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U N IT E D ST A T E S D E P A R T M E N T OF L A B O R
L. B. Schwellenbach, Secretary
B U R E A U OF L A B O R ST ATISTICS
Isador Lubin, Commissioner (on leave)
A . F. Hinrichs, A cting Commissioner

Employment Outlook
For Autom obile Mechanics

Bulletin T^o. 842

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







Letter o f Transmittal
U n it e d S t a t e s D e p a r t m e n t of L a b o r ,
B u r e a u of L a b o r S t a t is t ic s ,
Washington, D. C., August 17, 1945.
Labor:

The S e c r e t a r y of
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on employment opportunities
for automobile mechanics. This is one of a series of occupational studies pre­
pared 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. The present study was prepared by Herbert L. Gottlieb,
under the supervision of Helen Wood. Sylvia K. Lawrence assisted in the statis­
tical work. Information on wartime earnings was made available by the Bureau's
Wage Analysis Division. The Bureau wishes to acknowledge the generous
assistance received in connection with this study from the War Department,
U. S. Office of Education, and officials of a number of trade-unions, companies,
and trade associations.
A. F. H in r ic h s ,
Acting Commissioner.

Hon. L. B . SCHWELLENBACH,
Secretary of Labor.

Contents
Summary______________________________________________________________
Nature of the occupation_______________________________________________
Status of occupation before and during the war-------------------------------------Employment prospects:
Trend of mo tor-vehicle registrations_______________________________
Prospective labor demand and supply--------------------------------------------Education and training_________________________________________________
Earnings and working conditions:
Hours and earnings-----------------------------------------------------------------------Other working conditions__________________________________________




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Bulletin l^o. 842 o f the
U nited States Bureau o f Labor Statistics

Employment Outlook for Automobile Mechanics
Summary
A sharp rise in employment of automobile mechanics is in prospect
now that the war is over. Nevertheless, taking the country as a
whole, the number of persons who will be seeking work in the occupa­
tion will exceed the number of available jobs. Many less skilled men
will, therefore, have difficulty in finding work, particularly after the
next few months, although the relatively small group of highly
skilled specialists and all-around mechanics will have a good chance
of employment. These are the chief conclusions of the present study,
which was undertaken by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide
information needed for vocational-guidance purposes. Other subjects
of interest to prospective automobile mechanics, also discussed, include
training, working conditions, and earnings.
In 1940, there were 377,000 employed automobile mechanics and
repairmen and 65,000 who were unemployed, making this one of the
largest skilled occupations in the country. During the war, many
thousands of persons without previous experience entered the trade,
but so many mechanics left to go into war industries and the armed
forces that employment dropped by at least 40 percent (or to about
225,000) in 1945.
In view of the expected expansion in motor-vehicle registrations
and repair needs, employment will probably return rapidly to the
prewar level and subsequently will rise at a slower pace, reaching
about 450,000 by 1950. There will also be a few thousand job openings
each year owing to deaths, retirements, and transfers to other types
of work. However, the number of men with military or civilian
experience in automotive repair who are likely to be looking for jobs
will exceed the anticipated number of employment opportunities,
except perhaps during the transition period.
For people who plan to enter this occupation despite the impending
T
oversupply of labor, the best type of preparation depends on the
prospective mechanics age. Young people under 18 should, if
possible, complete at least 2 years of high school before looking for
work. In the case of persons over high-school age, the quickest way
to become a skilled mechanic is to find employment in a repair shop,
learn on the job from experienced men, and concurrently supplement
this experience with night-school instruction in related technical
subjects. Beginners going to work in the trade have usually had to
start out in such jobs as helper, greaser, or washer, although it has
sometimes been possible to start as an apprentice, and opportunities




( 1)

2
for systematic training are likely to be more widespread than before
the war.
Earnings and working conditions of automobile mechanics vary
widely, even within the same city. In 1938 and 1939, typical earnings
of experienced mechanics ranged from $20 to $35 for a 40-60-hour
workweek, though some highly skilled men made considerably more.
Information on straight-time hourly earnings obtained by the Bureau
in 1943 and 1944 indicate that there was a rise in wages during the
war. In 1943, straight-time average hourly earnings of general
automobile mechanics and body repairmen in most of the areas
surveyed ranged from 70 cents to $1.20, which suggests a typical
wage range of $28 to $48 for a 40-hour workweek. Actual weekly
earnings were usually higher than this, however, owing to longer
working hours and, often, to premium pay for overtime. In addition,
employment and earnings generally were fairly regular throughout
the year, in the prewar period as well as during the war.

Nature of the Occupation
The term automobile mechanic, as used in the present study, covers
all skilled workers who repair and replace worn or damaged mechanical,
electrical, and body parts of passenger cars, busses, and trucks. In­
cluded under this broad definition are general automobile mechanics
and various types of specialists, such as auto electricians, carburetor
and brake experts, and body repairmen. The general automobile
mechanic examines equipment to determine the causes of faulty opera­
tion; disassembles such separate parts of the vehicle as the motor,
differential, transmission, running gear, and electrical system; repairs
or replaces defective parts; reassembles the pieces in their respective
places, making the necessary adjustments for alinement and proper
clearance; and performs any other tasks necessary to return a vehicle
to operative condition.
- Specialists other than body repairmen are usually mechanics with
an all-around knowledge of automotive repair who have concentrated
upon one aspect of the work. They should not be confused with the
much larger group of semiskilled men who have knowledge of only one
relatively simple aspect of repair work. The latter group— many of
whom were trained during the war—may more properly be designated
as single-skill mechanics. They are not usually qualified to diagnose
the source of trouble and often require the close supervision of a special­
ist or all-round mechanic.
Reconditioning of fenders and bodies is a distinct specialty which
does not require knowledge of the principles of the internal combustion
engine and of the various related parts of the vehicle. In consequence,
body repairmen are seldom recruited from among general automobile
mechanics even in general repair shops. Except in rare instances the
all-round mechanic is not qualified to undertake the work of the body
repairman.
Automotive machinists, whose occupation consists of using such
machine tools as drill presses, lathes, and milling machines in piston
and valve boring and grinding and other tasks incidental to the major
overhaul of motors, are not covered by this study. Until the latter
part of the twenties, the duties of the automotive machinist and
mechanic were in many cases performed by the same person, which



3
may account for the confused and loose way the terms have been used.
In more recent years, however, the two types of work have been per­
formed in separate establishments by men with altogether different
kinds of training and skill. Separation between the two types of work
resulted partly from the large-scale production of extra parts,, which
made possible the replacement rather than repair of seriously worn or
damaged parts. In addition, defective motors are now often removed
and replaced by other motors which have been rebuilt in a machine
shop or factory. Thus, repair shops seldom need men skilled as
machinists, although mechanics may use electric hand drills and
reamers in such jobs as fitting replacement parts.

