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EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN

THE BUILDING TRADES

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

•

BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

MAURICE J. TOBIN, Secretary
EWAN CLAGUE, Commissioner
IN COOPERATION WITH VETERANS ADMINISTRATION

OCCUPATIONAL OUTLOOK SERIES




BULLETIN NO. 967

EM PLOYM ENT OUTLOOK IN

THE BUILDING TRADES




Bulletin No. 967
United States Department of Labor
Maurice J. Tobin, Secretary

Bureau of Labor Statistics
Ewan Glague, Commissioner

in cooperation with
Veterans Administration




Letter of Transmittal
U nited S tates D epartment of L abor,
B ureau of L abor S tatistics ,

Washington, D. C., July 20, 1949.
The S ecretary

of

L abor :

I
have the honor to transmit herewith a report on the employment outlook
in the building trades. This is one of a series of occupational studies conducted
in the Bureau’s Occupational Outlook Branch for use in vocational counseling
of veterans, young people in schools, and others interested in choosing a field
of work. The study was financed largely by the Veterans Administration, and
the report was originally published as Veterans Administration Pamphlet
7-4.11 for use in vocational rehabilitation and education activities.
The study was prepared by Alexander C. Findlay, who was assisted in the
preparation of Part 3 by Ruth Gordon. The Bureau wishes to acknowledge the
generous assistance received from the international unions making up the
Building Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor, from asso­
ciations of contractors, from architectural and building magazines, and from
others.




E w a n C lague ,

Commissioner.

Hon. M aurice J. T obin ,

Secretary of Labor.

For sale by the Superintendent o f Docum ents, U. S. Governm ent Printing Office
W ashington 25, D. C. - Price 50 cents

CONTENTS
Page
S U M M A R Y ............... ,.................................................................

1

P A R T I. C O N S T R U C T IO N : C H A R A C T E R IS T IC S O F
T H E I N D U S T R Y A N D IT S E M P L O Y M E N T
Page
Major Types of Employment................................................
The Contract Construction Industry.................................
Long-Range Outlook for the Building Trades...................
Booms and Depressions in Construction Activity.............
Seasonality of Employment ...............................................
General Characteristics of Employment...........................
Informal Personnel Practices...............................................
Opportunities for Advancement.........................................
Opportunities for Minority Groups.....................................
Hours and Earnings.............................................................
Classes or Grades of Workers.............................................
Trades as the Basis of Construction Work.......................
Training for the Skilled Trades.........................................

3
4
8
11
14
20
22
23
26
27
35
37
38

P A R T II. T H E IN D IV ID U A L C O N S T R U C T IO N
TRADES
Pag©
Carpenters .............................................................................
Bricklayers ............................................................................
Stonemasons ...................................................
Cement Finishers ..................................................................
Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers.........................
Rodmen (Reenforcing Iron W orkers)...............................
Boilermakers .........................................................................
Operating Engineers (Construction Machinery Oper­
ators) ..................................................................................
Lathers....................................................................................
Plasterers...............................................................................
Marble Setters, Tile Setters, and Terrazzo Workers.......
Painters and Paperhangers.................................................
Glaziers .................................................................................
R oofers...................................................................................
Asbestos W orkers................................................................
Plumbers and Pipe Fitters...................................................
Electricians ...........................................................................
Sheet Metal Workers.............................................................
Elevator Constructors .........................................................
Building Laborers and Hod C arriers...............................

IV




44
49
53
55
57
60
61
62
64
66
68
71
75
77
78
80
84
86
89
91




PART III. THE GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION OF
CONSTRUCTION EM PLOYM ENT
Page

New England States ............................................................
Middle Atlantic States ........................................................
Great Lakes States (East North Central States) ...........
West North Central States ................................................
South Atlantic States...........................................................
East South Central States.................................................
West South Central States.................................................
Mountain States ....................................................................
Pacific States .......................................................................

98
100
103
105
107
Ill
114
116
119

TABLES
No.

Page

1

Expenditures for New Construction in 1939 Prices by
Source of Funds, 1915-1948 ........................................... 13
2 Expenditures for New Nonfarm Building Construction
by Type in 1939 Prices, 1915-1948 ............................... 13
3 Average Annual Employment of Wage and Salary
Workers ............................................................................. 14
4 Months Worked in 1939 by Male Wage or Salary Work­
ers in the Construction Industry................................. 15
5 Months Worked in 1939 by Male Wage or Salary Workers
in Certain Construction Occupations........................... 17
6 Months Worked in 1939 — Percentage Distribution of
Male Wage and Salary Workers in Certain Construc­
tion Occupations............................................................... 18
7 Average Hourly and Weekly Earnings and Average
Weekly Hours in Private Contract Building Construc­
tion, 1934-1948 ................................................................. 31
8 Average Hourly and Weekly Earnings in Private Con­
tract Building Construction by Type of Contractor,
December 1948 ......................
33
9 Index of Union Hourly Wage Rates in All Building
Trades, 1907-1948 ........................................................... 33
10 Average Annual Earnings Per Full-Time Employee for
Certain Industries, 1929-1947 ....................................... 35
Estimated Expenditures for New Construction, 1947 and 1939:
11 New England States ........................................................... 100
12 Middle Atlantic States ....................................................... 102
13 Great Lakes States (East North Central States) ........... 104
14 West North Central States................................................. 106
15 South Atlantic States ......................................................... 110
16 East South Central States ................................................. 113
17 West South Central States................................................. 115
18 Mountain States ................................................................... 118
19 Pacific States ....................................................................... 120

V

CHARTS
No.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12

VI




Page

General Building Contractors— Size of Business— 1939....
Special Trade Contractors— Size of Business— 1939 .....
Average Value of Work Performed (by Selected Types of
Contractors) 1939 ............................................................
Expenditures for New Construction (1915-48) 1939
Prices .................................................................................
Employment in Contract Construction (1939-48) Annual
Average ..............................................................................
Percent Distribution of Employed Male Workers in Con­
struction— Months Worked in 1939 ...............................
Percent of Negroes Among Employed Male Workers in
Construction, 1940 ............................................................
Union Wage Rates in Building Trades (1907-48) ...........
Average Hourly Earnings in Private Contract Building
Construction (1934-48) ....... ,...........................................
Average Weekly Earnings in Private Contract Building
Construction (1934-48) ...................................................
Average Weekly Earnings for Employees of Selected
Types of Contractors— 1948 .........................................
Average Annual Earnings per Equivalent Full-Time Em­
ployee (1929-47) .............................................................

5
6
7
11
12
16
27
28
29
30
32
34

SUM M ARY
Prospects for workers in the skilled building
trades are excellent for the next few years and,
on a long-range basis are very good. Exceptions
are the trades of painter, paperhanger, and
boilermaker; for stonemasons the outlook is
fair, and for tile setters it is uncertain; for
laborers it is not as good as for most of the
skilled trades. There is a very large backlog of
work to be done and, although the current rate
of new construction activity is by far the high­
est in the country’s history as measured in dol­
lar expenditures, in physical volume it is well
below the rate during several of the predepres­
sion years.
Construction employment is strongly depend­
ent on general business conditions and has been
marked in the past by great reduction when
general employment falls. Complete stability
cannot be expected, but it seems unlikely that
such a disastrous drop as that from 1928 to
1933 will be repeated in its full intensity.
All trades are affected to at least some degree
— and some trades to a serious degree— by sea­
sonal unemployment resulting from weather
and other causes. Some degree of improvement
seems likely, but year-round employment for
most building workers is at best a hope for the
distant future rather than an expectation for
the near future.
The building trades are lifetime occupations,
from two standpoints: They will continue to
offer employment opportunities for a long time
to come; and a workman can keep his skill and
continue to find employment at a greater age
than in many other industries. All trades have
changed within the past generation, some of
them quite markedly, and most are in process
of change at the present moment, but the neces­
sary adjustments have presented few serious
difficulties to those already in the trades. In the
future there is likely to be more complete proc­
essing and fabrication of materials before de­
livery and more complete mechanization of
work at the construction site, but each will be a
continuation of a long-time trend rather than a
new development. There is no risk that building




workers will be supplanted by magical new
methods, even though factory assemblies may
reduce site labor requirements greatly fo r cer­
tain quite specific types of buildings; these
types are not a large enough part of the total
market to constitute a real threat.
As in all occupations, there are jobs where
young workers are preferred; but there are also
jobs where older workers are regarded as fully
equal, if not superior. In many jobs, particu­
larly remodeling and repair work, it is far more
important that a workman understand com­
pletely what he is doing and be able to recognize
and deal with any condition that he may en­
counter, than that he have the speed and en­
durance of youth.
With respect to its labor force, the construc­
tion industry is outstanding in being an indus­
try of journeymen; it is by far the largest
industry in which this is the case. The skilled
building trades make up the Nation’s largest
group of related skilled occupations — about
three times as many as workers in the skilled
machine-shop occupations, about eight times as
many as in operation of railroad trains, about
two and one-half times as many as in printing
and publishing. Semiskilled workers are much
less important, in building construction particu­
larly; except for truck drivers, most of them
perform services for the journeymen, and few
of them take part in the journeymen’s activity
of using tools and installing materials. Unskilled
workers (laborers) will continue to be needed
permanently, as far as can now be seen, al­
though their place has been reduced progres­
sively by mechanization and further mechaniza­
tion of unskilled operations seems virtually
certain.
Journeymen have high hourly earnings and,
during normal economic conditions, fairly high
although seasonally irregular annual earnings.
Status as a journeyman carries prestige; it
means membership in a group universally recog­
nized for skill and competence in a basic part o f
the country’s economic life. It is an asset for
employment in any part of the country and, for

1

the larger trades, in communities of any size.
The work is satisfying, offering variety and
opportunity to see the results of the work being
done, in contrast to repetition and close spe­
cialization found in many other occupations.
Journeyman status confers a greater degree of
independence than that of most other occupa­
tions. A journeyman depends on his competence
in the trade and on general economic conditions,
rather than on either the fortunes or the good
will of any particular employer; and he can
change to another employer without penalty.
His opportunity to establish his own business is
greater than for the man in almost any factory
occupation. While most such businesses are
fairly small, they afford opportunity for expan­
sion and many large contracting firms have
been started and operated by former journey­
men. For several contracting fields competi­
tion from persons with other backgrounds is
keener than in the past, but the opportunities
remain good for those with the appropriate
combination of abilities.
The prinicpal disadvantage of building work
has been its extreme variation with general
business conditions, so that a reduction in total
nonagricultural employment or national income
has been accompanied by a much greater reduc­
tion in construction employment. Less serious,
but far from negligible in importance for the
majority of workers, is seasonal lost time, even
during comparatively good years. They must
pay their yearly expenses from high earnings
for about 8 or 9 months plus much lower earn­
ings for the remaining months. Several weeks
of continuous unemployment in winter is by no
means uncommon, even in good years. Unem­
ployment compensation benefits are, of course,
much below full-time earnings.
Construction occurs everywhere, and even on
quite specialized jobs or those performed by
contractors from distant cities, local workers

2




are hired as far as possible. This means that
employment opportunities will be present every­
where. The number of workers to be hired at
any time will necessarily be greatest where the
greatest amount of construction is going on—
for the most part, the largest cities. That does
not necessarily mean that employment oppor­
tunities are greatest in such cities, however,
because in each case the local construction labor
force is also largest there. Employment pros­
pects in different localities can be stated in gen­
eral terms only, and such statements are given
in a later section of this bulletin. In general,
employment prospects are best in those parts
of the country now in an active stage of indus­
trial development and population growth. Even
in the economically mature parts of the country,
where construction activity seems unlikely to
make up as large a part of the national total
as in the past, new workers will be needed al­
most continuously to replace those leaving the
labor force because of death or retirement.
Furthermore, men in the construction trades
find it much easier to move from place to place
than do workers in many other occupations. A
young man having an opportunity for appren­
ticeship in a trade which interests him should
not be guided solely or even primarily by his
opinion of construction prospects in his home
locality. Skills learned through apprenticeship
there will be applicable in employment any­
where else he may go.
Requirements for those wishing to enter a
trade are good health, average intelligence, a
fairly good education (completion of high
school is advantageous but in some cases is not
required), willingness to learn, at least average
strength, and some manual dexterity. Adept­
ness and enjoyment in the use of tools are
highly desirable, but for most of the trades an
interest in the principles and in how and why
the parts fit together is fully as important, if
not more so.

PARTI
CONSTRUCTION: CHARACTERISTICS OF TH E IN D U STRY AND ITS
EM PLOYM ENT

Major Types of Employment
The Fields of Employment
Construction workers work in the contract
construction industry (described on page 4),
in force-account construction and maintenance,
and as self-employed workers. In addition, some
of them are employed on jobs having no direct
connection with construction but using the skills
of a construction trade. There is almost com­
plete fluidity between these fields, so that a
journeyman employed by a contractor at one
time may be employed a few weeks later by a
manufacturing firm to work on remodeling its
plant office, or may be conducting a small busi­
ness of his own as a self-employed workman.
The largest single field is the contract con­
struction industry, for which average monthly
employment was a little over 2 million during
1948, with a monthly range from 1,731,000 to
2,253,000. From January 1939 through Decem­
ber 1948 monthly employment ranged from
904,000 to 2,577,000.1 A workman’s employment
in this industry is related to a given type of
work rather than to any individual contractor,
or even to any particular type of contractor.
Thus, carpenters are employed mainly by build­
ers and general building contractors, but any
individual carpenter may in the course of a year
be employed by a highway contractor to build
forms for a concrete bridge, by an electrical
or plumbing contractor to build a temporary
job office and tool shed at the site where a large
building is being put up, and by a carpentry
contractor for the framing and rough carpentry
on a church, as well as by one or more builders
or general building contractors. Similarly a
painter would ordinarily be employed by a
painting contractor but might be employed by
a general building contractor having his own
painting crew, or by a general building con­
tractor to paint a job office or even some of his




construction machinery. The contractor desig­
nates the work to be done; plans the sequence
of operations at least broadly, either in person
or through a superintendent or foreman; sup­
plies the materials as needed; supplies any
machinery, equipment, and special tools that
are needed; and assumes full responsibility for
the financial outcome of his part of the total
construction work (which may be the entire
structure, or may be a single part of the job
such as painting or electrical w iring). The con­
tractor also is responsible for acceptability of
the completed work to the owner or architect
and to the building inspector and other appro­
priate public officials. A journeyman’s respon­
sibility is for competent performance of the
work assigned to him and for notifying the
foreman or contractor of any unsatisfactory
conditions affecting his work, such as errors
in related work of other trades.
Force-account employment, although smaller,
is an important employment field. Here the em­
ployer is a business establishment or govern­
ment body performing construction work for
its own use, instead of engaging a contractor
to handle it. In the field of new construction
this is commonest for paving, although it is
also used to some degree for all other types,
including building. New construction projects
carried out by force account can be very large,
but usually are of moderate or small size be­
cause of the disavantages of forming and later
dissolving large organizations for infrequent
jobs of unusual size. The characteristics of
such employment on new construction are es­
sentially the same as those of employment by
contractors on projects of the same type. Forceaccount work is more common, however, for
maintenance, repairs, and minor alterations.1
1 These figures include other employees as well as members of the
skilled trades.

3

Industrial plants, hotels, owners of office build­
ings and large apartment buildings, boards of
education, State and county highway commis­
sions, city water departments, organizations
of all types employ workers directly to main­
tain and repair their property, to do remodel­
ing as necessary, and to make minor improve­
ments. Employment here is frequently on a
year-round basis with wages often at a weekly
or monthly rather than an hourly rate. Unless
the property involved is very large there is
very likely to be less specialization than in new
work, so that a workman is often hired on the
basis of doing all work within his own trade
plus the commoner jobs in related trades. In
some cases there is a combination of building
work and shop work. Thus a maintenance
painter in a hotel might refinish marred furni­
ture as occasion arose, as well as doing paint­
ing, paperhanging and other decorating in the
guest rooms, corridors, and other parts of the
building.
Self-employment is the third large field. A
self-employed workman is hired directly by a
series of property owners or their agents for
specific jobs. This has some of the characteris­
tics of wage employment, and, in other respects,
it resembles contracting. It is limited to small
jobs, in which the workman can do most if
not all of the work himself; he may hire one
or two men to work for him occasionally, but
not regularly, and, in any case, works with the
tools of his trade. He may be paid by the job
and may include materials in an over-all price,
or the materials may be provided by the owner;
in other cases, he is paid by the hour or day.
In any case he does not sublet work to others
— if the job includes work which he cannot
do (such as plastering or electrical work in
small alterations consisting mainly of carpen­
try) the owner arranges for this directly. A
self-employed workman resembles a contractor
in taking responsibility for completion of the
job, in planning the way in which it is to be
done, in providing any equipment needed as
well as hand tools, and (in most cases) in
scheduling and ordering the materials needed
even though the material bills may be paid
directly by the owner. He resembles a wage
employee in that his income is derived mainly
from his own direct work.

4




Self-employment is commonest in those fields
having a large volume of maintenance, repair,
and small alteration jobs— particularly paint­
ing and decorating and carpentry. It is present
in other trades also but is less common than it
would otherwise be in the trades for which a
State or municipal license is commonly re­
quired (especially plumbing and electrical
work). It is, of course, completely impractical
for any type of work needing expensive ma­
chinery or shop equipment. Self-employment is
probably as common as ever for painting and
decorating. For carpentry, however, it has met
keen competition in many areas from home im­
provement establishments which seek small
jobs of all sorts by active sales efforts, often
with a sales room containing displays of the
types o f ‘work they offer.
The remaining employment field is much
smaller and differs in extent among the trades;
it consists of nonconstruction employment, in
factories and elsewhere, using the skills of one
of the construction trades. Men so employed
are journeymen in the full sense of the term
and are not to be confused with semiskilled
workers performing repetitive work on the
same materials. Thus sheet metal workers are
employed in making enclosures and other parts
for custom-built machinery, and in making
full-size, nonoperating models (mock-ups) o f
new devices to show their exact appearance
before quantity manufacture is started. Ex­
amples in carpentry are the making of similar
“ mock-ups” in wood, the building of displays
of various types for window or other use, build­
ing of work tables and wooden templates, etc.
Plumbers, pipefitters, and electricians are em­
ployed extensively in shipbuilding. Boilermak­
ers are employed only partially in construction;
their past employment has been mainly in
factory manufacture of boilers and tanks, in
shipbuilding, and in repair and rebuilding of
locomotive and marine boilers. The importance
of this nonconstruction employment differs
among the trades, ranging from the major part
of all employment for boilermakers to negli­
gible amounts for several of the trades.

