisfactory.
The hazards of welding operations, apart from those peculiar to the
varibus industries in which welding is employed, can be almost en­
tirely avoided by the properly equipped and trained worker. The
hazards of electric-arc welding include, principally, minor skin burns
and “ welders' flash" (a temporary eye injury) both of which are
caused by exposure of the unprotected skin or the naked eye to the
ultraviolet and infrared radiations of the arc; and, infrequently,
electric shock* caused either by carelessness or by defective welding
equipment. In oxyacetylene welding or cutting, there exists the
possibility of explosion or fire, resulting from leaks in oxygen or
acetylene lines, or from improper handling. Welding or cutting certain
metals by any method may generate harmful fumes or gases, necessi­
tating forced ventilation of the workplace or the wearing of respirators.
Other common, but preventable, accident factors include spattering
metal or slag, and the danger of fire. Resistance-welding operations
are largely free from the hazards characteristic of the hand methods.
The prewar industrial distribution of welding employment shows
that welding has been conducted principally in industries with rela­
tively good safety records. The injury frequency and severity rates
of the machinery and automobile industries, major peacetime em­
ployers of welders, have been markedly below the rates for all manu­
facturing. Among other important employers of welders, only the fab­
ricated-structural-steel and boiler-shop products industries showed in­
jury-frequency rates well in excess of the average for all manufacturing.

9. S.