Status of Occupation Before and During the War
More than any other country the United States is geared economi­
cally and socially to motor-vehicle transport, supporting in the imme­
diate prewar years over twice as many passenger cars, busses, and
trucks as the rest of the world combined. In 1940, there were 32
million registered motor vehicles in the country, 1 for every 4 persons.
To repair and maintain this vast fleet, 377,000 automobile mechanics
and repairmen were employed, according to the 1940 Census of
Population. Automobile mechanics constituted nearly half of the
total number of mechanics and repairmen of all types reported as
employed. The numbers of skilled mechanics working on other types
of transportation equipment were insignificantly small in comparison.
There were, for example, only 40,000 employed railroad and car shop
mechanics and 27,000 airplane mechanics. The importance of the
occupation is further indicated by the fact that for every 3 employees
engaged in the manufacture of automobiles and automobile equipment,
2 automobile mechanics were employed.
Since the use of motor vehicles is Nation-wide, automobile me­
chanics are needed in all sections of the country, including the smallest
rural communities. The greatest concentrations are of course in the
regions with the highest motor-vehicle registrations (table 1). Five
States— New York, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Texas—
had more than one-third both of the total number of registered motor
vehicles and of all employed automobile mechanics in 1940. New
York and California alone accounted for 17.2 percent of the total
registrations and 17.4 percent of the automobile mechanics. In con­
trast, the six New England States, with only 6.3 percent of the
country’s motor vehicles, employed only 6.8 percent of the automotive
repairmen.
Most mechanics work either in independent general repair shops or
in the service departments maintained by dealers of the various car
and truck manufacturers. The 1939 Census of Business reported
52,000 independent repair garages. The number of dealer shops
reported was considerably smaller, about 34,000 and a few of these
did not have service departments. However, on the basis of a sample
survey made in 1940 by Motor Service Magazine, the average num­
ber of mechanics employed in independent garages was estimated
at only 2 }{ per shop, while the average number in dealer establish­
ments in communities under 10,000 population was over twice as
great and in larger cities more than three times as great.2 In addition,*
* Motor Service Magazine (Chicago, 111.), July 15, 1944.




4
T able 1.— N um ber and Percentage D istribution o f Autom obile M echanics and R egistered
M otor Vehicles, by Region and State, 1940

Region and State

Employed automobile
Motor vehicle registra­
mechanics and repairmen *
tions 1
2
Number

Percent

Number

Percent

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

376,985

100.0

32,025,365

100.0

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

25,541
2,763
1,557
1,328
12.644
1,886
5,363

6.8
.7
.4
.4
3.4
.5
1.4

2,019,944
205,896
135,384
93,645
903,843
187,509
493, 667

6.3
.6
.4
.3
2.8
.6
1.6

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

75.789
37. 720
13,215
24,854

20.1
10.0
3.5
6.6

6 975,829
2,743.014
1,086,966
2,145,849

18.7
8.6
3.4
6.7

East North Central....................................................
Ohio.....................................................................
Indiana........................................... ....................
Illinois.................................................................
Michigan..............................................................
Wisconsin.............................................................

77,622
19,908
10. 353
23.293
16.075
7,993

20.6
5.3
2.7
6.2
4.3
2.1

7,292,225
1,918,929
994,006
1,925, 814
1,552, 561
900,915

22.8
6.0
3.1
6.0
4.9
2.8

West North Central...................................................
Minnesota-..........................................................
Iowa................................................................... .
Missouri...............................................................
North Dakota. __................................................
South Dakota...................... ..............................
Nebraska.............................................................
Kansas.................................. ............................. .

43.121
8 693
8,135
11,524
1,876
2.035
4, 504
6,354

11.4
2.3
2.2
3.1
.4
.5
1.2
1.7

3,959, 858
871, 351
793,969
921,800
182,287
195,667
412.116
582,668

12.4
2.7
2.5
2.9
.6
.6
1.3
1.8

South Atlantic............................................................
Delaware..............................................................
Maryland................................................... .........
District of Columbia..........................................
Virginia-.............................................................
West Virginia.................... .................................
North Carolina,................... .............................
South Carolina....................................................
Georgia................................... .............................
Florida.................................................................

43,838
817
5, 653
1,793
6.710
3,779
7.843
3,834
6,919
6,490

11.6
.2
1.5
.5
1.8
10
2.1
1.0
1.8
1.7

3,406,136
71,763
444,532
161,914
4P8, 838
302,558
591,946
336.772
502.603
495, 210

10.6
.2
1.4
.5
1.6
.9
1.8
1.1
1.6
1.5

East South Central.......................................... .........
Kentucky.............................................................
Tennessee........................................................... .
Alabama...............................................................
Mississippi...........................................................

21,300
6.430
6. 514
4.905
3.451

5.6
1.7
1.7
1.3
.9

1,610,576
463,727
447,983
339,853
259,013

4.7
1.4
1.4
1.1
.8

West South Central...................................................
Arkansas...... .......................................................
Louisiana..............................................................
Oklahoma............................................................
Texas....................................................................

37, 240
3,836
5,184
7.060
21,160

9.9
1.0
1.4
1.9
5.6

2,891,438
257,177
365,429
574,719
1,694,113

9.0
.8
1.1
1.8
5.3

Mountain...................................................................
Montana..............................................................
Idaho....................................................................
Wyoming.............................................................
Colorado...............................................................
New M ex ico.......................................................
Arizona.................................................................
Utah.....................................................................
Nevada.................................................................