The Contract Construction Industry
In its organizational form, the contract con­
struction industry is unique among American
industries. This form has developed from the

CHART t

GENERAL BUILDING CONTRACTORS
Size of Business
1939
NUMBER OP ESTABLISH M EN TS

VALUE OF WORK PERFORM ED

Thousands

Millions of Dollars

U N ITED STA TES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

tremendous variety in its product, with conse­
quent need for great flexibility, which in turn
is provided by specialization. For most types
of construction several contractors work joint­
ly, each doing the kinds of work for which he
is especially fitted.
The industry is usually classified into three
groups of firms: Builders, general contractors,
and special trade contractors. Builders operate
on their own account, putting up houses; in
some cases, apartment buildings; occasionally,
stores or other nonresidential buildings. The
houses are ordinarily built fo r sale, and the
other buildings may be intended either for sale
or for ownership and rental.2 The builders de­
cide on the characteristics of their projects;
2 Persons and organizations performing construction for their own
use are not regarded as part o f the construction industry even though
they buy materials, hire workmen, and direct the work.




obtain designs; buy land; arrange financing;
arrange for site improvements, such as water
lines, sewer lines, and street paving; and in
the building operations proper do the work
corresponding to that of general contractors
as described below.
The term “ contractor” refers to a firm per­
forming construction work authorized by
others, rather than work undertaken on its
own initiative. The form of authorization dif­
fers widely and is not limited to a written
agreement to build a structure described in
more or less detail by drawings and specifica­
tions at a stipulated price. There are numerous
other types of written agreements, and in some
cases the authorization is verbal only. But de­
cision to proceed, selection of land, obtaining
of individual or stock architectural drawings,
arrangement of financing and other matters

5

CHART

2

SPECIAL TRADE CONTRACTORS
Size of Business
N U M B E R OF E S T A B L IS H M E N T S

1939

V A L U E OF W ORK P E R F O R M E D
Millions of Ootlors

0

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
8UREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

separate from the construction operations
themselves are the responsibility of the owner,
and any advice or assistance which the con­
tractor may give is outside of his basic func­
tion of carrying out the construction opera­
tions.
General contractors construct buildings and
other structures and do alteration and repair
work, on contract for owners. They take re­
sponsibility for the entire job, except that in
some cases certain parts of the work are omit­
ted from the general contract and arranged
separately by the owner or architect. Standard
practice is that general contractors carry out
the major part of each project with their own
forces and sublet the remainder to other con­
tractors (special trade contractors), but usage
with respect to the amount and kinds of work
sublet differs greatly. There are three types of
general contractors, based on the type of con­

6




100

20 0

300

40 0

Sourcf- 1939 CONSTRUCTION CENSUS

struction which they undertake: Building;
highway, which includes other forms of paving
such as city streets or airport landing strips;
and heavy, which includes all other important
forms of nonbuilding construction (dams, piers,
sewer or water lines, dredging, tunnels, many
other form s).
Special trade contractors carry out the work
of a single trade or two or more closely related
trades— painting, electrical work, plumbing
with or without steam and hot water heating,
sheet metal work with or without roofing, etc.
Much of this work is done for builders or gen­
eral contractors, while other jobs (most repair
jobs, and some new jobs as well) are done
directly for the owners. There is also secondary
subcontracting, as when a plastering contractor
receives a subcontract for plastering and lath­
ing and sublets the lathing to a lathing con­
tractor.

CHART 3

AVERAGE VALUE OF WORK PERFORMED
1939
0

THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS
10

20

30

40

A L L T Y P E S OF CO N TR A CTO R S

B U IL D E R S

G E N E R A L BUILDING CO NTRACTO RS

S P E C IA L T R A D E CO N TR A CTO R S
Carpentry
Electrical
Heating and plumbing group
Plumbing only
Plastering and lathing
Plastering
Painting
Masonry
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

Ordinarily a contractor provides as well as
installs all materials for his part of the project,
but not uncommonly specified materials are pro­
vided for him by others, if the owner or general
contractor has particularly favorable buying
arrangements for certain items. The extreme
case is “ labor only” contracting, in which the
person or firm awarding the contract provides
all materials. This can be bona fide contracting,
with the contractor operating an established
permanent business and having the customary
employer relationship to his workers. As such,
it is found mainly in some of the specialized
fields— setting of reenforcing steel or cut stone
for general contractors, installation of numer­




Source-. 1939 CONSTRUCTION CENSUS

ous specialities in the ornamental metal field
where a manufacturer’s representative obtains
an over-all contract but sublets installation to
a local ornamental iron contractor, etc. This is
entirely distinct from “ labor only” subcontract­
ing as a disguised form of piecework employ­
ment, described briefly on page 24.
The 1939 census of construction, reports
215,050 firms in the construction industry—
3,705 builders, 29,641 general building contrac­
tors, 5,517 other general contractors, and
176,187 special trade contractors. Most of these
were small. Well over half of the builders, about
two-thirds of the general building contractors,
and more than eleven-twelfths of the special

7

trade contractors performed work valued at
less than $25,000 during the year.3 In fact, al­
most a fifth of the general building contractors
and three-fifths of the special trade contractors
performed work valued at $5,000 or less. At
the opposite extreme were a few large firms
performing work valued at $500,000 or over.
There were only 296 building contractors in
this group, but their work performed was over
$310,000,000, or more than a quarter of the
work performed by all building contractors. Of
the special trade contractors only 163 were in
this class, but the value of work which they
performed ($213,000,000) was nine-tenths as
great as that of the 107,620 special trade con­
tractors performing work valued under $5,000
($233,000,000).

Long-Range Outlook for the
Building Trades
For a young man considering apprenticeship,
what is the risk that the building trade he
chooses will become obsolete, leaving him with
training and ability for which there is no em­
ployment market? This danger is so slight that
it can be ignored, although long-range pros­
pects are not equally good for all trades. The
employment field for boilermakers has been
declining because of developments entirely out­
side of the construction industry; long-range
prospects for painters are for a quite large
volume of employment, although smaller in
proportion to total employment than in the
past; but obsolescence is scarcely a risk to be
considered seriously.
Two questions arise in evaluating the out­
look for the construction trades: What will be
the effect of new designs, new methods, and
factory assemblies on site construction work
as a whole? and, what will be the effect of
these, plus new materials, on individual trades?
Factory assembly is by no means a new de­
velopment but has been in progress for well
over a hundred years at least. An early scene
in George Eliot’s novel “ Adam Bede” shows
the making of doors and other millwork for
a house by the same carpenters who would
later install them. This procedure was standard
until the introduction of power woodworking
3
Value o f work performed excludes the value o f work sublet to
others and so is less than total gross operating income for the year.

8




machinery, followed by factory manufacture
of millwork. Within recent years particularly,
factory processing has become more complete
so that a smaller part of the total work occurs
at the site. This trend will probably continue
but will mean a gradual change just as it has
in the past.
The fear that prefabrication of houses would
reduce greatly the employment for site work­
ers, particularly carpenters, has so far proved
to be groundless. Many of the large residential
builders have been able to achieve greater eco­
nomies by suitable planning and mechanization
of their work, than by purchase of the pre­
fabricated houses available to date. Prefabrica­
tion on medium and small projects has reduced
site work but has by no means eliminated it;
prefabricated houses are very far from selferecting. Manufacturers of factory-made “ in­
dustrial houses” 4 which within recent months
*
attained commercial introduction estimate
very great reduction in the man-hours required
for erection from the hours necessary with
other construction systems. These estimates
may be substantially correct, and houses of
this type may prove much more popular than
all earlier prefabrication systems. Even under
these conditions, they are not a serious threat
to building workers because by their nature
they are highly standardized and thus are ap­
propriate only to certain portions of the hous­
ing market. Production and sale of 100,000 such
units a year would be a notable achievement for
this particular industry and cannot be expected
for several years at least. Such a volume would
be about an eighth of the single-family houses
built during a year of high residential activity.
It would not mean hardship to building work­
ers and might very well prove to be a helpful
stimulation to other construction methods.
Neither are there signs of real danger for
individual trades. Almost without exception,
the work of the several trades has already been
changed greatly. Fifty years ago plumbing com­
monly meant lead pipes for water supply; these
have been replaced completely by steel pipes,
and the steel pipes in turn partially replaced by
copper tubes. The operations of handling, con­
4 “ Industrial houses” are essentially an extension o f prefabricated
houses to include plumbing, heating, electric wiring, exterior and
interior finish, in the factory operations, reducing above-ground site
work to assembly. Those currently in commercial-scale manufacture
are designed in metal rather than wood.

necting, and installing the pipes have changed
correspondingly, but plumbers still do the work
and many of the older plumbers have worked
continuously since an apprenticeship in which
lead work was one of the most important parts.
During the last 10 years there have been sev­
eral important changes in electric wiring usage
— introduction and very rapid adoption of “ bus
ducts” for factory wiring, use of raceways
beneath the floor instead of conduit for better
grade commercial installations, virtual replace­
ment of soldered connections for wires by me­
chanical connectors. These and other changes
have been a development in the trade, without
any change in its essential character. The elec­
tricians were not primarily men who installed
conduit, wires, outlet boxes, etc.; instead they
were primarily men who understood electric
systems, and had the skills necessary to provide
such systems as were wanted. Under these con­
ditions, they were able to adjust to the new
materials and methods without difficulty. Per­
haps more basic has been the partial change
from riveting to welding in structural steel
erection but this likewise has been absorbed
by the existing trade.
Distinctions between trades in a period of
rapid technical progress are likely to be com­
plicated and at times can be confusing. From
time to time certain types of work have been
transferred from one trade to another, and
further transfers may be expected from time
to time in the future. Such events are, how­
ever, minor in importance, and change the rela­
tive importance of the trades and their respec­
tive fields of employment only slightly.
Despite very great technical progress in con­
struction, especially since the invention of steelframe buildings, the only instance of obsoles­
cence of a recognized trade was that of rubble
stonemasons5 following the rapid adoption of
plain and reenforced concrete for foundations,
abutments, retaining walls, and such uses. The
conditions here were quite unique in that this
trade was completely dependent on continued
use of a single type of material in one broad
field of application. When this material, re­
quiring special skills for its installation, was
completely superseded by another material for

which those skills were useless, collapse of the
trade was unavoidable.
None of the existing trades are in this haz­
ardous position. Brickwork has become unim­
portant as a load-bearing member for tall
buildings and buildings designed for heavy
floor loads. Yet there is an acute shortage of
bricklayers, and every reason to expect that
their work will continue to be an important
basic trade indefinitely. Brick and other mas­
onry units which they handle have so many
desirable characteristics for so many different
uses that it is hardly possible to picture a con­
struction industry from which these have been
eliminated. Ornamental plastering has become
less common than 20 years ago and other ma­
terials than plaster have been used for sur­
facing of walls and ceilings, but there is an
acute shortage of plasterers and every reason
to expect that plastering will continue to fill
a place for which no other treatment is fully
satisfactory. Meanwhile the recently developed
use of plaster as a fire-resistive covering for
structural steel may well become common— if
not indeed standard— opening a new field for
plasterers’ employment. Carpentry has been
changed by the use of electric hand tools, by
more completely fabricated millwork not re­
quiring fitting for installation, by hardware de­
signed for easier and quicker installation, by
much better planning of site work; but it is
still the largest single trade and will remain
so during the predictable future. It is interest­
ing to note that widespread use of reenforced
concrete instead of “ mill construction” 6 for
multistory buildings intended for heavy floor
loads created work for carpenters in building
the concrete forms while it took work away
from - carpenters on the permanent floors,
beams, and columns.
Those entering the skilled building trades
may expect that their occupations will change
during their years of active work. Individual
trades will gain employment by some changes
and lose by others. For the trades as a whole
there is little doubt of a long-time trend toward
use of more fully standardized and more com­
pletely fabricated materials in many kinds of
building construction, toward more complete

5
Rubble stone is still used in some localities fo r its ornamental
6 A design using heavy wood floors supported by joists resting on
value, but such use is trivial compared to the former use as a major
wood beams, which are carried by the exterior walls and by wood
structural material in nonbuilding as well as building construction.
columns.




9

mechanization of site work, and toward the
a generation ago, but this is no longer the case.
A bathroom with two wash basins is probably
replacement of small pieces of material used
still a luxury feature, but much less clearly so
in great quantity by fewer but larger pieces
than when it first came into use— about 1940.
of different materials. All of these mean in­
creasing productivity and, hence, fewer hours
For certain types of manufacturing plants an
of employment for a given final result. These
air conditioning-installation has become almost
changes are not a threat to those about to enter
as important as the factory machinery in main­
the building trades, however, because from
taining quality standards for the product.
their nature they are slow and very gradual.
Many other illustrations could be given.
Natural turn-over of workers will provide more
Over-all increase in the work of the mechani­
adjustment than is needed. Hence, apprentice­
cal trades means that employment in these
ship training of additional workers will con­
trades is likely to make up a larger part of the
tinue to be needed indefinitely, although not
total, and the work of the other trades a smaller
necessarily at the present numerical rate. It
part of the total. But this does not mean an
is recognized that employment opportunities for
actual reduction in the work of these other
apprentices and journeymen would be greatly
trades from what it would otherwise be, ex­
reduced in a serious recession, with a tem­
cept under two conditions: Where mechanical
porary excess of competent workers in all the
equipment in an industrial or commercial
skilled building trades. This consideration re­
building permits a reduction in space require­
sults directly from the economic forces govern­
ments for a given volume of business, or where
ing construction and is irrelevant to technologi­
the cost of mechanical equipment in a residen­
cal changes affecting employment opportunities.
tial building is met wholly or partially by a
As mentioned in the summary, prospects are
reduction in over-all size.
poor for boilermakers, painters, and paperhangAnother change significant to employment
ers as compared to other trades. In the case
prospects has been in ornamental design.
of boilermakers, reduction of employment in.
Ornate buildings are much less common than
the construction field is not a reason and is not
even a generation ago and far less common
expected to occur. A further statement on the
than two generations ago. The practice of clothsituation is made in the section on each of these ' ing buildings with an exterior covering so that
occupations.
to some degree they resemble buildings of a
Consideration of the relative prospects of
quite different type or buildings constructed
the individual trades should, however, take in­
at an earlier period is likewise less common.
to account a long-range increase in emphasis
The design possibilities opened by modern
on mechanical equipment in almost all kinds
technology are being used to an increasing de­
of buildings. This change has proceeded at
gree— large glass areas, comparatively simple
varying rates for about two generations and
lines, absence of ornamentation foreign to the
shows every indication of continuing. If so,
purpose and the basic structural design of the
the relative positions of the individual trades
building. This is not the place for an attempted
will be changed somewhat.
discussion in the controversial field of classical
Mechanical equipment includes plumbing,
versus modern architecture and particularly
central heating, electric wiring, ventilating and
not the place to attempt to say which view­
air conditioning, refrigerating apparatus, in­
point is “ right.” It may be pointed out, how­
dustrial piping, and means for interior trans­
ever, that modern designs have already been
portation (elevators, moving stairways, con­
used extensively in commercial architecture,
veyors, numerous other devices) built into the
including some of the most important office
structure.7 With changing standards and the
buildings of the postwar period, and have been
availability of a wider range of useful items,
used to some degree for university architecture.
the extent to which such equipment is used has
It is noteworthy that Walter Gropius, one of the
increased steadily. Anything in excess of one
best known of the “ functional design” archi­
bathroom in a house was a mark of luxury about1 tects, is senior member of the group engaged
to design a new men’s residence hall project
1 Portable apparatus is in the field o f furnishings, rather than
for Harvard University.
that o f construction.

10




E X P E N D IT U R E S FOR NEW CO NSTRUCTIO N
Billions of Oollors

of Oollors

1 ------2

1915

193 9

1920

1925

1930

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR ST A T IST IC S

Furthermore, improved public taste has re­
duced the use of architectural veneers (such
things as the imitation half-timbering on fairly
cheap row houses built during the ’20’s, or the
florid interiors of a great many of the movie
theaters built at that same time), which are
condemned by supporters of both classical and
modern points of view with equal vigor.
To some extent this will mean decreased em­
ployment, but probably to a greater extent it
will mean a change in the nature of employ­
ment. The choice for carpenters is not between
half-timbering and partial unemployment;
other work such as installation of storage and
kitchen cabinets has since come to be used
much more extensively than in the 1920’s. Even
for plasterers, the trade affected most strongly,
the partially discontinued types have been re­
placed by new and increasing types of work
such as accoustical plastering, fireproofing of
steel, and an increase in the use of suspended




1
2

P R IC E S

1935

1940

Building Construction (except form)

1945

1950

All Other Construction
SOURCE• U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

ceilings. These developments mean an increased
emphasis on work aimed at utility and con­
venience rather than on ornamentation as an
end in itself.

Booms and Depressions in
Construction Activity
The unusual dependence of new construction
on general business conditions must be taken
into account in any consideration of its occu­
pational prospects. The construction industry’s
products are necessities rather than luxuries
on the whole, but they have great durability.
Hence at any time the supply of existing struc­
tures of a given general type is many times as
great as the number of new ones which can
be built, and the existing supply meets the
major part of the need. Under unfavorable eco­
nomic conditions, a large part of the demand
for new construction can be and is postponed.

11

CHART 5

EMPLOYMENT IN CONTRACT CONSTRUCTION
ANNUAL

1939

'40

’41

'4 2

'43

AVERAGE

’4 4

'45

'46

'4 7

1948

U N IT E D S T A T E S D E P A R T M E N T O P 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

During times of increasing prosperity, new
construction activity is speeded up to meet cur­
rent needs, to catch up with the backlog of un­
met past needs, and, with continuing prosper­
ity, to anticipate future needs.
This situation is shown in chart 4 and in
tables 1, 2, and 3. The picture given by these
must be modified to some degree, however. The
building boom of the late 1920’s was magnified
by highly unsound financing which has not
since reappeared, and fo r which the necessary
machinery was almost completely destroyed in
the collapse which followed. It is, therefore,
unlikely that the types of buildings most affec­
ted at that time by blue-sky financing (larger
apartment buildings, hotels, office buildings,
and, to some extent, amusement buildings)
will be built so greatly in excess of current re­
quirements and, hence, unlikely that there will

12




be a later period of several years in which
construction of these types is almost completely
prevented by such a great oversupply.
With the oversupply resulting from an un­
regulated boom reduced, the other “ morning
after” effects will be reduced as well. Much
more conservative financing, combined with
solvent insurance of residential mortgages,
mean that losses to investors and property
owners in a declining market will be below
those of the early 1930’s. Monthly payments
to reduce the indebtedness on residential mort­
gages, now the customary arrangement, mean
likelihood of fewer foreclosures and hence a
smaller quantity of property for sale at distress
prices to compete with new construction. Specu­
lation in securities and commodities is less ex­
tensive than in the 1920’s and seems likely to
remain so, and speculation in vacant property,

at that time exceedingly common, is now quite
limited in extent. Hence the loss o f capital
funds in some future downward movement of
general prices is likely to be less rapid and
much less disastrous than in the early 1930’s.
Table 1 .— Expenditures for new - construction
in 1989 prices for sources of funds, 1915-48

Despite these conditions, construction activity
will not and cannot increase indefinitely; on the
contrary, there will be periods of contraction
during the working lifetime of those now enterTable 2.— Expenditures fo r new nonfarm build­
ing construction by type in 1989 prices, 1915-48
[Millions of dollars]

[Millions of dollars]