13.824
2,073
1,789
900
3,587
1,647
1,621
1,759
448

3.7
.6
.5
.2
1.0
.4
.4
.5
.1

1,239, 627
191,032
163,340
85,657
352,110
125,056
138.403
139,921
44,108

3.9
.6
.5
.3
1.1
.4
.4
.5
.1

Pacific.........................................................................
Washington..........................................................
Oregon..................................................................
California.............................................................

38,710
6,612
4,356
27,742

10.3
1.8
1.1
7.4

3,729,732
562,495
393,578
2,773,659

11.6
1.8
1.2
8.6

1 Sixteenth Census of U. S. Population, Vol. II, The Labor Force, Parts 2-5.
1 Federal Works Agency, Public Roads Administration. Publicly owned vehicles are excluded.




5
mechanics were employed in shops specializing in such work as battery
and ignition, wheel and axle, and brake repair, which numbered about
5,000 in 1939; in the 7,000 shops engaged primarily in radiator and
body repair; in many of the 7,000 used-car establishments; and in
about 12,000 garages of transportation companies and of department
stores, coal companies, breweries, and other firms which maintained
their own fleets of motor vehicles. A few mechanics were employees
of the Nation’s 242,000 gasoline-filling stations.
As suggested by the comparatively small number of specialized
shops, automotive-repair specialists were much less numerous than
general automobile mechanics, though the former group has increased
in importance in recent years. Specialists are employed not only in
shops engaged solely or primarily in their particular type of work but
also in some large independent repair garages and greater numbers of
fleet and dealer establishments which have become departmentalized.
Men employed in departmentalized shops may be shifted from one
department to another, however, depending upon fluctuations in the
volume of business of different types, and their duties are therefore
likely to be more varied than those of mechanics in specialized shops.
In the small general repair garage, independent or dealer, depart­
mentalization is of course not feasible, and the mechanic is required,
as a rule, to perform any type of repair work necessary to restore a
vehicle to operative condition.
Developments after 1940— the spectacular expansion in war in­
dustries, recruitment into the armed forces, cessation of passenger-car
production, and shortage of repair parts and materials— of course
greatly altered conditions in the automotive-service industry. The
reserve of unemployed automobile mechanics, who numbered 65,000
at the time of the 1940 Census, was absorbed early in the war, probably
before the end of 1942, by the automotive-maintenance industry
itself, the armed forces, and war industries. Thousands of employed
automobile mechanics were lost to the armed forces and war industries.
As a result, employment in the occupation dropped by at least 40
percent between 1940 and 1944— or to about 225,000— according to
data from a number of different surveys by Government and
private agencies.
The personnel loss which the automotive-maintenance industry
sustained is not fully indicated by this net decline in employment.
Thousands of experienced mechanics were replaced by persons with
little or no previous experience in the field, many of them trained in
accelerated courses under the sponsorship of the U. S. Office of Edu­
cation or of local dealer groups throughout the country. Thus a
tremendous qualitative as well as quantitative loss in personnel
occurred during the war.
Concurrently, there was a drop in the number of repair shops and
in the volume of repair work handled, though this was not as great
as the decline in employment. Estimates by Motor Service Maga­
zine, for example, show a decrease in employment of mechanics be­
tween 1941 and 1944 of almost 30 percent, but a drop of only 22
percent in the number of independent and dealer shops and of only
15 percent in the number of service jobs handled.3
That the decrease in volume of work was not in proportion to
the decline in employment during the war points to an increase in*
* Motor Service Magazine (Chicago, HI.), July 15,1944, and November 1,1944.
664240°—45----- 2




6
the average number of jobs handled per mechanic per week. This
is explained, in part, by a rise in average hours of work, particularly
in small independent shops where self-employed mechanics often
worked more than 12 hours a day for extended periods of time. In
the second place, there was, in many instances, a deterioration in the
quality of work compared with prewar standards. Finally, the con­
stant pressure of work during the war permitted much fuller utilization
of labor time than in former years, when mechanics often had to
spend much time waiting for job assignments. The American Auto­
mobile Association found, for example, that in 12,000 of its official
garages, the average number of hours spent on repair work increased
from 5.8 per man-day in 1941 to 7.5 in 1942.4 This upward trend
in labor utilization undoubtedly continued during 1943 and 1944 as
more shops closed and employment contimied to decline.
Altogether, in view of the many difficulties with which they have
been confronted, the automotive-maintenance industry and its work­
ers achieved a remarkable degree of success in keeping the Nation’s
aging motor vehicles in operative condition. Since millions of work­
ers in war-industry centers depended upon the passenger car and
bus to transport them to work and since trucks and intercity busses
carried unprecedented traffic loads, this accomplishment was an
important contribution to the war effort.

Employment Prospects
Rising employment of automobile mechanics during the transition
period may be confidently predicted. In these early postwar years,
the need for mechanics’ services will be greater than during the war,
because more liberal supplies of gasoline, tires, and repair parts will
permit increased use of aging vehicles. Moreover, the release of
skilled workers from the armed forces and war industries will tend,
by and of itself, to raise the number employed in many repair shops
which even before the end of the war were in need of additional help.
Whether employment of mechanics will continue to rise after large
numbers of new cars become available and the labor deficit has been
made up will, however, depend largely on the number of automobiles
then in operation. It is necessary, therefore, to examine the prospects
with respect to mo tor-vehicle registrations, as a basis for estimating
future employment and, ultimately, for considering how job openings
are likely to compare with the numbers of trained workers who are
potential entrants into the occupation.
T R E N D OF M O T O R -V E H IC L E R E G IST R A TIO N S

Between the advent of the automobile and the entrance of the
United States into World War II, there were only 4 years in which
mo tor-vehicle registrations failed to increase— 1931-33 and 1938—
all years of deep depression. The most spectacular upward climb of
course occurred during the first years in the automobile’s history,
from 1905 through 1917, as the chart (p. 8) indicates. After 1926,
a marked leveling off in the growth curve was evident, but the peak in
registrations was not reached until 1941, when 29.5 million passenger
4Automotive Digest (Cincinnati, Ohio), March 1943, p. 12.