Year

Total new
construction

1915

4 ,9 8 4

3 ,80 6

1 ,17 8

191 6

5 ,30 5

4 ,3 0 4

1,00 1

1 91 7

5 ,20 9

3 ,6 5 7

1 ,55 2

1 918

5,10 9

2 ,65 7

2 ,45 2

1 919

5 ,41 3

3 ,62 5

1,78 8

1 920

4 ,5 7 0

3 ,69 0

880

1921

5,07 8

3 ,8 6 7

1,211

Privately
financed

Publicly
financed

1 922

7 ,18 3

5 ,75 4

1,429

1 92 3

8 ,0 0 2

6,761

1,241

1 924

8 ,99 3

7 ,51 9

1 ,47 4

1925

1 0,0 2 7

8 ,2 9 7

1 ,73 0

1 926

1 0,5 6 9

8 ,8 0 4

1 ,76 5

1 927

1 0,6 0 4

8 ,6 0 0

2 ,0 0 4

1 928

1 0,3 1 4

8 ,16 3

2,15 1

1 929

9 ,2 5 7

7 ,15 0

2 ,10 7

1 93 0

7 ,85 7

5 ,26 9

2 ,58 8

1931

6 ,36 3

3 ,68 6

2 ,6 7 7

1 932

4 ,0 5 7

1 ,81 4

2 ,24 3

1 933

2 ,72 8

1 ,26 7

1,461

1 93 4

2 ,97 1

1,41 3

1 ,55 8

1 935

3 ,55 8

1 ,94 3

1 ,61 5

1 936
193 7

5 ,21 0
5 ,43 8

2 ,86 5
3 ,41 8

2 ,3 4 5
2 ,0 2 0

1938

5 ,20 3

3 ,10 2

2 ,10 1

1939

6 ,30 7

3 ,80 8

2 ,49 9

1 94 0

6 ,85 8

4 ,2 4 6

2 ,6 1 2

1941

9 ,33 9

1942

1 0 ,3 9 0

4 ,8 5 7
2 ,50 8

4 ,4 8 2
7 ,88 2

1 943

5 ,7 3 7

1 ,35 5

4 ,3 8 2

194 4

3 ,10 3

1 ,3 9 7

1 ,7 0 6

1945

3 ,50 0

1,98 3

1 ,51 7

Year

Total
nonfarm
build­
ing

Residen­
tial
building

1915

3 ,14 0

1916

3,42 8

1917

2 ,72 4

1918

2 ,27 2

Nonresidential building
Total

Indus­
trial

1 ,74 0

1 ,37 0

3 48

i

l

1,83 5

1 ,59 3

3 98

i

1 ,39 6

4 50

i

l
i

1 ,08 9

492

i

X
X

455

'1 ,3 28
8 90

Com­
mercial

Other

1919

2 ,94 0

1,651

1,28 9

577

i

1920

3,02 6

1,276

1,75 0

794

501

1921

3 ,56 5

1,707

1,858

571

558

729

1922

5,229

3 ,05 5

2 ,17 4

485

647

1,042

1923

5,80 6

3,62 9

2 ,17 7

510

671

9 96

1924

6,45 4

4 ,24 6

2 ,20 8

4 32

700

1,076

1925

7,35 1

4 ,59 2

2 ,75 9

4 79

900

1,380

1926

7,79 2

4 ,55 1

3,241

679

1,039

1,523

1927

7 ,49 4

4 ,2 8 2

3 ,21 2

667

1,085

1,460

1928

7,18 9

3 ,9 5 6

3,23 3

768

1,068

1 ,39 7

1929

6 ,00 9

2 ,7 4 2

3 ,26 7

934

1,041

1,292

1 930

4 ,2 2 4

1,45 3

2 ,77 1

587

846

1,338

1931

3 ,25 2

1,33 9

1 ,91 3

277

482

1 ,15 4

1932

1,74 5

595

1 ,15 0

99

274

111

1933

1 ,14 9

3 58

791

232

167

392

1 93 4

1,29 9

428

8 71

230

2 04

437

1935

1 ,72 0

821

8 99

180

250

~ 4 69

1936

2 ,90 1

1 ,38 8

1,51 3

290

3 32

1937

3 ,07 0

1,53 2

1,53 8

468

3 86

8 91
684

1938

2 ,89 8

1,57 5

1 ,32 3

237

282

804

1939

3 ,82 3

2 ,1 7 9

1 ,64 4

277

287

1,080

1940

3 ,98 6

2 ,4 6 3

1,52 3

563

338

622

1941

5,52 0

2 ,8 5 3

2 ,6 6 7

1,754

371

542

1942

4 ,79 8

2 ,79 7

127

2 98

2 ,55 4

1 ,57 6
1 ,09 4

3,22 2

1943

1 ,46 0

1 ,29 0

25

145

1944

1,28 5

542

7 43

533

42

168

1945

1 ,72 2

522

1,20 0

7 89

149

262

1946

4 ,4 0 5

2 ,2 0 2

2 ,20 3

1,008

708

4 87

194 6

6 ,5 5 6

5 ,16 7

1 ,38 9

194 7

7 ,53 8

5 ,84 8

1 ,69 0

1 947

4 ,5 3 1

2 ,7 9 7

1 ,73 4

830

4 06

4 98

194 8

8 ,9 6 9

6 ,98 2

1 ,9 8 7

1948

5 ,35 3

3 ,3 9 3

1,96 0

611

535

814

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Con­
struction Materials, Statistical Supplement, May 1949, tables 10, 11,
and 12.
N ote: Expenditures adjusted to 1939 construction prices are used
rather than expenditures without adjustments, to give an approxi­
mate indication o f changes in physical volume.




*Not available.
Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Con­
struction Materials, Statistical Supplement, May 1949, tables 10, 11,
and 12.
N ote: Expenditures adjusted to 1939 construction prices are used
rather than expenditures without adjustments, to give an approxi­
mate indication o f changes in physical volume.

13

ing apprenticeship. The conditions do mean,
however, that contraction is likely to be less
rapid and less severe and will probably be
cushioned by conditions absent in the past—
a solvent mortgage market, a moderately
reasonable supply-demand relationship for
existing structures, less widespread and less
severe disorganization of investment funds
from speculative losses, and partial support of
consumer purchasing power (including ability
to pay rent) through unemployment compen­
sation and other social security measures.
Table 3 .— Average annual employment of ivage

and salary workers
Year

All nonagricultural
industries
(thousands o f workers)

Contract construction
(thousands
of
workers)

(percent of non­
agricultural
total)

1929

3 1,0 4 1

1,497

4.8

1930

2 9 ,1 4 3

1,372

4.7

1931

2 6 ,3 8 3

1,214

4.6

1932

2 3,3 7 7

970

4.1

1933

2 3,4 6 6

809

3.4

1 934

2 5 ,6 9 9

862

3 .4

1935

2 6,7 9 2

912

3.4

1936

2 8,8 0 2

1,145

4 .0

1 937

3 0,7 1 8

1,112

3.6

1938

2 8,9 0 2

1,055

3.7

1939

3 0,2 8 7

1,150

3.8

1940

32,0 3 1

1,294

4.0

1941

3 6,1 6 4

1,79 0

4.9

1942

3 9,6 9 7

2 ,17 0

5.5

1943
194 4

4 2,0 4 2

3.7

4 1 ,4 8 0

1,567
1,094

1945

4 0 ,0 6 9

1,132

2.8
4.0

2.6

1946

4 1 ,4 9 4

1,661

1947

4 3 ,9 7 0

1,921

4.4

1948

4 5,1 3 1

2 ,06 0

increase in total public construction activity
(measured in 1939 prices as an approximation
of a measure of physical volume) was that from
1935 to 1936. This increase in expenditures was
730 million dollars, a very impressive amount,
but less than three-quarters of the predepres­
sion reduction in private expenditures from
1928 to 1929 and less than two-fifths of the
private reduction from 1929 to 1930. The course
of public expenditures from 1929 to 1936,
shown in table 1, shows that a substantial in­
crease in public expenditures came a year later
than a similar increase in private expenditures.
It also shows that public expenditures in 1935
were little more than a tenth greater than in
1933, the bottom of the depression for con­
struction as a whole, and actually much less
than in 1932.
It is apparent that expansion of public con­
struction has been neither prompt enough nor
great enough to prevent serious unemployment
of construction workers released from private
jobs. I f there should be another m ajor con­
traction of private construction activity, it is
likely that the public construction program
will be changed in both of these respects and
will mitigate unemployment more completely
than in the past. Nevertheless for a number
of reasons8 public building programs cannot
be expected to support construction employ­
ment fully without interruption. It is most un­
likely that a situation like that from 1932
through 1935 will be repeated for construction
w orkers; but it is at least as unlikely that the
present employment situation, wherein most
skilled building workers have been in a sellers’
market for their services, will continue per­
manently.

4.6

Seasonality of Employment
Sources: 1929 to 1944 estimates, U. S. Bureau o f Labor Statistics,
Monthly Labor Review, December 1947, Industrial Employment in
War and Peace; 1945 to 1947 estimates, U. S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics, Employment and Pay Rolls Detailed Report, April 1948;
1948 estimates, ibid, Feb. 1949.

In a recession there will undoubtedly be at­
tempts to support construction activity by an
expansion of publicly financed construction.
This will be helpful in maintaining construc­
tion employment, but its effect can easily be
overestimated. Except for war years and years
of war preparation, the greatest year-to-year

14




Seasonal unemployment is a very old prob­
lem in construction. Much of the work is out­
doors, where both materials and workmen are
affected by the weather. Later indoor work
8 Some of the more important of these reasons are: The time re­
quired for recognition of a significant drop in private construction
activity; the time required after such recognition for the actual
start of work; the low percentage of skilled building workers needed
in some o f the most important types of public construction, such as
highway work; the drastically changed conception of public func­
tions if the rate o f public residential or nonresidential buildings or
both is to be expanded sufficiently to offset completely a really serious
drop in private building construction. Space limitations prevent dis­
cussion o f these reasons.

(interior rough carpentry, plastering, finish
carpentry, interior painting, etc.) is also affec­
ted, although usually to a smaller degree, be­
cause of seasonal variation in the rate at which
buildings are ready for these operations. In
past years seasonal variation in residential
building activity has been increased by a ten­
dency in many localities to schedule houses and,
particularly, apartment buildings, so that they
would be completed shortly before one or two
annual “ moving days.” The long-range trend
is toward some degree of improvement, but
there are no indications as yet that seasonal
unemployment will be eliminated.
An indication of seasonal unemployment is
given by estimates of monthly employment.
For such comparisons, 1939 is the most satis­
factory year, because the seasonal pattern of
later years was greatly modified by abnormal
conditions of the prewar defense period, the
military and industrial construction of the
early war period, the later period of wartime
contraction and limitations, and then the post­
war expansion. According to Bureau of Labor
Statistics estimates of employment in the con­
tract construction industry, the number of
workers employed during the low month o f
1939 (February) was below the average o f
the year by 234,000, or 20 percent; the number
employed during the peak month (August)
was above the year’s average by 161,000, or
14 percent. Thus at the annual peak, 421/2 per­
cent more workers were employed than at the
seasonal low. These estimates include the con­
tractors’ shop and office employees, for whom
seasonal variation is less than for site work­
ers. Figures for the 6-year period from Janu­
ary 1939 through December 1944, which took
in the prewar and wartime expansion and then
the contraction of the later war period, show
February employment about 13 percent below
the annual average and August employment
about 10 percent above. These 6-year averages
understate seasonality, however, because they
are influenced greatly by the highly abnormal
wartime construction program.
Monthly employment data for 1939 as re­
ported in the 1939 Census of Construction,
prepared in a different manner from a differ­
ent type of data, show even greater seasonal
variation— employment in the low month of
the year 25 percent below, and employment in




the peak month 16 percent above, the annual
average. In the building field, seasonal varia­
tion was much greater for builders than for
general building contractors because of the
desire for completion dates fitting sales and
rental seasons and because builders do not com­
monly undertake alteration and repair jobs.
For all general contractors the variation was
even greater than for builders because of the
inclusion of highway contractors whose work
is highly seasonal.
Table 4.— Months worked in 1939 by male wage
or salary workers in the construction industry
Number of
workers

Percent of
total

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

2,176,483

100.0

Without work in 1939............

143,458

6.6

Months worked in 1939:
Under 3..............................
3 to 5..................................
6 to 8...................................
9 to 11.................................
12........... ............................

98,335
284,364
560,684
457,347
598,639

4.5
13.1
25.8
21.0
27.5

Work not reported...................

33,656

1.5

Months worked

Source: 16th Decennial Census, vol. Ill, The Labor Force: Occupa­
tion, Industry, Employment and Income, Part 1, United States Sum­
mary, table 89, p. 274.

The special trade contractors as a whole
differed comparatively little from general build­
ing contractors, but differed very greatly among
themselves by trade. On the whole, employment
was most regular in those fields where altera­
tions, maintenance, and repair work indoors
are important— electrical work, plumbing,
glazing, and elevator construction. Painting
with and without paperhanging and decorat­
ing were outstanding exceptions. These had
the highest percentages of seasonal unemploy­
ment despite the very great importance of in­
door redecorating, because the winter months
are unpopular for such work.
Information presented in the Labor Force
portion of the 1940 census for men in the en­
tire construction industry shows (table 4) that
in 1939 little more than a quarter of them were
employed throughout the year, and not quite

15

CHART 6

PERCENT DISTRIBUTION OF EMPLOYED MALE
WORKERS IN CONSTRUCTION
Months Worked in 1939
PERCENT

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

1------------------- 1
-------------------1
-------------------1
-------------------1
------------------- 1
-------------------1
------------------ 1
------------------ T

Proprietors, Managers
and Officials

Electricians

Foremen (all trades)

Plumbers and Gas and
Steam Fitters
Roofers and Sheet
Metal Workers
Structural and Ornamental
Metal Workers

Carpenters

Painters

Laborers

Masons, Tile Setters and
Stone Cutters
Plasterers and
Cement Finishers
_____________ l_____________ l_____________ I
_____________ I
--------------------- 1
---------------------- 1
----------------------1
_____________ I
_____________ I
_____________

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

PERCENT

12 Months
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

9 to II Months

half of them for as much as 9 months. Almost
a quarter were employed for less than 6 months,
including those entirely without work during
the year. These figures are for the industry,
including the “ proprietors, managers, and offi­
cials” group, office workers, shop workers and
foremen, as well as site workers below fore­
man status.
Similar information is given in tables 5 and
6 for certain construction occupations and oc­
cupational groups; for journeymen, the figures
include men working in other industries, such
as maintenance painters and maintenance car­
penters employed by factories, hotels, and

16




KvllcS'l 6 to 8 Months
Under 6 Months

s o u r c e : u .s

. bu reau of the cen su s

other nonconstruction establishments. In some
trades, particularly carpentry and painting, the
tables probably overstate the extent of com­
plete unemployment during the year and also
the extent of employment for very short periods
— 3 months or less. The reason for this is that
they include persons beyond normal working
age and, since the classifications are based on
occupations as reported to the enumerators,
undoubtedly include many workers below the
general standards of skill and competence.
Even with allowance for this situation, the
tables indicate that in most trades full-time
employment was enjoyed by a minority, and

Table 5.—Months worked in 1939 by male wage or salary workers
in certain construction occupations
[ number of workers]

Occupation

Proprietors, managers,
and officials
(construction)..........
Foremen
(construction)...........
Carpenters......................
Electricians....................
Masons, tile setters,
and stone cutters......
Painters..........................
Plasterers and cement
finishers......................
Roofers and sheet
metal workers............
Structural and orna­
mental metal
workers.......................
Plumbers and gas and
steam fitters...............
Laborers
(construction)..........

Total

Without
work
in
1939

Months worked in 1939
Under
3

3

4 and 5

6 to 8

9 to 11

12

Months
worked
in
1939
not re­
ported

28,940

660

260

280

560

2,140

3,200

21,500

340

57,320
553,080
188,320

1,420
19,920
6,240

840
21,700
3,320

780
18,760
3,080

2,200
45,700
6,600

7,860
140,820
21,120

12,200
133,620
29,860

31,320
144,360
116,160

700
8,200
1,940

114,100
273,060

5,860
16,040

4,680
12,380

5,480
11,340

12,500
26,600

36,860
77,500

25,220
56,420

21,360
68,140

2,140
4,640

55,280

3,200

2,320

2,380

7,060

18,740

11,940

8,780

860

100,220

4,360

2,820

2,660

5,940

19,620

20,940

42,700

1,180

33,760

1,800

1,420

1,220

3,020

8,300

7,340

10,180

480

149,960

6,120

3,660

3,620

8,140

24,740

28,100

73,520

2,060

771,540

79,020

46,900

35,940

81,340

202,340

146,900

164,620

14,480

Source: 16th Decennial Census, Population, The Labor Force (Sample Statistics), Occupational Characteristics, table 13, pp. 174-175.

in some trades by a rather small minority.
For “ proprietors, managers, and officials,”
which includes superintendents, estimators,
and others having major responsibility as well
as the officers of incorporated construction
firms, only about three-quarters were employed
throughout the year and more than an eighth
were employed for less than 9 months. For
construction foremen as a whole, not greatly
over half were employed for all 12 months of
the year and little over three-fourths for as
much as 9 months. Information for foremen
by individual trade is not available.
Among journeymen, year-round employment
was commonest for electricians, but even so
more than a fifth of them were employed for
less than 9 months.9 Plumbers, gas fitters,1 and
0
9 Data obtained in the 1939 construction census indicate that em­
ployment regularity was probably greater fo r elevator constructors
but no separate tabulation for the trade was made for the Labor
Force portion o f the population census.
1 Although included by name in the Census table, gas fitters have
0
not ordinarily been regarded as a distinct trade since their combina­
tion with plumbers a number o f years ago.




steam fitters were next in regularity of em­
ployment, but not quite half of them had fullyear employment, and about a seventh of them
were employed for less than 6 months or not
employed at all. Most of the occupations or
groups included in the table show very large
numbers in the classifications of employment
for 6 to 8 months and 9 to 11 months. Four
skilled groups (masons, tile setters, and stone­
cutters ; plasterers and cement finishers; paint­
ers ; and structural and ornamental metal work­
ers) had large numbers employed for only 4
or 5 months, as well as substantial numbers em­
ployed for shorter periods.
The length of the active construction season
differs from one section of the country to an­
other, depending largely upon climate. In parts
of the country where winters are mild, con­
struction tends to operate on a more even yearround basis. For instance, construction activity
in the Pacific and West South Central States
is less seasonal than in the West North Central

17

Table 6.— Months worked in 1939— percent distribution of male wage and
salary workers in certain construction occupations
[ percent of total |

Occupation

Proprietors, managers,
and officials
(construction)........................
Foremen (construction)..........
Carpenters...................................
Electricians.................................
Masons, tile setters,
and stone cutters....................
Painters.......................................
Plasterers and cement
finishers...................................
Roofers and sheet
metal workers.........................
Structural and orna­
mental metal
workers....................................
Plumbers and gas and
steam fitters............................
Laborers (construction)..........

Total

Without
work
in
1939

Months worked in 1939

Under
3

3

4 and 5

6 to 8

9 to 11

12

Months
worked
in
1939
not re­
ported

100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

2.3
2.5
3.7
3.3

0.9
1.5
4.1
1.8

1.0

1.4
3.5
1.6

1.9
3.8
8.6
3.5

7.4
13.7
26.4
11.2

11.1
21.3
25.1
15.9

74.3
54.6
27.1
61.7

1.2
1.2
1.5

100.0
100.0

5.1
5.9

4.1
4.5

4.8
4.2

11.0
9.7

32.3
28.4

22.1
20.7

18.7
25.0

1.9
1.7

100.0

5.8

4.2

4.3

12.8

33.9

21.6

15.9

1.6

42.6

1.2

30.2
i
| 49.0
j
21.3

1.4

100.0-

4.4

2.8

2.7

5.9

19.6

20.9

100.0

5.3

4.2

3.6

8.9

24.6

21.7

100.0
100.0

4.1
10.2

2.4
6.1

2.4
4.7

5.4
10.5

16.5
26.2

18.7
19.0

j
1
|

1.0

1.4
1.9

Source: 16th Decennial Census, Population, The Labor Force (Sample Statistics), Occupational Characteristics, table 14, pp. 195-196.