7
cars and 4.9 million busses and trucks were on the roads. This was
an average of one vehicle for every 3.9 persons in the population, the
highest ratio so far achieved in any year.
The rise in motor-vehicle registrations was not accompanied by a
corresponding growth in production. Output for the domestic market
(as measured by factory sales) has never yet regained the 1929 level
of 4.62 million vehicles, although the 1941 production figure was
nearly as high (4.58 million). During the intervening years, the
number of new passenger cars, busses, and trucks reaching the market
fluctuated widely but, nevertheless, exceeded the number of old vehi­
cles scrapped in all except the four depression years mentioned above,
when there were slight declines in registrations.
On the other hand, production has greatly exceeded the gain in
registrations in all years after 1926. Sales of new motor vehicles
have been largely for replacements, and the number of new owners
purchasing cars have tended to decrease. There is, however, no evi­
dence that the saturation point in vehicle ownership has been reached
or closely approached. In fact, had the war not intervened, the level
of vehicle ownership would probably have continued to rise, though
at a decreasing rate, for at least another decade.
During the war, production of passenger cars was prohibited and
output of commercial vehicles for civilian use drastically curtailed.
Some new vehicles were available from the stockpile built up before
the war, but the number of these was very limited. In consequence,
registrations declined sharply. The number of passenger cars
registered decreased from 29.5 million in 1941 to 25.3 million in 1944,
a drop of 14 percent. Truck and bus registrations dropped almost 8
percent in the same period, from 4,948,000 in 1941 to 4,576,000 in
1944, despite the imperative need for continued operation of all availa­
ble commercial vehicles.
The backlog of demand for new vehicles which was created for
the immediate postwar years is only partially indicated by comparing
present registrations with the 1941 figure. In the first place, had
the prewar upward trend in registrations continued, many new vehicle
buyers would have entered the market, Secondly, a tremendous
number of vehicles will be scrapped as soon as replacements become
available. According to the Office of Defense Transportation, the
average age of passenger cars at the start of 1941 was 4 % years, whereas
the average age at the beginning of 1945 was slightly over 7 years.
The proportion of cars under 3 years of age fell from 30 percent to only
2 percent during the same period, while the proportion 7 years old and
over rose from about 35 to 60 percent. The average age of commercial
vehicles has undoubtedly risen also, although comparative figures are
not available.
The deterioration which has resulted from this increase in vehicle
age is obviously great although probably less, on the average, than
would have occurred under normal conditions, since rationing of tires
and gasoline during the war restricted the use of most passenger cars.
On the other hand, some cars were not used often enough to keep them
in good condition, while a few other cars and most trucks and busses
were operated more intensively than before the war. Because of this
situation and also because of the shortage of mechanics and replace­
ment parts, a considerable number of vehicles deteriorated far more
rapidly than they would have in peacetime.




MOTOR VEHICLES REGISTERED AND NUMBER PRODUCED
FOR DOMESTIC MARKET

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS




^.PRODUCTION AS MEASUREO BY FACTORY SALES DATA FOR YEARS
PRIOR TO 1921 INCLUDE EXPORTS

Sources

AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION
U. S. PUBLIC ROADS ADMINISTRATION
U S DEPT OF COMMERCE .BUREAU OF THE CENSUS

9
The deferred demand for new vehicles thus built up has been esti­
mated by Government and industry experts at 12 to 15 million pas­
senger cars and perhaps 2 % million commercial vehicles. In their
opinion, there will be an unprecedented annual output when full-scale
production is resumed and a rise in registrations above the 1941 peak
figure.
The estimates of future production and registrations arrived at in
the present study are in line with this view. They are based upon an
examination of the above indicated long-term trends and wartime
developments and of several different postwar estimates, supple­
mented by consulation with a number of persons closely acquainted
with the field. It is assumed, for the purposes of this study, that the
levels of general business activity will be favorable. Estimates of
total yearly production, rising well above the record 1929 level, were
the starting point of the calculations. To adapt these figures for use
in estimating registrations, an allowance was made for inventory re­
quirements and for exports— yielding estimates of the number of
vehicles likely to reach domestic consumers. The number of cars,
trucks, and busses that will be scrapped each year was also estimated—
at much higher figures than prevailed before the war, as would be ex­
pected in view of the present age and condition of the country’s
motor vehicles. Adding the estimated sales of new vehicles to 1944
registrations and subtracting the scrappage estimates yielded the
following figures on passenger-car and commercial-vehicle registra­
tions through 1950:
Estimated registrations (in m illions) of—
Passenger Trucks and Total
cars
busses
vehicles'

19442_____________________________________ 25. 3
1945
_________________________________ 23. 4
1946
_________________________________ 23.9
1947
_______________________ ______ 26. 0
1948
_________________________________ 28.2
1949
_________________________________ 30. 5
1950
_________________________________ 33. 3

4. 5
4. 7
4 .9
5.1
5.3
5. 5
5. 8

29. 8
28. 1
28.8
31.1
33.5
36. 0
39. 1

1 Registrations are as of end of the year and are exclusive of publicly owned vehicles. It is assumed that
the number of such vehicles will remain fairly constant in the postwar years. It is possible that future
registrations will be higher than estimated if low-priced cars modeled on the style of the Army Jeep will be
produced on a large scale. However, there is no way at present of ascertaining how many of these cars could
be sold, and the effect such sales might have upon the sales of other cars or upon the over-all need for
mechanics’ services.
2 Source: Public Roads Administration, exclusive of publicly owned vehicles.

The 1950 registration estimates would represent a gain of 4.7 million
motor vehicles above the 1941 level— a rise quite in line with the
long-term trend which, as previously noted, has been ascending at a
decreasing rate. If, as expected, the population of the United States
reaches 144K million by 1950, the figures would mean one motor
vehicle for every 3.7 persons in that year, compared with a ratio of 3.9
in 1941. This too would be consistent with prewar trends, which sug­
gest a continued slow rise in the ratio of vehicles to population.
PR O SPECTIVE L ABO R D E M A N D A N D SU PPL Y

The number of automobile mechanics needed in the next few years
will of course depend not only on motor-vehicle registrations but also
on labor requirements per vehicle—which will, in turn, be determined
by such factors as working hours, labor productivity, and vehicle age
and utilization.