States. According to the 1939 Census of Con­
struction, construction employment in the West
South Central and Pacific States was only 15
percent below the yearly average in the lowest
month of the year, compared with 39 percent
in the West North Central States. The peak
month in the first two geographic divisions was
only 8 percent above the 12-month average as
compared with a 26 percent increase in the
West North Central division.
Seasonal fluctuations were also great in the
Mountain States—with a low month 37 percent
below the average; East North Central, 33
percent; New England, 29; and Middle Atlan­
tic, 26. Construction in the States farther south
— South Atlantic and East South Central—
was also subject to seasonal slumps, but not to
the same extent as the northern States. In these
two geographic divisions, construction employ­
ment during the low month of the year dropped
23 and 24 percent below the yearly average.
Within several of the geographic divisions
there are wide variations in climate, and, con­

18




sequently, there are differences among the
States in the length of the construction season.
California is the only one of the three Pacific
States with a particularly long construction
season. However, since Oregon and Washing­
ton have a minority of the construction jobs,
the division as a whole still stands at the top
in the steadiness of construction employment.
In the Mountain States there are rigorous
winters and a short construction season in
Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and many parts of
Colorado. But two of the States— Arizona and
New Mexico— have a mild climate. These two
States— Arizona in particular— have compara­
tively little variation in construction activity,
as measured by month-to-month employment
data in the 1939 construction census. The South
Atlantic is another group of States with vary­
ing climate. In South Carolina, Georgia, and
Florida, construction activity is fairly steady
the year-round, and seasonal fluctuations are
greater in the other States— especially West
Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland. In the other

geographic divisions, the seasonal pattern of
construction activity is much the same for all
States because the climate is fairly uniform
throughout the whole division.
Protective measures against bad weather are
available and scarcely any type of work can be
regarded as impossible even under the most
severe conditions. Deeply frozen ground can
be excavated; concrete can be poured without
danger of freezing in a temperature of 20°
below zero; brick can be laid at such tempera­
tures, when the urgency is sufficiently great.
The necessary procedures are quite expensive,
however, and labor cost is likewise increased
in such weather— work is hindered by the
heavy clothing needed, and for some operations
there are occasional stops to warm up at a fire.
While weather must be regarded as a basic
condition, on a long-range basis seasonality
seems likely to be alleviated to some degree.
Within quite recent years many builders and
contractors have demonstrated that it is neither
difficult nor expensive to get houses completely
enclosed in a much shorter time than formerly
had been customary. This means that a fairly
brief period of mild winter weather is sufficient
to enable a project to get past the state where
it is handicapped most severely by winter
weather. Once a building is enclosed, weather
is much less important. Temporary heat at that
stage is much less expensive than earlier, and
the journeymen and others can work more
productively because they are more comfort­
able and less burdened with heavy outer cloth­
ing. Unfinished outdoor work can be performed
during stretches of mild weather. On compara­
tively large buildings, with a fairly long con­
struction period, the seasons have been less in­
fluential than on small jobs. On these larger
buildings, it is commonly unavoidable that some
part of the work occur during winter; the
contractors on the whole are much better pre­
pared to handle winter work; and the size of
the jobs makes winter protection a smaller
part of total cost.
Certain advantages inherent in off-season
work have received attention. Ordinarily the
supply of materials is better, with little risk
of a temporary shortage which may arise dur­
ing the peak season. There is usually no prob­
lem of labor shortage at such times, and no
need for a guaranty of overtime or payment




of premium rates to get a sufficient crew of
capable journeymen.
The disadvantages as well as the completely
artificial nature of aiming the completion of
houses and apartments at one or two days of
the year have been rather widely recognized.
When projects were delayed, there were serious
complications for their owners, and commonly
there has been substantial unproductive ex­
pense in overtime and other rush measures to
meet the dead line. For the duration of the
housing shortage, the time of completion does
not affect the prospect of prompt sale or rental.
The increased mobility of the population means
a greater year-round rental and sales market
than in the past, quite apart from that arising
from shortage conditions. For apartment build­
ings there has been a basic change since the
previous building boom from speculative to
investment operation, without the former need
for complete occupancy almost at the instant
of completion in order to start payment of
outstanding debts. Very commonly these proj­
ects now consist of a number of buildings
scheduled for completion over a period of sev­
eral weeks or a few months.
Complete correction of seasonal unemploy­
ment cannot be expected from these influences,
however. The methods by which some manu­
facturing establishments have reduced seasonal
differences in employment are, for the most
part, inapplicable to construction. These in­
clude production for inventory during the dull
sales season, adding products for which the
seasonal peak comes during the dull season
for original products, in at least one case an
informal arrangement for transfer of employ­
ees between two firms whose seasonal peaks
were several months apart, seasonal variation
in hours worked with approximately uniform
weekly pay and an adjustment at the end of
the year, and other procedures. Production for
inventory is not reasonably practical for most
builders under conditions present thus far, and
for contractors proper it is obviously impos­
sible. Most types of contracting involve little
or no shop work, and, in those fields where
shop work is important, much of it is done to
special design or special dimensions for individ­
ual buildings. Hence at best transfer of work­
ers from site work to shop work can give little
more than negligible alleviation. The industry.

19

its machinery and equipment, and its labor
force, on the whole are not well suited to other
products. It is unmistakable that the problem
of seasonal unemployment is made more com­
plicated by the very great changes in annual
volume of construction with changing business
conditions.
A noteworthy direct attack on seasonal un­
employment was that of the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which a
few years ago proposed an annual wage plan
under which there would be a substantial re­
duction in hourly wage rates for those con­
tractors guaranteeing year-round employment.
Comparatively few contractors have accepted
this proposal so far. Any plan for spreading
employment and earnings throughout the year
by means of annual wage agreements or other
possible methods faces incomparably greater
difficulties than in an industry where the annual
output is reasonably stable for the industry as
a whole and for individual firms as well.

General Characteristics of Employment
Construction is active, strenuous work, but
physical demands are not excessive. Most of
the operations requiring principally musclepower have been taken over largely by ma­
chinery, and for those where such a change
has not yet been practical, such as carrying
of heavy plumbing fixtures, custom and work­
ing agreements usually assign a sufficient num­
ber of men to prevent undue strain or risk of
injury. Nevertheless the physical exertion of
handling tools and materials is much greater
than in most bench jobs and a greater degree
of agility is required. Continuous standing is
frequently involved, and from time to time it
is necessary to squat, to work in cramped
quarters, or to work in uncomfortable positions.
For many trades a large part of the work
is outdoors, and for almost all trades much
work is in unfinished buildings. This means
exposure to the weather and low temperatures
for some of the indoor work. Artificial heat is
commonly provided for indoor winter work
after buildings are sufficiently enclosed, but
the temperatures maintained are frequently
lower than those customary for winter factory
work.
Since most construction activities last only
a few months, and all are regarded as tem­

20




porary, the facilities provided are usually
rather primitive. On fairly large jobs, drink­
ing water is provided by portable fountains,
but a hose or a bucket and dipper are still in
widespread use. On large jobs, particularly in
downtown city locations, toilet facilities are
provided with standard fixtures connected to
supply and waste lines, and sometimes these
compare favorably with good factory toilets.
Elsewhere toilet facilities are crude, consistingmost commonly of temporary outhouses; on
some small outlying jobs, no toilets of any sort
are provided. Showers are seldom if ever pro­
vided except occasionally at the very largest
metropolitan projects, or at work camps fo r
projects in remote locations. No formal ar­
rangement for washing before lunch is com­
mon, but running water is often available at
a hose hydrant. A shed is customary for stor­
age of clothing, lunches, etc., and for overnight
storage of overalls and tools, without individual
lockers; although locked outside of working
hours, these give little protection against burg­
lary, especially on small jobs not having a
watchman.
The location of construction work in any
area is changing constantly, so that wherever
a worker lives he often has to make a fairly
long trip to and from work. In cities of moder­
ate or large size a definite working area is
usually established, which generally is the city
itself exclusive of the suburbs; for jobs out­
side of this area, transportation cost is paid
by the employer, and the time needed for subur­
ban transportation is considered and paid for
as working time. Comparable arrangements
are commonly made for inconveniently located
jobs within the designated working area dur­
ing periods of labor shortage, but not at other
times.
All skilled workers need tools, the number
and total cost depending on the trade. These
are owned by the journeymen, except that in
the electrical and pipe trades working agree­
ments frequently provide that all tools are to
be provided by the contractors. A set sufficient
for most needs is bought during apprenticeship.
Later purchases are customary to obtain less
common tools and new types of tools, to re­
place those lost or stolen, and to replace usable
tools with improved or better-quality models.
Theft of entire tool kits outside of working

hours has been troublesome, especially on out­
lying jobs. Not so many years ago the entire
loss, which for a carpenter would be well over
$100, was borne by the individual workman.
Working agreements now usually provide that
at least a large part, and in some cases sub­
stantially all, of this loss be borne by the em­
ployer.
Employment is predominantly on an hourly
basis, with time off for sickness or personal
business accompanied by loss of pay. Lost time
because of bad weather or other reasons be­
yond the workers’ control likewise means loss
of pay, a serious matter to bricklayers and
others doing outdoor work. Holidays are un­
paid, except that in a very few areas working
agreements provide pay for some of the trades
on the major public holidays. Standard work­
ing hours have been established almost every­
where, most commonly from 8:00 to 4:30 on
Monday through Friday; in some trades and
localities the standard workday is 7 hours or
6 hours. Usually work at other times is paid
for at a premium overtime rate, regardless of
whether or not the standard hours have been
worked.
Employment and lay-off practices are highly
informal, in keeping with the flexibility of the
construction industry. This informality is made
practical by the craft or trade approach in
training, whereby a fully trained worker can
perform any type of work in his field. Hence,
while workers are ordinarily laid off as soon
as they are no longer needed, they are hired
readily and with scarcely any formality at any
project at which additional workers are wanted.
Experience and preference within the rather
broad field of any trade influences both appli­
cant and foreman in hiring, but these are not
rigid; a carpenter who enjoys the careful
workmanshp of “ trimming” (installation of
millwork, hardware, finish carpentry in gen­
eral) would ordinarily seek such work if un­
employed but, if necessary, would take and
be acceptable for other carpentry work; and
a foreman having trimming to be done would
ordinarily prefer an applicant specializing in
such work but, in the absence of such an appli­
cant, would hire any competent carpenter for
the work.
i
Employment in a given trade is naturally
much more stable in any employment area than




in the work of a single contractor. Some jobs
are starting as others are finishing, and some
contractors are hiring workers as others are
laying off. Hence, getting a new job is ordinar­
ily a simple matter when construction is reason­
ably active, involving little lost time— often
none at all. Even in good years, however, there
is seasonal unemployment. As the rate of ac­
tivity goes down seasonally from October to
February, workers are being hired for new
projects at a slower rate than they are being
laid off at projects approaching completion.
From late fall until early spring, lost time
between lay-offs and new jobs is greater for
most workers than in spring, summer, and fall.
For most trades migration is a matter of
choice, although there are exceptions. When
large construction projects are undertaken in
small communities or in isolated localities, com­
paratively few of the workers live within
reasonable commuting distance. When employ­
ment is high, acceptance of such a job is purely
voluntary, and, presumably, few of the workers
who go to them have strong ties with their
home localities. When employment is only fair,
men with family responsibilities have to choose
between the prospect of intermittent unem­
ployment at home and of a long, steady job
elsewhere. This condition is not unique to con­
struction but is more prominent in that in­
dustry than in most manufacturing industries.
Permanent migration is possible at most
times for construction workers who want to
move because of supposedly better long-time
prospects in another locality or for any other
reason. For union members, such a move in­
volves transfer of membership. Like other
unions, the building trades unions are organ­
ized through local chapters (known as locals),
each having jurisdiction in a designated area.
Membership is first and most directly in the
local, which confers full rights within its area
but not elsewhere. A member moving else­
where can exchange his membership card for
a card in the local at his new vicinity, subject
to certain qualifications in the case of some of
the trades. Thereafter he is a member in the
new but not the old locality; should he wish
to return, it is necessary for him to obtain
another transfer; in some trades, acceptance of
additional members is ordinarily governed by
current and prospective employment conditions

21

within the local’s territory. In some cases (par­
ticularly for electricians and plumbers) moving
to another locality makes it necessary to get
a journeyman’s license from the local municipal
or State licensing board.
Choice of a new home locality is much wider
for a member of any of the common building
trades wishing to migrate for personal reasons
than for a member of most occupations in
manufacturing. The reason is the wide distribu­
tion of construction work. This choice is, of
course, more restricted in the less common
trades— work for which is much more concen­
trated geographically.
The building trades offer certain satisfac­
tions to the worker. Building work differs from
a great many other occupations in the evident
relationship between any individual worker’s
efforts and tangible, satisfying results. Even
on very large jobs, where the work has been
carefully organized and specialization is ex­
tensive, this relationship is apparent; the
workers can see the building or other project
growing before their eyes. The same is true
of those working in early stages, even at un­
skilled occupations such as hand excavating
for concrete footings— although most of the
work remains to be done, the relationship be­
tween the work at hand and the finished build­
ing is plain and unmistakable.
Combined with this are other factors tending
to bring a feeling of satisfaction, one of which
is independence from any single employer or
foreman. Persons having habitual difficulty in
dealing with others will of course find their
relations with employers, foremen, and fellow
workers troublesome in any of the building
trades, just as they would elsewhere. But for
those whose relations tend to be reasonably
harmonious, there is little risk of subjection to
a domineering foreman or employer. For
journeymen as a whole, their individual futures
are tied up with their trades rather than with
their employers at any particular time. Com­
petence in any of the recognized trades is a
sufficient asset which need not be (and ordinar­
ily is not) supplemented by willingness to ac­
cept unjust or abusive treatment. The build­
ing trades are the one large field in which a
worker can and does change jobs freely and,
if the circumstances seem to warrant, can ex­
press his opinion of his foreman or employer

22




without damaging his prospects for employ­
ment elsewhere.
Outdoor and semioutdoor work and changing
locations have their disadvantages, already
mentioned, but have the undeniable advantage
of tending to prevent any feeling of monotony
or confinement. This feature may be unim­
portant compared with other characteristics
of the trades, but, in combination with the
notably independent status of individual work­
men, the variety in types of work commonly
done in the course of a year and the direct
evidence of accomplishment are ordinarily a
source of real satisfaction.

Informal Personnel Practices
A contractor’s total employment require­
ments at any particular project are likely to
vary fairly rapidly, and his need for workers
in a particular occupation varies even more
rapidly. Peak requirements lasting only a few
days, or even only a day or so, are by no means
uncommon.
Special trade contractors are able to meet
this situation fairly well by transferring work­
ers from one job to another, since they usually
have a number of jobs in some stage of prog­
ress at a time. Even they, however, are ordinar­
ily unable to schedule these for continued uni­
formity of their total employment because their
ability to proceed at any job is dependent on
the readiness of related work done by the gen­
eral contractor or other special trade contrac­
tors. General contractors have less flexibility
in this respect because their business usually
consists of a smaller number of individually
larger jobs1 , so that lay-offs are more common
1
for their workers.
Hence, employment is on a temporary rather
than a permanent basis. It is true that many
thousands of journeymen have worked steadily
for the same employers for years and that con­
tractors have no more desire than other em­
ployers to lay off satisfactory workers unneces­
sarily. Nevertheless the conditions under which
the industry operates have created the general
understanding that employment can be ter­
minated at any time.1
1 Larger as measured by the value of work performed by the con­
1
tractor’s own employees, or by the hours worked by those employees.
In this sense, any particular building is a much larger job for the
general contractor who puts up the basic structure than for any of
the special trade contractors.

Since work for any given employer is usually
temporary, employer-employee relations are
traditionally informal and commonly casual.
Building workers tend to regard themselves
as members of given trades, rather than as
employees of given contractors. The permanent
asset is competence in a recognized trade,
rather than seniority or other preferential
status with a given firm.
Journeymen are ordinarily hired by the fore­
man. He selects applicants at the job and often
telephones men he knows to offer them work.
For some trades in some localities, agreements
provide that contractors or foremen shall in­
form the union office of need for additional
workers and shall hire those sent in response,
but with the right to dismiss any regarded as
unsatisfactory after a brief trial.1 Hiring
2
through the union office is also done in cases
where it is not required by working agreements.
The foreman also discharges employees, at any
time and for any reason— reduction in force,
dissatisfaction with work, or merely personal
antagonism. A newly hired worker may be
discharged after a few hours while hiring in
the same trade is still in progress. He is sub­
ject to lay-off at any time, either permanent
(as the work for which he was hired approaches
completion) or temporary, with instructions
to return at a stated time, because of a tem­
porary shortage of material, or to allow other
trades to complete work which must be done
before he can proceed further with his own
work. A carpenter discharged from work on
concrete forms because he is too painstaking
and therefore too slow for that grade of work,
may be hired readily by the same foreman at
a later stage of the same job for installing
millwork, where his careful workmanship is
appropriate. The other side of this arrange­
ment is that a workman is free to quit at any
time for any reason— to take a job closer to
home, a job likely to continue for several
months, a job expected to provide more hours
of work weekly because o f greater overtime
or better protection from weather interrup­
tions, a job in a specialty of his trade which
he enjoys particularly, or for any other reason.
There are no formal employment records,
1 These agreements provide that workers may be hired otherwise,
2
i f the union is unable to provide men within a specified period. They
are subject to such pertinent legislation as may be in effect from
time to time.




in the sense in which these are commonly main­
tained for factory employment. Workers are
hired principally on the basis of apparent abil­
ity to do the work on hand; they tell the fore­
man about the work they have done and, if
hired, are kept on the job as long as work is
available for which they are satisfactory.
A contractor whose volume of work permits
usually tries to retain a semipermanent nucleus
of journeymen who, he has found, can do a
good job, expanding this nucleus by hiring
others as needed and then laying them off when
the peak is over.
Along with its undesirable features, this
rather loose employment relationship has two
very real advantages to journeymen. The first
is separation of their own fortunes from those
of any single employer. Seniority is not a con­
sideration in either hiring or lay-off.1 Hence,
3
discontinuance of a firm from death or retire­
ment of the proprietor, or from bankruptcy or
voluntary liquidation, from an employment
standpoint is merely an incident to its workers,
whereas it is a disaster in those industries
having irregular employment along with strict
seniority. The second advantage is the personal
independence in action and attitude of work­
ers whose employment is governed by their
own competence along with general business
conditions rather than by their standing in a
single business firm.

Opportunities for Advancement
On satisfactory completion of apprentice­
ship, a young man graduates to the status of
journeyman, or all-round skilled worker in
his trade. If his apprenticeship has been under
direction of a joint union-employer committee
or other arrangement approved by the union
local, he becomes a journeyman member, hav­
ing the same rights and responsibilities as the
other members. If his apprenticeship has been
in a program not recognized by the union, he
becomes a journeyman eligible for employment
on any jobs where union membership is not re­
quired by working agreements.
1 In a very few areas there have been partial seniority systems
8
for some trades, providing that workers on a particular project shall
be laid off in reverse order o f their hiring on that project. This is
quite different from a company-wide seniority system; the difference
in seniority standing between the lowest and the highest man on the
list is seldom more than a few months and, frequently, is only a
few weeks.

23

Usually he continues in journeyman status
for several years, for the purpose of broaden­
ing his experience in his own trade, increasing
his skill and his detailed familiarity with any
particular field in which he is especially inter­
ested, and increasing his knowledge of the re­
lated work of other trades and of construc­
tion as an over-all process. Although this
period seldom brings an advance in hourly
wage rate over the agreed local scale,1 it brings
4
development in knowledge and skill which will
be valuable for the remainder of his working
life.
During normal employment conditions, with
neither labor shortage nor substantial unem­
ployment, on high-quality jobs journeymen
known for unusual skill in any particular part
of their field are commonly paid a small pre­
mium above the agreed scale.1 More important,
5
such men are usually the first to be hired and
the last to be laid off. Contractors having fairly
continuous work try to retain these men, trans­
ferring them to successive projects and, when
necessary, assigning them to other types of
work within their trades. Such premiums are
fo r outstanding craftsmanship in finish work
(installation of millwork, etc.), for ability to
lay out complicated work correctly without
detailed instructions or loss of time in wonder­
ing how to proceed, etc.; they are entirely dis­
tinct from premiums for excessive, speed.
In some cases premiums are paid for pro­
duction, usually on lower grades of work, even
though these are almost universally forbidden
by union agreements. These take several forms
— direct premiums above the established hourly
rates for those meeting a specified production
schedule, piecework rather than hourly wage
rates, or sometimes piecework disguised as sub­
contracting (commonly known as “ lumping” )
in which one workman or a small group or­
ganized as a temporary, informal partnership
agree to install specified materials to be pro­
vided by the contractor in one or more build­
ings for a stated payment. While not enough
is known about incentive payments in construc­
tion work to justify a comprehensive statement,
there is little doubt that the payments for speed
1 Except fo r premiums paid during times o f labor shortage and
4
premiums paid on outlying or inconveniently located jobs.
1 The legality o f these premiums under existing labor legislation
5
is not entirely clear at present.

24




have frequently been unwholesome and un­
desirable. In many cases they have tended to
encourage overwork, excessive hours, inferior
workmanship, and a disregard for the related
work of other trades and for orderly progress
of the entire job. Few o f the incentive payment
plans can be regarded as advancement from
any standpoint except that of high temporary
earnings.
The first real promotion a man may expect
is to foreman, in charge of his employers’ crew
on a small job, or on a large job in charge of
a particular crew, under a general foreman or
superintendent. Responsibilities of a foreman
and the basis on which his selection usually
rests, are stated on page 36. On union jobs,
foremen are union members having the same
status in union affairs as journeymen. They
are paid an hourly rate usually 10 percent or
more above the journeyman’s rate and, com­
monly but by no means always, are paid for
a full week despite any loss of time from bad
weather or other interruptions. A satisfactory
foreman is likely to have steadier employment
than a journeyman and, if his employer’s work
permits, he is transferred from job to job as
a matter of course. When work is slack, a good
foreman is likely to be offered employment as
a journeyman instead of being laid off, some­
times at a premium rate and occasionally at
his full foreman’s rate. There is turn-over
among foremen, however, because of the great
variation from time to time in the scale of many
contractors’ activities. A man may be hired
as a foreman by a contractor for whom he has
never worked previously, especially by a very
large contractor or an out-of-town contractor,
but this is unlikely to occur unless he has al­
ready had experience as a foreman. His original
promotion ordinarily comes from a contractor
familiar with his abilities.
The next step in promotion as an employee
is to general foreman or superintendent. Here
the situation differs among trades, but in all
cases such a man is a full-time management
representative of the contractor and does not
work with tools or install materials. Payment
is ordinarily on a straight salary basis and is
commonly 25 to 50 percent above full-time
hourly earnings for his trade— the amount de­
pending on his responsibilities and the size of
the operations.