10
During the war there was a sharp rise in the number of registered
vehicles per employed mechanic, reflecting the greater drop in employ­
ment than in registrations. This change was, however, the result of
wartime conditions which are unlikely to survive the transition period.
With the freeing of gasoline, tires, and replacement parts, cars will
rob ably once again be used with somewhat the same frequency as
efore the war. Because many repair shops will soon be opened, the
total volume of repair work will be divided among more shops and the
steady pressure of incoming work which permitted fuller utilization of
labor time during the war will no longer prevail. In addition, the
quality of work and the number of working hours will probably return
to prewar levels, thereby eliminating the other factors which made
possible increased output per mechanic during the war.
It is possible that a more widespread use of testing instruments and
the introduction of improved devices will in the future enable mechan­
ics to complete repairs and replacements more quickly, but this type
of change will play a relatively insignificant role in determining total
demand for mechanics in the next 5 years. It is also possible that
there may be an increasing number of large departmentalized shops,
and this would tend to raise productivity and correspondingly to lower
labor requirements. On the other hand, many returning veterans may
open their own small garages, which would be an offsetting factor.
Future demand for mechanics will also be influenced by the durabil­
ity of new vehicles, the frequency with which vehicles will be operated,
and the extent to which factories undertake the repair of motors and
other parts. Unfortunately, it is not possible at this time to gage
the effect of such changes or the extent to which one factor will offset
another. Expert opinion indicates, however, that passenger cars will
not differ radically from prewar models in the early postwar years.
As in the past, improvements and changes will be introduced slowly.
One factor— the temporary increase in vehicle age— will certainly
tend to raise the amount of repair work needed per vehicle above pre­
war requirements. According to the estimated rates of production
and scrappage, about 50 percent of the registered passenger cars will
still be 7 years old and over from 1946 through 1948, as contrasted
with only 34 percent in 1940, although the number and proportion
under 3 years old will rise rapidly and the average age of all cars will
decrease. By 1950, a greater proportion of cars will be under 3 years
old than in 1940, but the average age of all cars and the proportions
under 7 years and* 7 years and over will be approximately the same
as in that year. Similarly, the average age of commercial vehicles
will fall rapidly from 1946 onward and, by 1950, will probably be much
the same as before the war.
Altogether, it appears reasonable to assume that the relationship
between the number of motor vehicles and the employment of auto­
mobile mechanics in 1950 will approximate the 1940 situation— when
there were 85 registered vehicles for every employed automobile
mechanic in the country.5 On the basis of this ratio and of the esti­
mated number of registered motor vehicles for 1950, then, employ­

E

* Although the ratio varied to a certain extent from State to State, analysis of the relationship between
the number of employed automobile mechanics and the number of registered vehicles in 1940— the only year
for which complete data are available— revealed a high degree of correlation. Using data for the 48 States
and the District of Columbia, the coefficient of correlation was 0.97.




11
ment of automobile mechanics may be expected to rise by that year
to about 460,000. Even under the highest estimates as to future
production of motor vehicles, if Nation-wide full employment should
be achieved, the number of vehicles in use would be less than 10 per­
cent higher than is assumed here; but employment of automobile
mechanics would not by any means be correspondingly greater, since
the average age of vehicles would be lowered and the amount of repair
work needed per vehicle would also drop. The level of employment
estimated here for 1950 would be a gain of only about 80,000 over
1940 employment and not quite 20,000 over the total 1940 labor force
(including experienced unemployed). However, it would mean an
increase of roughly 235,000 compared with the estimated 1944-45
level of employment. The intervening years will witness, first, a
sharp increase which will rapidly return employment to the prewar
level and, subsequently, a continued rise at a slower pace.
In addition, some employment opportunities will, of course, be
created by deaths and retirements, and transfers to other types of
work. It is estimated that in the immediate postwar period there will
be about 5 to 6 thousand job openings each year owing to death
and retirement of employed automobile mechanics. Job openings
arising from departures to other occupations will undoubtedly be much
less numerous and will occur chiefly among the less skilled men, since
for highly skilled workers with several years experience, such a change
would generally mean starting at a lower level with a consequent
decrease in earnings.
Despite the anticipated rapid rise in employment and the addi­
tional job openings which will arise owing to withdrawals from the
occupation, the over-all employment outlook for automobile me­
chanics is unfavorable, because of the great number of persons who
will probably seek work in the trade. According to data obtained
from the War Department, there were in the Army alone as of a
recent date about 200,000 enlisted personnel and more than 25,000
civilian employees performing work which is comparable to the
duties of automobile mechanics in civilian life. Not all of these
persons, of course, will want to remain in the occupation. Never­
theless, the number of men seeking mechanics’ jobs after release
from the Army will be tremendous, especially in view of the great
number of enlisted men with civilian experience in this field— esti­
mated now at about 140,000.
No statistics are available regarding Navy, Marine Corps, and
Coast Guard personnel engaged in automotive repair work, but it is
estimated that more than 25,000 former automobile mechanics
entered these branches of the armed forces during the war. Further­
more, as mentioned previously, a great many mechanics left the
trade to enter war industries. Two surveys conducted by the Na­
tional Automobile Dealers’ Association in 1942 and 1943 revealed
that the number leaving repair shops for this reason was much greater
than the number diverted to the armed forces. No doubt many of
the former group later entered the armed forces, but if only half as
many mechanics were in war industries at the end of the war as
entered the armed forces, which appears a conservative assumption,
the figure would run well into the tens of thousands, and it is likely
that most of these men will wish to return to the trade now that the
war is over.




12
Taking into consideration all these groups of potential entrants
into the labor market, the conclusion is inescapable that job seekers
will be more numerous than job openings in the occupation lor several
ears after the war, except perhaps during the transition months.
ievertheless, the comparatively small group of fully qualified all­
round mechanics and specialists are not likely to encounter much
difficulty in obtaining employment. Much of the wartime training,
both in civilian life and in the armed forces, was designed, to produce,
as quickly as possible, mechanics able to perform some of the simpler
types of maintenance work under the supervision of more skilled
workers. Many employers have been eagerly awaiting the return
of the fully qualified men from the armed forces and war industries.
In addition, because of their knowledge and experience, some of the
highly skilled men may be able to open and succeed in their own
business. For less skilled workers and, still more, for persons with­
out any previous experience in the occupation, the Nation-wide
employment outlook is unfavorable, although opportunities may of
course be better in some local areas than others. Not only will
there be an ovrersupply of partly trained mechanics but many per­
sons have acquired skills in other types ot work, such as aircraft
engine maintenance, which would make it comparatively easy for
them to learn and perform the duties of automobile mechanics,
should they wish to enter the trade.