A general foreman or superintendent for a
general contractor is responsible for the entire
job. He directs the work of the general con­
tractor’s men, ordinarily doing so through the
gang foremen, and coordinates the work of the
various subcontractors’ crews. He has no au­
thority over the subcontractors’ foremen and
gives them information and comments (his in­
terpretation of drawings affecting their work,
the general progress schedule laid out, con­
formity of their work to his own or to that of
other subcontractors, etc.) but not direct
orders. Disagreements which cannot be settled
directly are referred to the respective contrac­
tors. A general foreman of this type is ordin­
arily a bricklayer or carpenter by trade. A
superintendent is commonly a bricklayer or
carpenter but on very large jobs is likely to
be a civil engineer, an architect, or a man with
administrative background.
In the special trades (plumbing, electrical
work, painting, etc.) general foremen and
superintendents are less common than in gen­
eral contracting. They are responsible only
for the work of their own trades and for its
direct relation to other work. These men are
employed only by the largest of the special
trade contractors. In some cases such a man
works on an unusually large job, where he is
in charge of all of his employers’ gang fore­
men; in other cases he is in charge of a num­
ber of jobs, calling at each daily to review
progress, any problems that have risen, ex­
pected material and equipment needs, etc.
It is possible for a workman to become a
contractor, and many thousands have done so.
Sound journeyman knowledge is a great help,
but ability to plan work, to foresee needs and
problems, to direct others, and to estimate
material and time requirements for jobs on
which he is preparing bids are much more use­
ful than unusual craftsmanship skill. Annual
earnings vary greatly with a number of fac­
tors— capital, the current volume of building
(which affects both the volume of business
available and the profit margin which can be
included realistically in bids), ability to plan
and direct field work, and business ability. The
common belief that contracting is a sure, rapid
path to wealth is exaggerated, to say the least.
In 1939, 39 percent of all general building con­
tractors performed work valued at less than




$10,000 and more than 32 percent performed
work valued at $10,000 up to $25,000; among
special trade contractors, almost 78 percent
performed work valued at less than $10,000,
and 14 percent performed work valued at
$10,000 up to $25,000.1 Obviously most of these
S
small contractors must have had comparatively
modest earnings; probably earnings for many
were less than would have been provided by
full-time employment as foremen or even as
journeymen at their respective trades.
Award of contracts on the basis of competi­
tive bidding, moderately low requirements for
fixed capital, liberal credit arrangements for
material purchases, and the possibility of con­
ducting a fairly substantial business from the
properietor’s home, all combine to make it
easier to enter small-scale contracting than
many other lines of business. These same condi­
tions mean that there are many firms capable of
doing small jobs, so that under normal condi­
tions competition is quite active. Expansion
to larger jobs brings the requirement for more
equipment17; in some cases, for a separate
office; in some kinds of contracting, for a real
shop or a storage yard for job machinery and
equipment when not in use; and for larger
liquid capital. Resources, financial responsibil­
ity, and a record of satisfactory performance
on previous contracts are considered in the
award of large contracts and contracts for highquality work to a greater extent than in the
past. Hence, even a man of uncommon ability
must expect that a period of several years will
elapse before he becomes one of the recognized
contractors for such jobs, unless at the time
of starting his business he has substantial
capital and a notably good reputation.
In some cases a contractor must have a State
or municipal license, or both, and cannot legally
work on his own account until the license is
obtained. This is standard for plumbing and for
electric wiring but infrequent for other trades.
Getting a license is the first step in establish-*
7
1
1 16th Census: Census of Business, vol. IV : Construction: table
(r
5-A, p. 53. Value o f work performed means work carried out during
the year with their own employees, rather than total contracts re­
ceived or completed during the year; it excludes the value o f those
parts of the work sublet to others. Many of the smallest o f the con­
tractors might perhaps have been regarded as self-employed
workmen.
1 Construction machinery and equipment of almost every kind can
7
be rented, but rental is considered by many contractors to be advis­
able only for those items needed infrequently.

25

ment of a business, under all circumstances
where licensing is required. Usually there are
periodical examinations by a licensing board,
and often a stated period of experience as a
journeyman is required for eligibility, although
in some cases other experience or advanced
technical training is acceptable.
In some trades and localities, collective agree­
ments provide that employers shall not work
with tools. Such provision is not a restriction
to moderately large and large contractors,
whose time would be given to management
duties in any case, but make it more difficult
for a journeyman or foreman to enter con­
tracting. He must have more capital than would
otherwise be needed because of a larger weekly
payroll and must also have a larger volume
of business at the outset to meet his own liv­
ing expenses when he has no earnings as a
part-time working foreman.
Many small contractors act as working fore­
man on their jobs, doing as much as possible
of their other work (soliciting orders and con­
tracts, preparing bids, keeping books, decid­
ing on orders for materials, etc.) in the even­
ings. This is a wearing schedule, its advantage
being reduction of expenses when the business
is small and capital is limited. Its disadvantage
is that management duties may receive insuffi­
cient careful thought. For small-scale contract­
ing, with perhaps no more than half a dozen
employees, management duties are usually con­
siderably less than a full-time job, but con­
siderably more than can be handled success­
fully on a spare-time basis. The expense of
taking sufficient time during regular working
hours for at least a part of the planning of
operations, careful scheduling of material re­
quirements, negotiations with material dealers
and others, etc., is likely to be less than losses
resulting from errors and neglect when these
are compressed into evenings following full
days of hard work.

Opportunities for Minority Groups
Opportunities in the building trades for
minority groups (principally Negroes) vary
greatly among trades and among localities. On
the whole they are best in plastering and brick­
laying and poorest in the mechanical trades
(electrical work, plumbing, pipe fitting). The

26




geographical differences are local rather than
regional, with Negro workmen in several trades
fully accepted in some of the southern cities.
No international union in the Building
Trades Department of the American Federa­
tion of Labor excludes Negroes from member­
ship by the terms of its charter or its bylaws.
However, acceptance of members is by the
various locals rather than directly by the inter­
national union, and the basis for admission is
established by each local for its own territory.
Acceptance of applicants is frequently by vote
of the current members, who are likely to be
guided by local customs and attitudes. Hence,
Negroes can be effectively excluded from mem­
bership or given membership subject to serious
limitations (such as restriction of employment
to a designated geographical area within the
local’s territory) without any official bylaw or
regulation on the part of the local. Exclusion
from union membership is obviously a severe
handicap in any area where most of the new
construction is done under union conditions.
Training for any of the skilled trades means
employment as an apprentice— which means
getting a job, as well as being accepted by the
joint apprenticeship committee for the trade
and locality. Getting a job in turn is dependent
on the acceptance of Negroes by employers.
While there are several thousand Negro con­
tractors, most of them are comparatively small
in volume of business and thus unable to offer
the regularity and variety of work meeting
standard apprenticeship requirements.
There are some indications that the long­
time trend is toward increased acceptance of
Negroes in all of the building trades, although
this trend cannot be regarded as unmistakably
clear. Even if present, such a trend is unlikely
to proceed without interruptions or even tem­
porary reversals in some localities. At best
it is likely to be slow, and full acceptance of
Negroes for all trades in all localities cannot
be expected for a period of years, at least.
Meanwhile, those accepted for formal ap­
prenticeship have no serious employment hurd­
les ahead of them; this acceptance is also ac­
ceptance into the recognized labor force for
their trades. Others wishing to enter the build­
ing trades will, in some cases, be able to do
so through the informal methods described in
the section “ Training for the Skilled Trades.”

Despite the serious drawbacks of these other
methods, they can be advantageous for persons who have the necessary aptitudes and

who are also restricted in employment opportunities in other industries as well as construction.

CHART 7

PERCENT OF NEGROES AMONG EMPLOYED
MALE WORKERS IN CONSTRUCTION, 1940
PERCENT

0

2

4

6

8

10

12

14

16

--------- 1
--------- 1
----------1
--------- 1
----------1
--------- 1
---------- 1
---------

Plasterers and Cement
Finishers
Masons, Tile Setters and
Stonecutters
Carpenters
Painters, Paperhangers and
Glaziers
Structural and Ornamental
Metal Workers
Plumbers and Gas and
Steam Fitters
Roofers and Sheet Metal
Workers
Proprietors
Foremen
Electricians

U N ITE D S T A T E S D EP A R T M E N T OF LAB O R
BUREAU OF LABOR S T A T IS T IC S

Hours and Earnings
Hourly wage rates in the construction trades
are high as compared to hourly rates in most
other occupations requiring comparable skill.
Average hourly earnings (gross earnings,
divided by the number of hours worked) have
traditionally been higher in contract build­
ing construction than in other industries but
currently differ comparatively little from those
in coal mining, petroleum drilling and refining,




SOURCE: U. S. BUREAU OF THE CEN SUS

and newspaper publishing. Annual earnings,
however, have been below those for many in­
dustries with lower hourly wage rates but more
regular employment, and have varied more
greatly than annual earnings in most industries
because of the great variation in the rate of
construction activity.
Hourly wage rates in a number of large
and moderately large cities are given in the
sections on the individual trades. It must be

27

recognized that these rates do not apply to all
construction workers. In smaller cities and
particularly in rural areas distant from metro­
politan centers, the rates are ordinarily lower.
Rates for maintenance journeymen employed
in other industries are in most cases below the
established scales for the construction industry.
Even for new construction in the leading met­
ropolitan centers, hourly wages rates can be
misleading. An established scale of $2.50 per
hour for a trade seldom means earnings of
$100 per week throughout the year. For many
workers there are likely to be weeks in winter
with no work and no earnings, and weeks at
all times of year with lost time and corres­
ponding reduction of earnings because of bad
weather, lay-offs, sickness, and numerous other
reasons.
At the present time, union wage rates may be
regarded as base rates in their localities for

journeymen who are not union members as well
as for those who are. Where shortages exist for
a given trade, premiums above base rate are
likely to be common— their frequency and ex­
tent depending on the degree of the shortage.
Shortages are likewise accompanied by over­
time work at premium rates, partly to increase
hours worked and partly to attract additional
workers through high weekly earnings.
Generally similar conditions have prevailed
during earlier periods of labor shortage, but not
at other times; they give an exaggerated pic­
ture of the earnings that can be expected. Pre­
miums disappear at once when a labor shortage
is overcome, except for jobs at most incon­
venient locations and for workers having special
qualifications; for these latter, the premiums
are to retain them because of their individual
abilities, rather than merely as additional jour­
neymen. Overtime is limited to work which

CHART 8

UNION WAGE RATES IN BUILDING TRADES
JUNE I, 1939 = 100
INDEX

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

28




INDEX

as underground utility work; such work was
done by union workmen at union wage rates.
The other class was houses, “ walk-up” apart­
ments and small nonresidential buildings (onestory neighborhood stores, etc.), built by other
workmen at rates commonly about a third be­
low the union scale.
No forecast is offered of which of these con­
ditions will predominate 10 years from now.
The answer in any given locality will rest on
local conditions, subject to whatever pertinent
legislation may be in effect at the time. It is
merely pointed out that in many localities the
present situation differs materially from that
which prevailed a few years ago and, hence,
that its permanence cannot be assumed offhand.
Table 7 shows average hourly earnings, aver­
age weekly earnings, and average hours worked
per week, for all site workers in private con­
tract building construction from 1934 through

cannot be done during the standard working
hours and disappears as a means of competing
for workers or of increasing the total hours
worked.
As long as there is a tight labor situation
during the active construction season from the
middle of spring until late fall, the established
union rates are likely to be the minimum hourly
rates for all workers on new construction. This
condition has not always been present in the
past and cannot be predicted with certainty for
the future, although in some localities for many
years all new construction, except the most
trivial, has been performed by union members
at the officially established wage scales. In other
localities new construction was divided into two
classes of work. One class consisted of all nonresidential buildings of any importance, fireresistive (elevator-type) apartment buildings
and certain types of other construction such
CHART 9

AVERAGE HOURLY EARNINGS IN PRIVATE
CONTRACT BUILDING" CONSTRUCT ION

1934 '35

'36

'37

'38

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS




*39

'40

'41

'42

'43

'44

'45

'46

'47 1948

-^Covers oil on-site employees on privotely-finonced building projects.

29

1948. The earnings figures are for workers of
all occupations and degrees of skill combined,
employed by general contractors, builders, and
special trade contractors. Hence they show the
trend in earnings but not the actual earnings
for any specified locality or occupation. The
average hourly earnings figures are gross earn­
ings of all workers on the payroll, divided by
total hours worked. Since they include overtime
premiums and premiums paid for all other rea­
sons, they are higher than average wage rates
for all site employees.

It will be noted that average hourly earnings
in the summer and fall of 1948 were about
twice the figure for 1939. The most rapid in­
crease occurred since the beginning of 1946,
and it seems rather likely that further increases
will occur. When the physical rate of construc­
tion ceases to expand, overtime and other pre­
miums will be less important, with a downward
effect on average hourly earnings, but it seems
likely that periodical increases in hourly wage
rates will continue to occur as long as there is
an active construction market.

CHART 10

AVERAGE WEEKLY EARNINGS IN PRIVATE
CONTRACT BUILDING^CONSTRUCTION
DOLLARS

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

30




DOLLARS

-^COVERS ALL ON-SITE EMPLOYEES ON PRIVATELY - FINANCED
BUILDING PROJECTS.

Table 7.— Average hourly and weekly earnings
and average weekly hours in private contract
building construction, 193U-U8
Average
Period

Hourly
earnings

Hours
per week

Weekly
earnings

1934, annual average..

$0,795

28.9

$22.97

1935................................
1936................................

.815
.824

30.1
32.8

24.51
27.01

1937................................
1938................................
1939................................
1940................................

.903
.908
.932
.958

33.4
32.1
32.6
33.1

30.14
29.19
30.39
31.70

1941................................
1942................................
1943...............................
1944................................

1.010
1.148
1.252
1.319

34.8
36.4
38.4
39.6

35.14
41.80
48.13
52.18

1945, annual average..
March........................
June...........................
September.................
December..................

1.379
1.363
1.374
1.388
1.395

39.0
40.0
40.4
38.1
37.1

53.73
54.49
55.50
52.94
51.79

1946, annual average..
March........................
June...........................
September.................
December..................

1.478
1.411
1.444
1.510
1.569

38.1
37.5
38.2
38.7
38.4

56.24
52.87
55.23
58.49
60.32

1947, annual average .
March........................
June...........................
September................
December..................

1.681
1.610
1.661
1.723
1.774

37.6
38.0
37.8
37.9
37.9

63.30
61.23
62.71
65.36
67.31

1948, annual average..
March........................
June...........................
September.................
December..................

1.869
1.805
1.858
1.919
1.946

37.3
37.1
37.9
37.5
37.8

69.79
66.89
70.49
72.06
73.44

Source: U. S. Bureau o f Labor Statistics.
N otb: A revised series o f estimates o f average hourly and weekly
earnings and average weekly hours is available, starting with Janu­
ary 1948. The revised series is not comparable with that shown
above, and the 1948 figures differ slightly from those shown, princi­
pally because o f inclusion in the new series o f publicly financed
projects and some types o f shop workers.

It should be noted that the earnings figures
are only for those workers who were employed
by contractors at the various periods shown




in the table and not for the entire construction
labor force. The other workers had no earnings
from the contract construction industry, al­
though of course some of them were employed
by other industries in maintenance or in forceaccount construction, some were self-employed
and some were no doubt employed in noncon­
struction activities.
Table 8 shows average hourly and average
weekly earnings of site workers in September
1948 by type of employing contractor. In each
case the figures are for all site employees—
foremen, journeymen, apprentices, helpers or
tenders, laborers, and any others. Both hourly
and weekly earnings are higher for special
trade contractors as a whole than for general
building contractors, in part because of high
hourly rates in the special trades and in part
because journeymen and foremen make up a
larger part of all site workers.
Weekly earnings were highest in electrical
work, although hourly earnings were below
those for plastering and lathing because of a
longer average workweek. For plastering and
lathing and also for masonry, journeymen’s
earnings were substantially higher than the
figures of the table because these include the
earnings of hodcarriers working with the plas­
terers and bricklayers. Three of the types of
contracting shown (electrical; painting, and
decorating; and plumbing, heating, and air con­
ditioning) are predominantly fields for jour­
neymen, so that the earnings shown are closer
approximations to journeymen’s earnings than
are earnings in the other types of contracting.
With respect to union wage rates, compari­
sons over a lengthy period tend to be misleading
beause they do not reflect the varying degree
to which these rates have been effective. This
qualification should be kept in mind in con­
sideration of table 9. This table, showing wage
rates as percentages of corresponding rates
paid in 1939, indicates that since that year
there has been an unmistakable reduction in
the gap between rates for journeymen and
those for helpers, tenders, and laborers. The
reduction has probably been greater than in­
dicated by the table, because, prior to the war,
wage rates below union scales were probably
commoner for semiskilled and unskilled workers
than for journeymen.

31

CHART II

AVERAGE WEEKLY EARNINGS FOR EMPLOYEES
OF SELECTED TYPES OF CONTRACTORS
1948
DOLLARS

0

20

40

60

80

100

G EN ER A L BUILDING
CO N TR AC TO RS

SP EC IA L T R A D E
CONTRACTORS-!/
Electrical

Plastering and lathing
Plumbing, heating,and
air-conditioning
Masonry

Painting and decorating

Carpentry

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

No extensive comparison of hourly wage
rates among the trades is presented, because it
would have limited usefulness and would be
subject to rather serious misunderstanding. On
the whole, bricklayers have the highest hourly
rates, but because their work is so subject to
weather interruptions, they are probably sur­
passed in annual earnings by several other
trades. Hourly wage rates for electricians are,
in many localities, below those of a number
of other trades, but their annual earnings
are probably the highest of any of the large
trades.1 Similar considerations affect the sig­
8
nificance of the rates for other trades. Further­
more there is no assurance that the present

32




-^INCLUDES TYPES NOT SHOWN SEPARATELY

relationships among trades in this respect are
permanent.
The differences in hourly rates are at most
of minor importance in the choice of a trade,
however. A young man choosing a trade for
which he has little aptitude, merely because of
a high wage scale, in preference to a trade
with a lower scale for which he is well suited,
is likely to find even the financial reward dis­
appointing. He is likely to become only a pass­
able good journeyman, hired by contractors for
1
8 There are no data on annual earnings by occupation; the state­
ments on annual earnings of bricklayers and electricians are ex­
pressed as opinions, based on the conditions under which the work
o f these trades is done and on other relevant considerations.

their peak requirements and laid off whenever
a peak is over.
The picture has been considerably less favor­
able from the standpoint of annual earnings
than of hourly or weekly earnings. Annual
earnings in the construction industry as a
whole and in about 80 other industries and in­
dustry groups have been estimated by the Com­
merce Department for 1929 through 1947. A
part of these estimates is presented in table 10.
It will be noted that earnings in construction
were higher than in the other groups shown in
the table in only three of the 19 years covered—
1929, 1942, and 1943. From 1931 through 1941,
earnings were lower than in the manufacturing
group, which includes a number of low-wage
industries as well as the high-wage industries
producing durable goods. For 1931 through
1936 and also for 1938 and 1939, construction
earnings were lower than earnings for “ all

Table 8.— Average hourly and weekly earnings
in private contract building construction by
type of contractor, December 19U8
Average
weekly
earnings

Average
hourly
earnings

All types of building contractors....