S

Education and Training
In view of the anticipated oversupply of automobile mechanics,
young people who plan to enter this field should weigh carefully the
obstacles which will confront them. For those who hope to enter
the occupation despite the obstacles, the best type of preparation
depends upon the prospective mechanic's age.
Young people under 18 should, if possible, complete at least 2 years
of high school before looking for work or entering a vocational school.
Even though there are no standard educational requirements in the
trade, mechanics need to be able to read and understand easily trade
journals, technical factory bulletins, and mechanical books, so that
they can keep track of the changes in design and construction which
the automotive industry introduces from year to year. Moreover,
additional education enhances the chances for promotion to more
responsible positions. Courses in English, general science, elementary
physics, and mathematics are particularly valuable. Vocationalschool training may also facilitate job progress, provided that the
standards of the school are satisfactory and that actual conditions in
the trade are adequately reproduced. Information regarding training
programs and location of vocational schools is obtainable from local
superintendents of schools and State supervisors for trade and indus­
trial education. For the person over high-school age, the best and
shortest way to become a skilled mechanic is to find employment in a
repair shop, learn on the job from experienced men, and concurrently
supplement this experience with trade-extension training in related
technical subjects.
The prospective mechanic should seek to acquire a general know­
ledge of the construction and functioning of the motor vehicle because
of the competitive advantages enjoyed by the all-round mechanic,




13
compared with the repairman whose knowledge and skill are limited to
only one or a few types of repair work. The all-round man is able to
obtain employment more readily in a repair shop of any size, regardless
of whether the shop is departmentalized. In a departmentalized shop,
he can transfer to another department which may be busier at the
time when his regular work falls off. This is particularly important
in view of the commission method of wage payment which prevails
in many repair shops, both large and small, since in these circum­
stances ability to transfer from one type of work to another tends
to reduce weekly fluctuations in earnings. Promotions to supervis­
ory positions such as shop foreman, trouble shooter, or service manager
is usually limited to all-round mechanics, because positions of this
type require an ability to understand and check all kinds of work
performed in the shop. Finally, an all-round knowledge of the
occupation is of great value to the mechanic who plans to open his
own garage.
Although a few months’ experience and training are sufficient to equip
a man to perform some of the simpler types of repair work, it generally
takes 3 to 4 years to become a fully qualified mechanic. For all­
round mechanics to become specialists, of course, requires additional
time and study. However, it is possible for the man with a knack
for handling metal to become a skilled body repairman in 2 to 3 years,
since it is not necessary for him to acquire a technical knowledge of
the construction and operation of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, no standard training methods prevail in the automotive-maintenance industry and the prospective mechanic generally
has had to plan his own training. Boys going to work in the trade
have usually started out in such jobs as helper, greaser, or washer,
although it is sometimes possible to start as an apprentice. Where
there are strict apprenticeship standards, as in the State of Washing­
ton, the apprentice receives prescribed on-the-job training in all types
of repair work with a view toward becoming an all-round mechanic,
and in addition he is required to attend night school for at least 144
hours per year throughout the apprenticeship period. At the end of
the fourth year, the apprentice must pass an examination to qualify
as a journeyman.
During the war, interest in systematic training was widely stimu­
lated. For example, the Rhode Island Dealers Association, in
cooperation with the State Department of Education and the War
Manpower Commission, inaugurated early in 1944 an apprenticeship
system similar to that in Washington. Under the Rhode Island plan,
the applicant must have completed at least 2 years of high school in
addition to passing tests for mechanical aptitude and general intelli­
gence.
On the other hand, much of the wartime training both in civilian
life and in the armed forces, as previously indicated, was designed to
produce single-skill mechanics in as short a time as possible. Hence,
if they wish to advance, many wartime trained mechanics will have to
supplement their present knowledge and skill with additional school­
ing and on-the-job training.
Many of the wartime inaugurated training programs will not only
be continued but broadened, now that the war is over, and other States
are likely to duplicate the Washington and Rhode Island systems of
apprenticeship. In the future, therefore, more systematic training



14
methods and stricter requirements with respect to education and
mechanical aptitude may be expected throughout the trade.

Earnings and Working Conditions
Earnings and working conditions of automobile mechanics, like those
of workers in many other service trades, vary widely. Some me­
chanics are in as favorable an economic position as skilled workers in
major industries, but others continue to have relatively low wages
and a poor working environment—a fact which accounts at least in
part for the great exodus of mechanics to other jobs during the war*
H OUR S A N D

E A R N IN G S

Typical earnings of experienced automobile mechanics before the
wartime increases in wage rates were from $20 to $35 for a 40- to 60hour workweek, according to studies of the occupation in three
States— Georgia, Illinois, and Ohio—made by the National Youth
Administration in 1938 and 1939. Learners were found to be earning
much less, from $5 to $20 a week, while a few highly skilled mechanics
were paid as high as $75.
Information on wartime earnings which is both more comprehensive
and more reliable was obtained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
through Nation-wide studies of hourly wage rates and straight-time
hourly earnings (in the case of mechanics paid on a commission basis)
in selected areas in 1943 and 1944.6 From the 1943 study, which was
much the broader of the two and therefore more representative of the
country as a whole, estimates of average straight-time hourly earnings
and wage rates (including incentive payments but excluding premium
payments for overtime and late-shift work) of general automobile
mechanics are available for each of 279 wage areas scattered through­
out the country.7 Altogether, 13,780 general automobile mechanics
were covered. Comparable estimates covering 4,552 body repair­
men and 2,798 greasers are also available for a somewhat smaller
number of areas. In' addition, supplementary information was
secured on such aspects of working conditions as hours of work,
provisions for premium pay and paid vacations, and existence of union
agreements.
Straight-time average hourly earnings of general automobile
mechanics in most (87 percent) of the areas surveyed in 1943 were
between 70 cents and $1.20 (table 2). Earnings were found to vary
greatly not only in the country as a whole but also within regions and
between cities of similar size, in terms of population. In general,
however, earnings were slightly higher in the West Coast .area than in
other regions and also tended to be higher in large than in small cities.
Practically all areas with average earnings under 90 cents had less
than 100,000 population, while the greatest concentration of average
« The information for each wage area covered was based in some instances upon all, in others upon a
sample, of the automobile-repair establishments. Although fleet-repair shops, such as those maintained
by breweries, dairies, and coal companies, were included in a few areas, coverage in most instances was
restricted to general independent and dealer repair shops. Establishments specializing in one type of
service exclusively, such as body or electrical repair, were excluded. Except in a relatively few cases,
establishments with less than nine employees were also not covered. To the extent that large shops pay
more than small shops, therefore, the average hourly earnings may be overstated.
7 The 1943 survey covered about 70 percent of the cities in the country with a population of 100,000 and over
and about 40 percent of those between 25,000 and 100,000, but less than 2 percent of those under 25,000. How­
ever, the bulk of automobile mechanics work in the larger cities.