$73.44

$1,946

General building contractors..........

70.47

1.884

Special trade contractors.................

77.41

2.025

Plumbing, heating and air
conditioning................................

81.74

2.026

Painting and decorating..............

71.73

2.011

Electrical.........................................

89.47

2.207

Masonry...........................................

71.12

2.019

Plastering and lathing.................

81.52

2.291

Carpentering..................................

68.59

1.856

Roofing and sheet-metal...............

64.80

1.778

Excavating, foundation, grading

66.43

1.767

Type o f Contractor

Source: U. S. Bureau o f Labor Statistics.
The estimates o f this table correspond to those of table 7,
rather than to the revised estimates which include workers on pub­
licly financed construction.
N ote:




Table 9.— Index of union hourly wage rates in
all building trades, 1907-48
[June 1, 1939=100]
All
trades

Journey­
men

1907
1908
1909
1910
1911

29.3
31.2
32.7
34.0
34.5

29.7
31.6
33.2
34.6
35.2

27.3
28.5
29.5
30.5
30.6

1912
1913
1914
1915
1916

35.3
36.1
36.9
37.2
38.4

36.0
36.9
37.7
38.0
39.3

30.9
31.8
32.1
32.4
33.5

1917
1918
1919
1920
1921

40.8
45.3
51.9
70.0
71.3

41.5
45.9
52.4
70.1
71.4

36.8
42.6
49.3
71.5
72.2

1922
1923
1924
1925
1926

66.9
73.9
79.8
82.9
88.3

67.3
74.2
80.1
83.1
88.7

65.7
69.7
75.4
77.9
84.9

1927
1928
1929
1930
1931

91.3
91.9
93.1
97.0
97.3

91.7
92.4
93.6
97.5
97.8

86.4
87.3
88.8
93.3
92.8

1932
1933
1934
1935
1936

83.1
80.8
81.4
82.3
85.3

83.6
81.4
81.8
82.8
85.5

79.2
75.7
77.9
78.3
82.9

1937
1938
1939
1940
1941

91.2
99.3
100.0
101.6
105.3

91.4
99.3
100.0
101.4
105.0

90.1
99.2
100.0
102.0
106.8

1942
1943
1944
1945
1946
1947
1948

111.9
112.7
113.6
116.0
129.3
147.9
163.5

110.9
111.5
112.4
114.4
126.8
144.6
159.4

117.5
118.9
120.3
125.9
146.3
171.1
192.7

Year

Helpers and
laborers

Source: 1907-’47, U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor
Statistics Bulletin No. 930, Union Wages and Hours: Building
Trades, July 1, 1947, table 1. 1948 indexes, Monthly Labor Review,
January 1949, Building Trades: Union Wage Scales in 1948, table 1.

33

industries,” which includes the traditionally
low-wage field of farm employment and several
low-wage service industries. In fact, average
annual earnings in 1933 and 1934 were lower
for construction than for Federal work relief.
The drop of about 48 percent in annual earn­
ings from 1929 to 1933 is greater than that for
any other industry or industry group for which
these estimates were made. As mentioned pre­
viously, it scarcely seems possible that any
future drop in construction activity will be
allowed to become an almost total collapse such
as occurred from 1928 to 1933; but it is ines­
capable that annual earnings are more depen­
dent on a substantial degree of general pros­
perity than is the case in most other industries.
The estimates shown are for the entire con­
struction industry including office and shop

workers as well as workers of all classifications
at the construction jobs themselves. Average
earnings for journeymen are above the figures
for the various years, and average earnings are
still higher for journeymen in moderately large
and large cities, including their surrounding
suburbs, in the north and on the Pacific coast.
Earnings in 1948 were substantially higher
than in 1947 for many construction workers
because of a greater physical volume of con­
struction combined with generally higher basic
wage rates; for the industry as a whole, how­
ever, the difference between the two years was
probably quite moderate because of less exten­
sive labor shortages with corresponding reduc­
tion in premiums and a greater seasonal reduc­
tion in activity during the closing months of
the year.

CHART 12

THOUSANDS
OF DOLLARS

AVERAGE ANNUAL EARNINGS PER
EQUIVALENT FULL-TIME EMPLOYEE

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

34




THOUSANDS
OF DOLLARS

SOURCE : U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

Table 10.— Average annual earnings 'per fulltime employee for certain industries, 1929-U7
Year

Indus­
tries

Contract
Con­
struction

Commun­
ication
Manu­
Mining
and
public facturing
utilities

Trans­
porta­
tion

1929
1930

$1,421
1,380

$1,674
1,526

$1,474
1,497

$1,543
1,488

$1,526
1,424

$1,642
1,610

1931
1932
1933
1934
1935

1,292
1,136
1,064
1,109
1,153

1,233
907
869
942
1,027

1,514
1,438
1,351
1,426
1,486

1,369
1,150
1,086
1,153
1,216

1,221
1,016
990
1,108
1,154

1,549
1,373
1,334
1,393
1,492

1936
1937
1938
1939
1940

1,199
1,270
1,238
1,269
1,306

1,178
1,278
1,193
1,268
1,330

1,522
1,601
1,674
1,692
1,718

1,287
1,376
1,296
1,363
1,432

1,263
1,366
1,282
1,367
1,388

1,582
1,644
1,676
1,723
1,754

1941
1942
1943
1944
1945

1,450
1,719
1,966
2,121
2,204

1,638
2,194
2,505
2,603
2,599

1,766
1,881
2,075
2,248
2,425

1,653
2,023
2,350
2,517
2,517

1,579
1,795
2,160
2,499
2,621

1,888
2,181
2,491
2,678
2,734

1946
1947

2,365
2,595

2,539
2,840

2,566
2,797

2,512
2,795

2,723
3,112

2,949
3,149

ad

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Survey o f Current Busi­
ness, July 1948 issue, table 26, and July 1947 National Income Sup­
plement, table 26.

Classes or Grades of Workers
Cutting across the entire construction field
are the three classes of workers by whom con­
struction is performed: journeymen; tenders
and other semiskilled workers; and laborers.
While in some respects foremen and appren­
tices can each be regarded as a separate class,
both are grouped with journeymen in most
parts of this bulletin because of very great
similarities in many important features of
their work. Their distinguishing characteristics
are stated below for the building trades as a
whole rather than separately for the individual
trades.
Journeymen
By far the most important class is that of
journeymen or skilled workers. These are the
men who operate tools and machines and who
process and install materials. As already men­
tioned, they are divided among numerous
trades, each having a designated field in the
over-all construction operation. The trades dif­




fer among themselves in the required skills,
knowledge of materials, and knowledge of de­
sign or lay out. They are alike, however, in that
in each case the standard of competence is
ability to perform all types of work within the
range of the trade, good working knowledge
of all of its materials and how they are used,
and understanding of the principles on which
the work of the trade is based. Some journey­
men are naturally more capable than others,
and in most construction trades, as in other oc­
cupations, there are difficult or uncommon jobs
for which journeymen with unusual dexterity
or long experience are preferred.
While the kinds of work differ among the
separate trades, most of them require a similar
degree of skill. Laying out the framing mem­
bers for a dormer window in a roof is quite dif­
ferent from laying out the plumbing system for
a house, but they call for the same general kind
and degree of ability. Each job requires knowl­
edge of the assembly to be made, knowledge of
the materials, and knowledge of what to do as
well as how to do it. It is such knowledge, rather
than merely facility in the use of tools, that
marks a journeyman; skill with tools is neces­
sary but is only part of the all-round ability
required.
Foremen in any of the skilled trades are in­
variably journeymen who have been promoted.
Most commonly a foreman is in charge only of
the crew for his own trade (usually including
any tenders, helpers, or laborers working with
the journeymen) but not infrequently he is in
charge of all of his employer’s workers. Thus,
either a carpenter or a bricklayer might be in
charge of a general contractor’s entire gang at
a project where several houses are being built.
On very large jobs there are frequently fore­
men for laborers and for some of the semi­
skilled occupations, but these men have a small­
er range of responsibilities than do the fore­
men in the skilled trades. On such jobs there
are commonly several foremen in the larger
trades, each in charge of the members of his
trade working at a particular part of the proj­
ect, and there may also be subforemen (“ straw
bosses,” “ pushers” ) ; there is also a general
foreman or superintendent responsible for the
coordination of all work, who usually delegates
direct supervision of the journeymen to the
gang foremen.

35

Foremen are responsible for planning the
work in their respective trades, at least broadly
if not in detail, and for seeing that it is carried
out correctly and quickly. They call attention
to any unusual requirements or situations need­
ing special attention; arrange for delivery of
materials as needed; hire, lay off, and discharge
workers; represent the contractor in dealings
with other contractors or their foremen, the
owner, and the architect; interpret the draw­
ings, if these are not entirely clear, or else ob­
tain an interpretation from the contractor or
the architect; and keep pay-roll records and
records of material deliveries, unless the job is
large enough to have a timekeeper. In most
localities small jobs are run by “ working fore­
men” who work at their trades along with
members of their own crews except when en­
gaged in supervisory or management duties,
while on large jobs the foremen do no actual
production work. The general contractor’s
foreman, whether a working foreman in charge
of three or four men or a general foreman
directing several hundred men through trade
foremen and sub-foremen, is responsible for
coordination of the work of all contractors on
the job but has definite authority over the em­
ployees of the general contractor only.
Apprentices are, of course, journeymen in
training. Early in the apprenticeship period
they do only the simpler work of the trade while
starting to build up their familiarity with tools,
materials, and principles and, at this stage,
work under rather close supervision. As the
apprenticeship progresses, they do a wider
range of work under decreasing supervision
but with explanation of new situations and,
in the final months, they are capable of a range
of work approaching that of journeymen.
Semiskilled workers
Semiskilled workers may be divided into three
classes: Tenders, helpers, and truck drivers.
No formal training is required for any of these.
Tenders work with the trowel trades— brick­
layers, stone setters, plasterers, marble setters,
tile setters, terrazzo workers.1 Unlike an ap­
9
prentice, a tender is not a learner in the trade.
The tenders do not use tools and have no chance
to learn the work of the journeymen, except
19
Semiskilled workers fo r marble, tile, and terrazzo are ordinarily
called helpers, but their duties are essentially those o f tenders rather
than those o f helpers as described in the paragraph below.

36




what they can pick up by watching them. In
general, they prepare mortar or plaster, sup­
ply the journeymen with materials, set up and
move portable scaffolding, clean or polish some
types of completed work, and remove debris.
Helpers, as distinct from tenders, use the
commoner tools and perform the simpler opera­
tions of a trade and in some cases become
journeymen in their own right. They are fully
recognized in only two trades, elevator con­
struction for which there is no apprenticeship,
and boilermaking as entered through construc­
tion work.2 In both of these cases the helpers
0
may be regarded as informal apprentices, with­
out provision for graduation from helper to
journeyman at any stipulated date. Helpers
have been employed from time to time in num­
erous other trades— carpentry, painting, elec­
tric wiring, sheet metal work, plumbing, and
steamfitting. In some localities such helpers
have been employed in fairly large numbers,
and some of them have learned enough to be­
come accepted as journeymen. For some years,
however, they have not been recognized in col­
lective agreements, and have been employable
only on jobs not covered by such agreements.
Their status is thus quite risky, and their op­
portunity to acquire real knowledge and skill
in their occupations is ordinarily much inferior
to that offered through apprenticeship.
The duties of truck drivers in construction
work are not basically different from the
duties of truck drivers in other industries and
cannot be regarded as constituting a separate
occupation. Rather, they are merely those truck
drivers who at a given time are employed by
construction firms.
Laborers
Laborers are the workers doing those job's
for which no formal training is necessary—
loading and unloading trucks, carrying mate­
rials, moving equipment, hand excavating and
backfilling, wheeling and placing of concrete,
etc. In building work their employment has
tended to be less regular than that of journey­
men and semiskilled workers because many
laboring tasks required a large gang for a short
20 In construction boilermaking, helpers showing sufficient apti­
tude are recognized by the union as being engaged in learning the
trade, although their employment status remains that o f a helper
until they are able to demonstrate a journeyman level o f knowledge
and competence; helpers are also recognized in shop boilermaking,
but here their status as semiskilled workers is permanent, and
journeyman status is attained through apprenticeship.

time— in some cases, for only a few hours; in
non-building work their employment has been
more regular. The trend in employment op­
portunities for laborers has been downward in
building work and seems likely to continue so.
The use o f machinery has grown steadily for
several important kinds of work done by labor­
ers, and future development of machinery, new
types of models intended especially for small
projects, has been pursued actively by many
manufacturers.
A few types of laboring work are generally
treated as semiskilled and have corresponding
wage rates because of hazards, discomforts or
the requirement of particular familiarity with
working conditions. One such type is under­
ground excavating under air pressure for tun­
nels, subways, some types of deep foundations,
etc. Another is demolition of old buildings,
where experience and familiarity with the risks
present are necessary for at least most of the
members of any $ang so that workers inex­
perienced in this hazardous activity can be as­
signed to the less dangerous tasks. Experience
as a laborer is the usual background for enter­
ing some of the semiskilled occupations such
as bricklayers’ or plasterers’ tender.

Trades as the Basis of
Construction W ork
Any construction work except the simplest
uses a wide variety of materials, each with its
own characteristics and each requiring appro­
priate tools and methods of handling. Most of
these materials appear in many different types
of structures, and the job of putting them in
place is essentially the same. Thus brickwork
is used in houses and apartment buildings,
churches, hospitals, factories, in fact buildings
of all types, and also in nonbuilding structures
like walls or utility manholes. The operations
involved in the brickwork are essentially the
same for all of these structures and for many
m ore; but in any single type of structure, such
as a two-story house, the job of building the
brick walls and chimney is basically different
from the other jobs needing to be done.
Hence, construction operations have long
been divided among a number of different
trades. Some have been recognized as distinct
occupations fo r thousands of years, while
others arose fairly recently when technical de­




velopments (electric wiring, elevators, struc­
tural steel work, and power-operated construc­
tion machinery, etc.) created types of work
clearly outside the fields of the older trades.
Technical developments have changed the
characteristics of most trades, particularly
within the last 25 years, but distinct trades
continue to be the basis on which construction
operations are organized. The increasing com­
plexity of buildings and the increasing range
of materials and tools, combine to increase
rather than diminish the necessity for divi­
sion of the exceedingly wide construction
field.
The field of each trade is essentially the pro­
cessing and installation of a given group o f re­
lated materials for any type of structure, with
use of the appropriate tools and equipment.
Until about 50 years ago trade distinctions
along these lines were comparatively simple,
but new materials and methods have made the
distinctions much more complicated. Thus, the
traditional materials for carpentry were rough
lumber, finished lumber and millwork, plus sup­
plementary hardware. To these have been
added plywood, rigid insulating board, gypsum
board, other building board, nonrigid insula­
tion, “ soft” floors (linoleum, asphalt tile, etc.),
cement-asbestos shingles, and many others.
Meanwhile metal products have become fairly
common for uses where wood had been univer­
sal— sash and frames, doors and frames, mould­
ing, movable partitions, floor joists, cabinets,
and numerous others. Similar examples could
be given for other trades.
Developments of this type have meant some
degree of turbulence for construction as a
whole, have changed the boundaries between
trades, and have brought numerous instances
of disagreement regarding the trade by which
a new material was to be used. Turbulence
has been present when there was no jurisdic­
tional conflict. This is well illustrated by the
methods used for fire-resistive protection of
structural steel, in building construction. Steel
columns and beams were covered with specially
shaped tile, laid by bricklayers, for about the
first quarter century of fire-resistive steel con­
struction.2 Then improved knowledge of con1
2
1 Brick, terra cotta, and other masonry materials, which had been
used for such fireproofing o f cast and wrought iron as was done
prior to the development o f steel-frame construction, were also used
but were superseded by hollow tile.

37

Crete and improved means for its handling
brought a rapid change to covering with poured
concrete2 , which has been standard for about
2
30 years. Now a quite new method has ap­
peared, enclosure of the steelwork with metal
lath to which a new type of plaster is applied
by plasterers. This use of plaster for fireproof­
ing is particularly significant as an indication
of change, because older types of plaster were
used to some degree for the same purpose about
50 years ago and found to be unsatisfactory.
The latest method has the great advantage o f
a marked saving in weight and seems likely
to become a common procedure, if not the
standard procedure. Yet the possibility exists
that in turn it may be partially or entirely re­
placed in the future by a still different method.
Four skilled trades have been involved in
this series of developments— bricklayers who
did the tile work, carpenters who built the
forms for concrete fireproofing of columns and
beams, and lathers and plasterers who carry
out the newest fireproofing method. All of these
have been necessary trades in the construction
industry throughout the period, and all would
have been important regardless of whether
these developments took place. There will prob­
ably be numerous comparable changes within
the next generation, shifting work from one
trade to another as new materials and methods
come into use. For any given trade these are
likely to bring some gains and some losses in
employment opportunities, but the history of
construction gives scant basis for fear that
any of the trades will become obsolete.2
3
While distinctions between trades can be
carried to extremes, their benefits are so real
that on the whole they are observed as fully
as is practical for the local volume of construc­
tion employment. In small communities the
amount of building work seldom is sufficient
to afford a reasonable income to members of
the less common trades. Their types of work
are done by other local journeymen, if the lat­
ter are capable of it, or else by workmen from
larger cities. Thus only the commoner trades
2 Although concrete used for fireproofing is quite distinct from
2
reenforced concrete, this change to fireproofing concrete for the steel
work was greatly hastened by an accompanying change from flat
masonry arches to reenforced concrete for the floors.
2 The only case o f obsolescence o f a recognized trade was that of
3
rubble stone masons, for which the circumstances were quite unique.
This is discussed briefly on p. 9.

38




will be found in a village of 1,000 in a fairly
prosperous farming area. Ordinary lathing
may be done by the carpenters, ordinary glaz­
ing by the painters and often by the carpen­
ters, and the bricklayer will do any stone
setting that may be wanted; the plasterer and
perhaps the bricklayer also will do cement
finishing as well. More difficult and larger jobs
(setting of plate glass, metal lathing for a
plaster cornice or a suspended ceiling, a great
number of other jobs arising infrequently in
small places) will be performed by journey­
men of the appropriate trades from a larger
city nearby.