15
earnings in the larger areas was between 90 cents and $1.20. As
table 2 indicates, median area-average earnings for general automobile
mechanics in cities under 100,000 population were 88 cents compared
with $1.02 in cities over 100,000.
In the less extensive survey conducted by the Bureau in 1944, a
separation was made between fully qualified (grade A) mechanics and
less skilled (grade B) men performing less varied and simpler tasks.
In nearly all of the areas covered in 1944, the average earnings of
grade B mechanics were from 60 cents to $1.10 and of grade A
mechanics from 90 cents to $1.40. Median area-average earnings for
grade B men were 79 cents an hour, compared with $1.16 for grade
A men.
Body repairmen generally made, on the average, several cents more
an hour than general mechanics in 1943, although for them as for
all-round men straight-time average hourly earnings were between
70 cents and $1.20 in most of the areas surveyed. The earnings of
greasers— which suggest the range of pay for beginners, since many
mechanics have in the past entered the trade through initial work of
this type— were, of course, much lower than those of body repairmen
and general automobile mechanics. Average hourly earnings of these
semiskilled men were between 40 and 70 cents in most of the selected
wage areas.
Because these earnings data are averages for wage areas comprising
an entire city, a city and its environs, or two or more neighboring
communities believed to have similar wage rates, the more extensive
range of individual earnings is obscured. Striking illustration of this
is provided by earnings in the Detroit wage area in 1943. General
automobile mechanics in this area averaged $1.42 an hour. However,
the lowest and highest establishment averages were, respectively, 74
cents and $2.56 an hour, and the range in earnings of individual me­
chanics was still wider.
The individual's skill and the type of shop in which he is employed
greatly influence his rate of pay. The method of wage payment may
also affect earnings. During the war, mechanics paid on a commission
basis (usually 40 to 50 percent of the standard price of completed work,
exclusive of the cost of replacement parts) generally earned slightly
more per hour than those paid an hourly rate, and, other conditions
being equal, also had higher weekly earnings. Other factors which
influence weekly earnings are the number of hours worked per week,
whether the shop where the mechanic is employed provides for premi­
um rates of pay, and the number of hours required in such shops before
premium pay becomes effective. Weekly earnings of self-employed
mechanics probably have varied to a greater extent than those of other
mechanics, depending not only on the individual's business ability and
knowledge of the trade but also on the number of mechanics working
for him.
The number of hours of work per week in automotive-repair estab­
lishments varied considerably before and during the war. Under the
customary 5- to 6-day workweek and 8- to 10-hour day, typical working
hours for automobile mechanics ranged from 40 to 60 hours a week.
For example, in 257 automotive-repair establishments in 10 Ohio wage
areas studied by the Bureau during 1944, the standard workweek was
in all instances within this range of 40 to 60 hours, and in nearly seveneighths of the shops was from 44 to 52 hours.



16
T a b l e 2 . — A rea-A verage

Straight-Tim e H ourly Earnings fo r General Autom obile
M echanics, B ody R epairm en , and Greasers; Selected W age A reas, M arch-O ctober 1943
General automobile
mechanics

Body repairmen,
metal

Greasers

Average hourly earnings (per wage area)
Number
of wage
areas

Percent

Number
of wage
areas

Percent

Number
of wage
areas

Percent

All areas
$0.30 and under $0.40...................................
$0.40 and under $0.50...................................
$0.50 and under $0.60................................. .
$0.60 and under $0.70................................. .
$0.70 and under $0.80...................................
$0.80 and under $0.90...................................
$0.90 and under $1.00...................................
$1.00 and under $1.10..................................
$1.10 and under $1.20—
................................
$1.20 and under $1.30..... .............................
$1.30 and under $1.40___________________
$1.40 and under $1.50___________________
$1.50 and over______________ _______ ___

2
13
64
46
47
42
43
13
3
5
1

0.7
4.6
22.9
16.5
16.8
15.2
15.4
4.6
1.1
1.8
0.4

4
13
45
44
33
45
37
17
8
6
5

1.6
5.1
17.5
17.1
12.8
17.5
14.4
‘6.6
3.1
2.3
1.9

Total................................................ -

279

100.0

257

100.0

Median hourly earnings.............................

$0.92

26
54
63
52
23
25
12

255

$0.97

10.2
21.2
24.7
20.4
9.0
9.8
4.7

m o

$0.57

Areas under 100,000 population
$0 30 and under $0.40___________________
$0 40 and under $0.50___________________
$o!50 and under $0.60......................... .........
$0.60 and under $0.70..................................
$0.70 and under $0.80— .................... ........
$0.80 and under $0.90............. .......... .........
$0.90 and under $1.00..................................
$1 00 and under $1.10___________________
$1.10 and under $1.20___________________
$1 20 and under $1.30-_________________
$1 30 and under $1.40___________________
$1 40 and under $1.50__________________
$1 50 and over_________________________

2
13
59
43
27
25
30
8
1
3
1

0.9
6.1
27.8
20.3
12.7
11.8
14.2
3.8
0.5
1.4
0.5

4
11
43
39
26
24
22
10
6
2
3

2.1
5.8
22.5
20.5
13.7
12.6
11.6
5.3
3.2
1.1
1.6

Total..................................................

212

100.0

190

100.0

Median hourly earnings................... .........

22
49
52
32
16
14
4

11.6
25.9
27.5
16.9
8.5
7.4
2.1

189

100.0

$0.89

$0.88

$0.54

Areas of 100,000 population and over
$0 30 and undp.r $0.40
__ *_____
$0 40 and under $0.50 _ _______________
$0 50 and under $0.60___________________
$0 60 and under $0.70 _________________
$0.70 and under $0.80— ........................... $0.80 and under $0.90.................................
$0.90 and under $1.00— .............................
$1 00 and undp.r $1.10
_____
$110 and under $i 20
$1 20 and under $1.30
___ ______
$1 30 and under $1.40
_____
$1 40 and under $1.50
_ ___ ________
$1 50 and over
____
Total..................................................
Medium hourly earnings...........................

5
3
20
17
13
5
2
2

7.5
4.5.
29.8
25.3
19.4
7.5
3.0
3.0

2
2
5
7
21
15
7
2
4
2

3.0
3.0
7.5
7.5
31.2
22.3
7.5
3.0
6.0
3.0

67

100.0

67

100.0

$1.02

$1.07

4
5
11
20
7
11
8

6.0
7.6
16.7
30.3
10.6
16.7
12.1

66

100.0

$0.67

Premium pay for work in excess of a stipulated number of hours a
day or week or both is provided for in some shops and apparently
became more common during the war. Of the 257 establishments
covered in the Ohio wage areas mentioned above, 101 paid time and
one-half for work beyond a specified number of hours in 1 week (40



17
hours in 55 repair shops, 44 hours in 29, and 48 in the remaining 17).
Only 42 shops reported provisions for payment of premium rates for
hours of work in excess of a stipulated number in 1 day, most of these
paying time and a half for work beyond 8 hours. This situation with
respect to overtime-pay provisions appeared to be fairly typical,
except that in a few shops in other areas premium rates did not start
before 50 or even 60 hours a week.
During the war, there was a marked increase in weekly earnings of
automobile repairmen, in line with the general upward movement in
wages. The average straight-time hourly earnings of general mechan­
ics and body repairmen in most of the areas surveyed in 1943 sug­
gest a typical wage range of $28 to $48 even for a 40-hour workweek,
and actual average weekly earnings were no doubt generally higher.
For example, the range of average weekly earnings for general me­
chanics and body repairmen employed in shops which averaged 50
hours a week and paid time and one-half after 44 hours would be
$37 to $64.
Annual earnings depend upon regularity of employment, in addition
to the factors discussed above. In recent years, employment and
earnings generally have not varied very much from one month to
another. Where there are slight seasonal fluctuations in volume of
work, these are more likely to result in somewhat lower or higher
weekly earnings, particularly in the case of mechanics paid on a com­
mission basis, than in a complete loss of pay because of lay-off.
Mechanics are more likely to be laid off in the winter months in small
northern towns than elsewhere, but even in the northern part of the
country most repair shops employ a fairly steady force throughout
the year. Less frequent utilization of passenger cars during the winter
months in these States is partly offset by the additional stress to which
vehicles are subjected in cold weather. Passenger cars nowadays are
rarely stored for the entire winter, since better roads and speedy
removal of snow, together with the widespread use of heaters and
general improvement of passenger cars, have made possible increased
winter driving. Furthermore, trucks, busses, taxis, and local delivery
vehicles operate to about the same extent in all types of weather, and
consequently require additional repair servicing in the colder months.
There is usually a slight increase in activity during the spring in most
parts of the country, because of motorists' preparation for vacation
travel, and extra temporary help may then be hired in some instances.
O T H ER W O R K IN G CONDITIO N S

The lack of uniformity in earnings and working conditions in the
automotive-maintenance industry may be attributed at least in part
to the fact that unionization is not very extensive, which in turn is
due partly to the wide dispersal of automotive-repair shops and the
prevalence of shops employing only a few automobile mechanics.
Of 3,083 automotive-repair establishments surveyed by the Bureau
in 1943, only 13 percent had union agreements covering substantial
proportions of the employees. The highest proportion of unioniza­
tion was found in the Pacific region, where almost 40 percent of the
establishments were covered by union agreements. The major unions
for automobile mechanics are the United Automobile, Aircraft and
Agricultural Implement Workers of America (CIO), the bulk of whose




18
membership is concentrated in and around Detroit, and the Inter­
national Association of Machinists (AFL), which has locals in many
parts of the country. In addition, automobile mechanics have been
organized by locals of other national unions, as well as by inde­
pendent, local unions. Workers in union shops generally earn more
than those in nonunion shops.
Policies concerning vacations with pay depend upon the individual
repair shop. In some instances, mechanics receive either a 1- or
2-week vacation with pay after 1 year of service. Sometimes the length
of the vacation is increased after 2 to 5 years of continuous employ­
ment in the same establishment. It appears that the practice of
providing paid vacations to automobile mechanics became more
common during the war years.
The physical conditions under which the automobile mechanic works
vary greatly depending on the particular shop in which he is employed.
Some repair shops, particularly the larger ones, have installed modern
equipment and facilities, thus reducing accident and health hazards
and also the physical discomfort which may be associated with some
parts of the work. Other shops fail to provide adequate heating, light­
ing, and ventilation. In such shops especially, the mechanic may be
subject to nausea and headache from motor-exhaust fumes. In addi­
tion, there may be danger of injury to men working under vehicles
supported on jacks or blocking.
Generally, the mechanic’s work is performed inside a shop during
the day. However, it is occasionally necessary for him to perform
emergency repairs outside the shop in the open. In shops which
service trucks, busses, or taxis, the work may be regularly performed
at night. In most jobs the mechanic handles greasy tools and parts,
and it is often necessary for him to stand or lie in awkward and
cramped positions for extended periods of time. Sound health and at
least average physical endurance, in addition to mechanical aptitude,
are therefore essential qualifications for automotive-repair work.




V. S.

GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: I 9 4 f