Training for the Skilled Trades
The accepted methods of training for prac­
tically all of the skilled building trades is
through apprenticeship. This is beyond ques­
tion the most satisfactory course available thus
far, even though apprenticeship training pro­
grams cannot be regarded as beyond the pos­
sibility of improvement. In addition, however,
many thousands of workers have become jour­
neymen through informal training. After
several years of experience as helpers, they
acquired enough proficiency to meet local
standards for skilled workmen. While still pos­
sible under some conditions, this path to jour­
neyman status has many disadvantages and
can lead to severe disappointment.
Apprenticeship is a period of on-the-job
training in which the new worker is made
familiar with the materials, tools, skills, and
principles of his chosen trade so that at the
end he has a balanced knowledge of the entire
field and can perform any of its operations
capably. Further knowledge and increased skill
normally follow in the course of employment
as a journeyman, but the apprenticeship gives
a full, rounded background for such progress
as well as for changes brought about by new
materials and methods.
An apprentice is an employee— under the
terms of a written agreement— working for
one contractor or a series of contractors for a
stated period. Under standard apprenticeship
regulations, a local joint committee represent­
ing the union and the contractors for the trade
at least ratifies the written agreement. Some­
times the apprentice’s agreement is directly

with the committee rather than with any in­
dividual contractor. In either case, the agree­
ment provides that the apprentice is to be em­
ployed with appropriate on-the-job instruc­
tion and adequate supervision on types of work
representing the full normal range of the
trade’s operations.
A 4-year apprenticeship is most common,
but the length of the training period varies.
The minimum number of hours of work ex­
perience in each major type of work is usually
specified. During this period the apprentice is
pajd at an advancing rate, ordinarily starting
at 40 to 50 percent of the journeyman’s current
hourly rate and increasing at half-yearly inter­
vals. In the final 6 months, it is usually about
90 percent of the journeyman’s rate.
Rather commonly, although not invariably,
advanced apprenticeship standing is given for
skill acquired in the armed services and, occa­
sionally, for skill acquired otherwise. The
granting of such credit and its extent are al­
ways on an individual basis, ordinarily gov­
erned by demonstration of skill and knowledge.
The credit shortens the apprenticeship period
and brings an immediate increase in hourly
wage rates.
For some of the trades, an apprentice ordin­
arily works for a single contractor throughout
the entire training period but is transferred
by the committee to another employer if the
original contractor is unable to provide con­
tinuous employment or, because of the special­
ized nature of contracts he has obtained, can­
not provide reasonably balanced training. In
other trades, where specialization by contrac­
tors is extensive, it is customary for the joint
committee to transfer apprentices at intervals
of about 6 months.
As an employee, an apprentice works with
the tools of the trade, doing work of progres­
sively increasing difficulty and having progres­
sively less supervision. It is the responsibility
o f the journeymen on the job and the fore­
man to explain to him the work being done
and to show him how different operations are
performed and different tools are used. The
customary arrangement is that most of this
instruction is given by a single journeyman
to whom the apprentice is assigned at any par­
ticular time.
Under approved apprenticeship agreements




an apprentice also attends school, usually 8
hours per week for 36 weeks of each year.
Classes are often conducted by the Board of
Education, not infrequently in consultation
with the union local and ordinarily with at least
endorsement by the local. In some cases the
courses are conducted directly by the local.
Instruction varies among trades but usually
follows a general outline: History of the trade;
characteristics of the materials; shop mathe­
matics as related to the trade’s w ork; rudiments
of engineering where appropriate (particularly
for pipe work, ventilating and electrical w o rk );
sketching, elementary drafting, interpretation
of drawings; and special trade theory such as
color harmony for painters, elementary sani­
tation for plumbing work, etc. In small locali­
ties, where there may be only one apprentice
and half a dozen journeymen in a trade, it is
seldom that either the school board or the union
local is prepared to offer a course specially de­
vised for apprentices. Here use is made of cour­
ses offered in the local high school, such as
drafting and interpretation of drawings, shop
mathematics, or anything else that is directly
serviceable. Gaps may be made up to some de­
gree through personal instruction by the local
journeymen and contractors, or in some cases,
by correspondence courses.
The kind of apprenticeship described above
is provided under joint union-contractor aus­
pices. In some trades and localities nonunion
apprenticeship occurs also. Here the appren­
tice’s agreement is with a single contractor,
and there is no joint committee to supervise
the training offered, to adjudicate differences,
or to arrange a transfer in cases of personal
incompatibility between the apprentice and
the contractor. The apprentice’s training de­
pends to a high degree on the contractor’s
fortunes and policies. If the contractor lacks
continuous work or has only a restricted type
of work, he cannot give continuous, rounded
training, however good his intentions may be,
although he may be able to transfer or loan
the apprentice to another contractor. If he
looks upon apprenticeship primarily as a means
of getting low-wage workers, the apprentice
will probably end his course with ability to
perform the commoner operations of his trade
rapidly and capably but without thorough
knowledge of the trade or of the theory on

39

which the work is based and with little ex­
perience in the less common types of work.
There is no doubt that thousands of workmen
have obtained sound training in nonunion ap­
prenticeships but the conditions present make
some precautions quite important. Since there
will not be the protection of a joint apprentice­
ship cpmmittee, before signing any agreement
the apprentice should inquire carefully as to
the contractor’s responsibility and reputation,
both for personal dealings and for reasonably
good standards of workmanship. The written
apprenticeship agreement should specify clearly
the type and extent of training to be received,
the starting wage rate, and the schedule of
wage advances. Signing an agreement merely
to work as an apprentice with the type of train­
ing and the schedule of wage advances not
specified, involves serious risks. If the appren­
ticeship does not provide for classroom train­
ing, every effort should be made to obtain re­
lated instruction in a local night school or
trade school or through a correspondence
course. A man considering a nonunion appren­
ticeship should recognize that there is no as­
surance of his being able to acquire union
membership at a later date and that lack of
union membership may be a serious handicap.
Many journeymen have “ picked up” their
trades by working as helpers for several years,
and no doubt others are doing so now. Except
for elevator constructors and boilermakers, for
whom this procedure is recognized, this is a
most unpromising course. Under favorable con­
ditions, including marked aptitude on the part
of the worker, it can be successful; but it can
also be completely unsuccessful. First, there is
danger that the worker may never obtain
enough skill and knowledge to rise above the
status of helper or handyman. It may be pos­
sible to get work experience on only the rougher
and simpler jobs, and there is, of course, no
obligation to provide instruction or explana­
tion such as those given an apprentice. Hence,
night school classes or correspondence school
courses are even more important than in a
nonunion apprenticeship. Shifting around from
one employer to another and perhaps from
one locality to another may turn out to be neces­
sary in order to obtain experience in a wide
range of work and to locate employers sym­
pathetic to the worker’s efforts at self-instruc­

40




tion. Any family responsibilities naturally re­
duce such mobility and make this route to
journeyman status particularly difficult. A
second and quite different problem for selftrained workers is that of recognition, however
capable they may become. Under some circum­
stances they may be accorded permanent recog­
nition as journeymen (by union membership,
or in other forms) and under other circum­
stances they may not. In the latter case, they
will find themselves limited to employment at
wages below standard, except during periods
of at least mild labor shortage.
There are proprietary trade schools in some
localities purporting to give training equivalent
to apprenticeship in some of the building
trades, within a period of a few weeks or a
very few months. These schools vary consider­
ably in the extent and quality of their instruc­
tion, but at best they cannot give work experi­
ence approaching that of even a mediocre ap­
prenticeship. The poorest of them have been
virtually worthless. Classroom training at some
such schools has been quite good, and at others
there has been none at all. While the pupils at
some of these schools obtain training which is
good as far as it goes, this is by no means
a substitute for apprenticeship. Such courses
have little to offer to those persons having the
opportunity to enter standard apprenticeships.
For persons trying to learn a trade outside of
standard apprenticeship, a responsible proprie­
tary school can give useful classroom training
which might otherwise be unobtainable. En­
rollment in any of the poorer schools of this
class is an almost complete waste of time and
money under any circumstances. A quite dif­
ferent type of trade school, in preparation for
apprenticeship and conducted thus far for brick­
laying only, is described briefly in the section
on that trade.
Graduation from high school is required in
some apprenticeship standards and recom­
mended at least by implication in others.
Whether required or not, it is highly desirable.
While for some trades it may contribute little
or nothing to manual dexterity or to familiar­
ity with the materials,2 it is most helpful in
4
24 For example, the shop courses offered in most high schools do
not deal with the materials used in bricklaying or plastering, and it
is doubtful that they are o f any direct help in acquiring the manual
skills o f these trades; but an apprentice in either trade will find a
high school education of great benefit.

grasping trade theory, in understanding the re­
lationships between the different parts of a
construction job, and in preparing for any
training which a journeyman may wish to take
at a later time in either the technical or the
business aspects of his trade. Completion of
high school is especially important to one hop­
ing to become a foreman or a contractor.
For fully a year there have been many cases
in which all apprenticeship openings for a
given trade in a particular locality have been
filled, yet contractors have said that they needed
additional skilled workers in the trade. This
situation may seem to involve a contradiction,
but no real contradiction is present. Beginning
apprentices are very different from skilled
workers; during the early training period their
production can be a good bit less than the loss
in production of the journeymen assigned to
instruct them. Apprenticeship is a rather per­
sonal form of training, some of its stages are
time-consuming to the journeymen and the fore­
man and expensive to the contractors, and the
number of apprentices who can be absorbed at




any time is limited.
It is recognized that there may be instances
where the present quota of apprentices might
be increased, but there can be little doubt that
these are a minority; limitations on the number
of apprentices have already been relaxed in a
very great many cases. Quite apart from con­
sideration on the effect of the future labor
force, limitations on the number of appren­
tices under training at a particular time can­
not be removed entirely if the type of training
now given is to be continued.
The best course for those wishing to enter
apprenticeship and finding that all openings
are filled, is to determine their place on the
waiting list and, if the waiting period is not
excessive, to obtain enrollment on the waiting
list and then to get as gopd a temporary job
as possible. Members of the joint apprentice­
ship committee or union officials may be able
to suggest spare-time study preparatory to the
trade during this waiting period, which will
not duplicate the classroom training to be re­
ceived during apprenticeship.

41

PART I
TH E INDIVIDUAL CONSTRUCTION TRAD ES

This pamphlet deals with those occupations
having a large part of their employment in the
construction, alteration, and repair of build­
ings and other structures which are ordinarily
built by the contract construction industry.
Thus it takes in the occupations working pri­
marily or extensively at the construction site.
Attention is given principally to the skilled oc­
cupations, with incidental attention to the
others. Certain important occupations more or
less closely related to construction are omitted
because their work is done primarily away
from the construction site or outside of the
contract construction industry. The principal
groups omitted are: the professions (architec­
ture, all branches of engineering); factory oc­
cupations in the manufacture of building ma­
terials, including those where the employing
firms are commonly contractors as well as
manufacturers (marble sawyers and polishers,
modelers and casters in ornamental plaster
shops, several oth ers); and occupations (hightension linemen, telephone linemen, a few
others) employed in types of construction car­
ried out predominantly by other industries than
the contract construction industry. Occupations
employed only on large, remote, or highly spe­
cialized jobs (blacksmiths, explosives workers,
numerous others) are likewise omitted.
The sections which follow describe the major
construction trades— the nature of their work,
trends likely to be influential, any notable
characteristics of the training required, the
employment outlook, earnings, and working
conditions. Some trades are treated at more
length than others because of greater variety
or complexity in their work, a larger number
of journeymen and hence greater importance
from an employment standpoint, a high rate
of technological development affecting their
work, or for other reasons. Trades for which
employment is predominantly in other indus­
tries are mentioned only briefly if at all.

42




As already stated, each trade is centered
around a broad class of materials or a broad
group of skills. Specialization is common within
the more inclusive trades, but this is over­
whelmingly a matter of preference and apti­
tude on the part of individual journeymen, and
in most cases it requires at least the customary
level of journeyman skill and knowledge as
its background. It is true that part of the work
of some trades is done by semi-journeymen able
to do only repetitive and simple operations, but
such workers have been declining in import­
ance and are a very small part of the cpnstruction labor force. The specialty fields cannot be
regarded as distinct occupations and are not
presented separately in this bulletin; references
to them, when made, are in the sections on the
various recognized trades.
The descriptions of work done by the several
trades are approximate and were prepared only
for the purpose of giving a general picture o f
each of them. They are in no sense exact defini­
tions of the field of work of any trade. For
almost every trade some types of work have
been omitted from the descriptions, because
they are comparatively unimportant from an
employment standpoint, or a clear explanation
would have been unduly long, or for other
reasons. Furthermore the descriptions are not
completely applicable to all localities, because
of local differences in customs and agreements
regarding the division of work. From time to
time in the past there have been transfers o f
specific operations or the use of specific ma­
terials from the field of one trade to that o f
another, and similar transfers may occur in
the future.
These descriptions were prepared without
regard for possible use in settlement o f any
jurisdictional dispute and are not valid for
such a purpose. Exact jurisdictional definitions
are quite outside the purpose of this bulletin;
they would involve detailed, lengthy statements

quite foreign to the purposes of presenting the
main characteristics and the employment pros­
pects for the several trades. In addition, there
are some zones in which differences of opinion
still exist, as well as zones in which past juris­
dictional decisions have not been so fully ac­
ceptable to all parties concerned that they may
be regarded as final settlements.
Grouping of the occupations is complicated,
and there is no arrangement regarded as
standard. The commonly used term of “ trowel
trades” includes workers as different as brick­
layers and plasterers. The term “ pipe trades”
covers a homogeneous group when used for
skilled workers in plumbing, pipe fitting,
sprinkler fitting, and refrigeration fitting, but
is misleading when extended, as it sometimes
is, to include electricians.
A serviceable although quite imperfect classi­
fication is into three groups: structural trades,
finishing trades, and mechanical trades. Several
of the trades perform work in two of these
classifications. Thus many parts of the field
of carpentry are unquestionably structural
work— all framing operations, laying of sub­
floors, building of concrete forms, several other
types of work. Other parts of the field are just
as unquestionably finishing work— installation
of millwork and finish hardware, laying of
finish floors, other carpentry operations. Simi­
lar divisions occur in some of the other trades.
The recognized skilled building trades are
listed below, with a brief indication of the con­
struction work done by each. Other work is
not listed, although in a few cases it provides
the great bulk of the trade’s employment. In
each case the work includes alterations, repairs,
and maintenance, as well as new construction.
Structural Trades:
Carpenters: Historically, construction
operations using wood, but now including
many other materials for which wood­
working tools are appropriate.
Bricklayers: Walls, piers, chimneys, and
other masonry units, using any material
except stone or artificial stone.
Stonemasons: Setting of cut stone and
artificial stone; other stone masonry.
Cement Finishers: Leveling, smoothing,
and surfacing of concrete work; installa­
tion of composition floors and mastic




floors; rubbing and surface-patching of
concrete after removal of forms.
Structural Iron Workers: Erection of
steel bridges, towers, etc.; steel frames for
buildings; steel floor decking; other struc­
tural steel work in buildings and elevators.
Ornamental Iron Workers: Erection of
metal stairways, fire escapes, platforms,
and railings; a wide variety of work in
steel and other metals.
Re-enforcing Iron Workers (Rodm en):
Field fabrication and setting of steel bars
and mesh for concrete re-enforcement.
Riggers: Unloading and moving into
position of heavy machinery and equip­
ment. No separate section on this trade
has been prepared.
Boilermakers: Site assembly of boilers;
erection of some types of tanks. This trade
is employed principally in other industries
than construction.
Operating Engineers: Operation of con­
struction machinery.
Finishing Trades
Lathers: Installation ' of wood, metal,
and gypsum lath; installation of steel chan­
nels to support lath (and certain other
materials) not directly attached to struc­
tural members.
Plasterers: Application of plaster and
stucco to any base; making of artificial
marble and ornamental plaster in place;
installation of shop-made ornamental
plaster.
Marble Setters: Installation of marble
except where used in block form, as a type
of stonemasonry; installation of (interior)
structural glass, shop-made terrazzo, and
other materials used as alternates to
marble.
Tile Setters: Setting of floor and wall
tile.
Terrazzo Workers: Laying of terrazzo
floors; installation of terrazzo base and
other terrazzo, except shop-made pieces.
Painters: All exterior and interior paint­
ing; filling, staining, and varnishing of
woodwork; finishing of hardwood floors.
Paperhangers: Hanging of wallpaper
and other sheet material (cloth, clothbacked wood veneer, etc.).

43

Soft Floor Layers: Laying of linoleum,
asphalt tile, rubber tile, carpeting, and
several other materials (exclusive of hard­
wood flooring and ceramic floor tile) for
finish floors and certain other applications.
This is a small occupation, recognized as
a separate trade in some localities but not
in others, for which a separate section has
not been prepared.
Glaziers: Installation of window glass
(sheet glass) and plate glass; installation
of the special metalwork holding plate
glass; installation of structural glass on
building exteriors and of glass block in
nonwatertight (interior) panels.
Roofers: Installation of roofing— slate,
tile, built-up, and some other types; water­
proofing and damp-proofing of wall sur­
faces and other surfaces.
Asbestos Workers: Installation of pipe
covering and covering on boilers, tanks,
industrial apparatus, etc., to reduce heat
transmission; in some localities, installa­
tion of general building insulation.
Mechanical Trades
Plumbers and Pipe Fitters: Installation
of systems (including piping, fixtures,
boilers, and all supplementary items) for
water supply, use, and drainage; for steam
and hot-water heating; for piping used in
industrial processes; for fire protection;
for refrigeration; and for transmission of
compressed air and other gases.
Electricians: Installation of electric wir­
ing systems, including control apparatus,
electric lighting fixtures, and some other
types of current-using apparatus.
Sheet Metal Workers: Installation of
ventilating systems (including fume-re­
moval and dust-collecting systems, qnd the
ventilating portion of air-conditioning sys­
tems) ; installation of metal roofing and
siding, metal roof flashings, and gutters
and downspouts for roof drainage; instal­
lation of metal partitions and certain other
members made of sheet metal; installa­
tion of warm-air heating systems.
Elevator Constructors: Installation of
elevators and dumbwaiters (guides, ma­
chinery, control apparatus, cars, door op­
erators, e t c .); installation of moving
stairways.

44




There is also a brief section on building
laborers (unskilled workers), with special men­
tion of hod carriers.
A number of occupations represented in the
Building Trades Department of the American
Federation of Labor are omitted entirely, be­
cause their work is overwhelmingly at contrac­
tors’ shops and other shops, rather than at con­
struction projects. Among those omitted for
this reason are: granite cutters; stonecutters;
marble, slate, and stone polishers; marble, slate,
and stone sawyers; plaster modelers, model
makers, and sculptors; and iron shopmen.
Truck drivers are omitted because construction
affords a comparatively small part of their em­
ployment and differs only slightly from other
industries in its requirements. Several very
small occupations recognized as distinct trades
in only a few of the largest cities are likewise
omitted; these are properly specialties of larger
trades, and are so regarded in all but a few
localities. In general, the semiskilled occupa­
tions are omitted except for incidental discus­
sion in the sections on the trades with which
they work.

Carpenters
Outlook Summary
The outlook for carpenters is excellent for
several years and should be good thereafter.
Nature of Work
Carpentry is the largest single construction
trade from the standpoint of the number o f
workers and, in some respects, is the most ex­
tensive in the range of work done. Historically
it has dealt with wood, but within recent years
many other materials have been added to the
carpentry field.
Most houses are of frame construction, and
here the structure proper above the foundation
is entirely or almost entirely the work of car­
penters. Brick veneer houses, popular in many
localities, are of frame construction built by
carpenters, covered with an outer layer o f
brick. All but a few masonry houses and many
other masonry buildings also use wood con­
struction for floors, roofs, and stairs, and this
too is put up by carpenters. All finish wood­
work (doors, sash, surrounding trim for both,
finish floors, cabinets, moldings, etc.) with sup­
plementary hardware is carpentry. The several

kinds of acoustical materials, are in the car­
pentry field; so are numerous other materials
which have come to prominence during the last
quarter century. In many localities, the mate­
rials for general building insulation have been
applied to houses by carpenters. For some pur­
poses the newer materials (plywood, insulating
board, gypsum board, hardboard, others) are
used extensively, and for general insulation and
acoustical treatment new types of materials are
used exclusively. “ Soft” floors of linoleum,
asphalt tile, and several other materials are
laid by carpenters in many localities.
Carpenters’ work also includes a wide range
of facilities used temporarily in construction
operations and then removed. From an employ­
ment standpoint, the most important of these
are the forms or molds into which concrete is
poured for buildings, for foundations only,
and for other structures, such as bridges and
retaining walls. Other temporary facilities are
scaffolds and platforms, towers for material
hoists, safety barricades, chutes for materials
and rubbish, and temporary buildings, like ma­
terial or tool sheds and contractors’ field offices.
A very important classification of work is
repairs, alterations, and additions to existing
structures. Such jobs differ greatly in extent,
from replacement of a few decayed pieces in
a porch to complete rearrangement of the in­
terior of a building; they last from a few hours
to several weeks or a few months.
Within recent years, modernization of old
frame houses, enclosure of porches, and a wide
variety of other improvements have become im­
portant as a source of employment. Carpentry
is by far the most important trade in altera­
tion and repair work, although other trades
are commonly needed also and, of course, there
are individual alteration jobs where carpentry
is a small part of the total.
Another branch of the trade deals with heavy
timbers for docks, railroad trestles, cribbing
and shoring, and similar heavy construction.
Strictly speaking, it is the men doing such
work who are carpenters, whereas those doing
ordinary building work are properly known as
joiners, but this historical distinction is seldom
observed.
A thoroughly trained carpenter can do all
of these types of work and others not men­
tioned, but the field is so broad that many jour­




neymen confine themselves to selected parts
as a matter of preference whenever such work
is available. Some are “ trimmers,” installing
millwork and finish hardware; others lay hard­
wood floors; others prefer framing and rough
carpentry; others prefer alteration and repair
work or the building of forms for concrete.
These subdivisions are not trades in themselves,
and, for the most part, basic journeyman com­
petence is essential for competence within the
specialty. The differences between individuals
in aptitudes are important in specialization.
Thus, a man for whom careful, accurate work­
manship is easy will usually be most advantage­
ously employed in trimming and will usually
prefer such w ork; a man for whom such work­
manship requires special effort will be more
advantageously employed at framing or other
rough carpentry. There have been many illus­
trations, however, that capable journeymen can
transfer as needed into even an uncommon
specialty. Perhaps as striking as any was in
the building of the “ Independent” subway in
New York City some years ago, carried out for
several miles by excavating from the street
rather than by tunneling. Many hundreds of
carpenters were hired for heavy timber work
to provide a temporary street surface above
the excavation for vehicular traffic and to shore
(i.e., brace and support) the buildings adjoin­
ing the excavation. It is exceedingly likely that
many, if not most, of these men had no prior
experience in heavy timber construction.
Specialization is naturally commonest in the
large cities. In small communities it is unusual,
because the total volume of work is insufficient.
Here the carpenters ordinarily do all types of
work within their trade, and in rural areas they
frequently do some types of work which are
performed in larger places by other trades.
Where Employed
Most carpenters work in the construction
industry. A large number are self-employed on
repairs, alterations, and quite small new build­
ings. Not uncommonly these men alternate
between wage-employment for contractors and
self-employment on small jobs. Some self-em­
ployed carpenters are able to expand their ac­
tivity to contracting, hiring other journeymen,
and perhaps awarding subcontracts, either oc­
casionally or regularly. Many thousands of car­
penters work for “ home improvement” firms

45

on repairs, small alterations, modernization,
and miscellaneous improvements. A great many
carpenters are employed in other industries, on
force-account new construction to some degree
but on maintenance work and alterations to a
much greater degree. These men are employed
in factories of all types for maintenance and
repairs, for small alterations, for quite small
new work, such as sheds, and for building all
sorts of factory equipment which is made of
wood— racks, benches, wooden templates, etc.
They are similarly employed as “ house carpen­
ters” in hotels, large office buildings, depart­
ment stores, and other large establishments.
They are employed by firms or individuals with
large real estate holdings and by public bodies,
such as cities and boards of education.
Construction employment is principally, al­
though by no means entirely, in building work.
Most residential building is largely carpentry.
In fire-resistive buildings having no woodwork
in the structure proper, there is commonly ex­
tensive finish woodwork and practically always
carpentry for concrete forms. Carpentry is least
important in some of the specialized industrial
buildings, such as oil refineries and steel-mill
buildings. In most types of nonbuilding con­
struction, carpenters are a small minority of
total workers, but this employment field is by
no means negligible. They are needed for build­
ing concrete forms for dams, for bridges, for
several types of sewer-and-water structures
(settling tanks, for example), and in other
types of construction. They are needed for crib­
bing and bracing, in several kinds of under­
ground construction work. Occasionally these
nonbuilding carpentry jobs are very large.
Among the most striking have been trestles,
some of them several miles long, to support belt
conveyors from a gravel pit to a dam. There
is no type of project in which carpenters are
not employed to at least some degree, and few
types in which there are not large carpentry
projects at least occasionally.
Employment opportunities also exist entirely
outside of construction. Carpenters are em­
ployed in shipbuilding, in mining, and in the
production of many kinds of display materials
(motion-picture sets, window display and con­
vention display material, etc.). Building and
repairing of railroad cars has declined greatly
in importance because of the replacement of

46




wood by metal, but other railroad employment
(for maintenance of stations, other buildings,
and other wooden structures) is of course per­
manent. There are many additional types of
skilled factory employment, but for the most
part these are for cabinetmakers or shop car­
penters (millmen) rather than for construc­
tion carpenters.
Carpentry may be regarded as the basic
building trade, needed in localities of all sizes.
Hence, there are carpenters in rural communi­
ties too small to support journeymen in any
of the other trades.
Training and Qualifications
The trade of carpentry is made up of many
elements. A fully qualified man must be skill­
ful in the use of a wide variety of tools (hand
tools of many types, and also several electri­
cally operated tools) and must know the char­
acteristics of many materials. He should have
an elementary understanding of structural de­
sign and must be thoroughly familiar with the
common systems of frame construction, includ­
ing the purposes of the various members and
the relationships among them. He should know
construction practices and standards, such as
customary spacing and secure fastening of
parts, and of course know the relationship be­
tween carpentry and the work of other trades.
Ability to read blueprints and to compute di­
mensions for any part of a building are im­
portant, as well as a knowledge of simple
mathematics and facility in using the “ steel
square.” 1 Ability to work without drawings
(taking measurements as needed) is usually
necessary in making repairs or alterations to
existing work. In some situations ability to
make clear sketches of work to be done is de­
sirable, and ability to make an accurate, de­
tailed schedule of needed materials is quite
important for any journeyman wanting to
work on his own account or to become a fore­
man. A well-trained carpenter is a highly
skilled man, altogether different from a handy­
man able to do only some of the simpler and
easier jobs.
The customary way to become a journeyman
is through a 4-year apprenticeship, which in
all essentials is as described for the building
trades as a whole on pages 38-41 inclusive. The1
1A

la rg e

L -s h a p e d

d e v ic e f o r

g r a p h ic

o f o b li q u e c u t s t o b e m a d e i n l u m b e r .

c o m p u t a t io n

and

m a r k in g

training progresses from comparatively simple
jobs, such as laying subflooring, to more diffi­
cult jobs, such as laying out and cutting the
members for a dormer. When his manual skill
is sufficient, the apprentice works on trim­
ming. Emphasis in the training is, of course,
affected by the types of work which the em­
ployer has on hand from time to time. Most
apprenticeship programs provide 144 hours
of classroom work per year, covering such sub­
jects as Shop arithmetic, simple algebra, draft­
ing and blueprint reading, and woodworking
shop work.
Veterans with carpentry experience in the
service may be eligible for acceptance by the
union as advanced apprentices, or even as jour­
neymen, if their experience is sufficient and
they are able to pass the examination usually
given by the union local on completion of ap­
prenticeship. Provisions for such acceptance
are established by each of the locals for its own
territory.
Many men have learned the trade informally,
working as handymen or helpers until they
became sufficiently adept to be employable for
more exacting work. While this method can
be successful, it has many disadvantages and
at best is an undependable substitute for ap­
prenticeship.
Outlook
The outlook for carpenters is excellent at
present and is likely to continue to be vary
good. New materials, tools, and methods have
changed the detailed operations of carpentry
extensively but changed the basic nature of
the work less than in several other trades, and
current trends in this respect are on the whole
favorable. The long-range trend is undoubtedly
for higher lumber prices2 because of several
reasons, of which the most important is the
Nation’s diminishing supply of standing timber,
with increasing necessity for cultivating and
caring for trees almost as a slow-growing agri­
cultural crop. This development is unfavor­
able but not too serious, even though it will
probably bring a choice of masonry rather
than frame construction for houses and other
small buildings in some cases. Such an effect
will, o f course, be gradual rather than imme­
2 This trend is quite separate from, and also quite consistent with
tne short-term downward movement o f lumber prices from their
ipostwar high level, which started in late summer o f 1948.




diate or sudden. Other developments mentioned
below are quite favorable for some types of
nonresidential building. It must also be real­
ized that carpenters already use a number of
important products not made from wood, as
well as some products that are or can be made
from wood scrap, pulpwood, and other forms
of wood not directly usable in construction.
The lumber and lumber products industries
are fully conscious of the significance of dimin­
ishing timber stands and also of the develop­
ment work being done with other materials.
They have been conducting many industrial re­
search projects to make the best use of wood,
to develop new products, and to reduce mill
waste, especially by developing productive uses
for scrap and low-grade pieces. The U. S. Forest
Service has likewise been active at the Forest
Products Laboratory and elsewhere, and a
number of universities and other organizations
have been active as well. These efforts have
increased the usefulness of wood greatly in
structural elements, such as trusses, bringing
use of wood trusses in numerous wide-span
buildings where steel would have been used a
few years earlier, and resulted in new elements
laminated from wood (arches and “ rigid frame”
members, which in structural properties re­
semble arches to a considerable degree) having
marked advantages for some types of build­
ings. A minor but noteworthy fact bearing on
adjustment to decreasing timber supply and
high prices is the adoption of a sheet material
made from ground wood scrap and a plastic
binder, for door panels and other uses, by one
of the largest manufacturers of better grade
stock millwork; a number of other wood
products manufacturers are interested in mak­
ing somewhat similar materials.
Carpentry has been affected by changed
methods and changed organization of site work.
Electric handsaws, introduced about 25 years
ago, were used only by the larger contractors
for a number of years, but within the past 10
years they have become standard in most locali­
ties. Other electric hand tools have been adopt­
ed, but less extensively. Radial saws were
brought out about 10 years ago and were ac­
cepted much more rapidly on moderately large
and large jobs having extensive repetition of
individual pieces. Their use is accompanied by
division of the construction work between a

47

processing crew, which cuts parts to size, and
an erection crew, which installs them. On some
jobs the work has been divided further, with
six, eight, or even more small erection crews,
each doing only designated parts of the work
on all buildings (usually houses) in a project.
This is a basic change from traditional practice,
in which one crew performed all rough car­
pentry operations on a single house, with sev­
eral such crews working at once on different
houses on a large project. This change reduces
the hours of carpentry work per house under
favorable conditions, but often the reduction
is much less than is potentially possible because
any interference with schedule can delay the
entire project rather than merely one crew.
The change also makes it possible for some of
the operations to be done by men having less
than all-round journeymen competence, but this
practice has not been followed widely.
Carpentry is also the trade most directly
affected by prefabrication. To date this has not
reduced site employment substantially, and it
seems unlikely to do so. There may very well
be some degree of increase in prefabricated
houses as a percentage of the total, but the
increase is likely to be moderate. Capably
planned and managed site construction methods
have been able to compete successfully with
prefabrication thus far and seem likely to con­
tinue so. They offer worthwhile advantages
quite comparable to the advantages of prefab­
rication.
More highly processed materials and ma­
terials designed for easier and faster installa­
tion have become progressively more important.
Examples are doors and sash made to exact
size and hence requiring no fitting at the job,
partially assembled door-frame-trim combina­
tions, fully assembled sash-frame combinations,
tubular door locks to cut down the time of in­
stallation, sash balances for quicker installa­
tion than pulleys and counterweights. From a
quality standpoint, many of the more quickly
installed materials are fully equal to older
types of materials. Some others are not, but
still are quite good enough to be suitable for
most buildings. Manufacturers are, of course,
strongly interested in the sales advantage of
products with reduced installation cost, but
this interest is not new. There is every reason
to expect that development will be gradual in

48




the future just as it has been in the past.
Carpentry is by far the largest single con­
struction trade, although any estimate of the
number of carpenters is subject to considerable
uncertainty. This is a trade where census fig­
ures are probably execessive, because of re­
porting of handymen and other partially
trained workers to the census enumerators as
journeymen carpenters. The number who may
reasonably be called carpenters is probably
over 500,000, including many thousands who
received their training informally, not all of
whom are capable of doing the most exacting
types of work. “ Hammer and nails men,” cap­
able only of simpler and rougher types of work
and having little knowledge of the reasons
for what they are doing, are not included in
this figure.
At the end of October 1948, there were about
42,700 carpentry apprentices known to the
Bureau of Apprenticeship, plus probably a few
thousand others. These figures exclude appren­
tices for shop carpentry and for cabinet work.
On the basis of a 4-year apprenticeship, cur­
rent replacement is at the rate of not over
2 V2 percent of the trade’s present membership
each year. This percentage is not sufficient to
maintain the size of the trade under presentday conditions, particularly because of the
average age for journeymen of probably about
53 years,8 with correspondingly high loss rate
from death and retirement. Unless the replace­
ment rate is increased, there will be either a
continued reduction in the size of the trade or
entrance of many thousands of workers trained
through other means than formal apprentice­
ship.
Wage Rates
Wage rates established by collective bargain­
ing agreements and in effect on July 1, 1948,
are given on page 49 for a number of areas. In
each case the rate is for a surrounding area as
well as for the city itself. These are minimum
union rates for journeymen, and in some cases
higher rates are scheduled for specified types
of work.
In small localities wage rates are, on the3
3 The statement on average age is based on Apprentice Training
Service (now Bureau o f Apprenticeship) Technical Bulletin T-121,
“ A ge Trends in the Skilled Trades in the Construction Industry,
1900-1940,'* which in turn is based on census data. The change in
average (median) age since 1940 was estimated on the basis o f con­
ditions affecting turnover in the trade since that time.

whole, less than in the cities listed, and in
rural localities they are likely to be substan­
tially less most of the time. This difference is
more important for carpentry than for some
other trades because of its much wider geo­
graphical distribution. Even in many of the
largest cities, there is likely to be a noticeable
amount of employment below established wage
rates unless in times of labor shortage, in
“ home improvement” work. Some of the con­
tractors for such jobs have high standards of
workmanship and pay corresponding wages,
while others have much lower standards and
pay wages more appropriate for helpers than
for journeymen.
Area

Hourly
rate

Atlanta, Ga....................................................................$1.77%
Baltimore, Md............... ............................................... 1.95
Birmingham, Ala........................................................ 1.80
Boston, Mass................................................................ 2.10
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 2.25
Chicago, 111.................................................. ................. 2.35
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.20
Cleveland, Ohio ........................................................... 2.37%
Denver, Colo.................................................................. 2.10
Houston, Tex................................................................ 2.00
Indianapolis, Ind............................
2.17%
Jackson, Miss................................................................ 1.75
Kansas City, Mo.......................................................... 2.05
Little Rock, Ark.......................................................... 1.75
Los Angeles, Calif....................................................... 2.03%
Louisville, Ky................................................................ 1.95
Milwaukee, Wis............................................................ 2.00
Minneapolis, Minn...................................................... 2.05
New Haven, Conn........................................................ 2.10
New Orleans, La.......................................................... 1.75
New York, N. Y ........................................................ "2.75
Omaha, Nebr................................................................ 1.95
Philadelphia, Pa.......................................................... 2.25
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.50
Portland, Oreg.............................................................. 1.92%
Richmond, Va................................................................ 1.80
St. Louis, Mo................................................................ 2.45
San Francisco, Calif................................................... 2.16
Seattle, Wash.....................................................
2.06%
Springfield, Mass......................................................... 1.87%
1 35-hour workweek.

Additional Information
Additional information on apprenticeship
may be obtained from the United Brotherhood
of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Car­
penters Building, Indianapolis 4, Ind., or from
the Apprenticeship Committee of the Associ­
ated General Contractors, 1227 Munsey Build­
ing, Washington 4, D. C.




Bricklayers
Outlook Summary
The outlook for bricklayers is excellent at
present and should be very good for several
years. Thereafter openings will be primarily
for replacements rather than for expansion of
the trade.
Nature of Work
Bricklayers are skilled craftsmen, whose
main work is the construction of walls, parti­
tions, fireplaces, chimneys, and other parts of
buildings, from brick and numerous other
masonry materials. These latter include struc­
tural tile, facing tile, terra cotta, the concreteblock family (including cinder block and other
lightweight blocks), gypsum block, glass block,4
6
*
and several less common materials. In large
cities, bricklayers do not set natural or artificial
stone, except on jobs having only a few scat­
tered pieces like window sills, but in small
places, “ combination men,” doing both stone­
work and brickwork, are frequent. Bricklayers
also build blast furnaces and coke ovens, build
power-plant and industrial chimneys (which,
unlike ordinary chimneys, are separate struc­
tures), install the fire-brick linings of kilns
and industrial furnaces, build the brick settings
for power boilers and large heating boilers,
build manholes and catch basins for sewers,
and build manholes, cable vaults, and tile con­
duit lines for underground utility cable.
Building brickwork itself covers a wide
range. Exterior walls are commonly face brick
on the outside backed with common brick, but
the backing may be concrete or cinder block or
structural tile. Walls entirely of concrete or
cinder block are also common. Stone exteriors
(set by stonemasons) are ordinarily backed
with brick or tile by bricklayers. For houses,
brick veneer is popular— this is essentially
frame construction (built by carpenters) cov­
ered on the outside with a single thickness of
4 Mainly in exterior walls; interior panels o f glass block are
ordinarily not weather-tight and are set by glaziers.
6 Structural tile having one side or two sides carefully finished and
free from imperfections, so that it is satisfactory for a final finish;
it may be either glazed or unglazed. This is entirely distinct from
wall tile (installed by tile setters rather than bricklayers), a thin
material which must be fastened to a self-supporting wall or
partition.

49

brick by bricklayers. In several types of com­
mercial buildings, facing tile5 has become popu­
lar for exterior and interior surfaces. In fireresistive buildings, vertical passages (stair­
ways, elevator shafts, etc.) are often enclosed
with masonry partitions. In these buildings,
the partitions between rooms (unless “ solid
plaster,” described under ^plastering)- consist
of structural tile, facing tile, or gypsum block,
laid by the bricklayers.
Bricklaying is careful, accurate work, be­
cause the inflexible materials must be made to
conform to established dimensions of the build­
ing. The bricklayer or foreman computes the
number of courses (layers) of brick and the
corresponding thickness of the mortar joints
so that the courses come out evenly with sills,
the tops of windows and doors, etc., and then
must keep the mortar joints close enough to
this thickness so that the wall has a uniform
appearance, and the courses come to the heights
planned. A somewhat similar procedure for
horizontal dimensions is followed so that the
wall fits the dimensions between windows, be­
tween a window and a door or a corner, etc.,
without needless or irregular cutting of brick,
which results in a messy appearance.
In laying brick or any other masonry unit,
a bricklayer first spreads a layer or “ bed” of
soft mortar, then sets the brick onto this, and
taps it with his trowel to the right position.
This is placed with the middle above a vertical
mortar joint of the course below. Next he cuts
or scrapes off the excess mortar from the bot­
tom joint and end joint and applies it to the
exposed end or back. He keeps the courses
lined up by use of a gauge line (tightly
stretched cord) as a guide and from time to
time checks the vertical and horizontal surfaces
for truehess with a mason’s level. As necessary,
he cuts (breaks) bricks with his trowel to fit
spaces too small for whole bricks. If the wall
consists of two or more thicknesses of brick,
at regular intervals he lays a “ bond course”
to tie thicknesses together. This usually con­
sists of brick laid crosswise, but several other
bond patterns are also used for the same pur­
pose.
If he is working with concrete block, struc­
tural tile, or other materials, his work differs
in a few details but is the same in all essentials.

50




Likewise, on special types of construction
(round industrial smokestacks, manholes, re­
fractory lining of furnaces, etc.), there are
differences in detail only from the common
types by building brickwork. Bricklayers work­
ing in any of these special fields are men who
entered it and became experienced in it from
preference or probably accidental reasons, in
many cases, and do not make up a distinct
subtrade in any sense. Many of these brick­
layers work on the common forms of masonry
part of the time.
Where Employed
About 80 percent of the bricklayers work
in the construction industry, mainly on new
construction. From the nature of masonry, re­
pair work is comparatively small, consisting
largely of “ pointing” of mortar joints (scrap­
ing out loose mortar near the surface and re­
filling the jo in ts ); buildings in need of exten­
sive masonry repairs are usually so generally
deteriorated that they are not worth the ex­
pense. There is a considerable amount of altera­
tion work, however, especially in larger places
— fire-resistive partitions to fit the require­
ments of new tenants in office buildings, fire
walls around stairways and elsewhere in nonresidential buildings to meet new fire regula­
tions or the regulations for a new type of oc­
cupancy, store-front and similar work in com­
mercial modernization, residential moderniza­
tion, etc. In total, these afford only a small
fraction of the employment for bricklayers in
the contract construction industry; the bulk
of the employment on maintenance and recur­
ring alterations (such as partition changes,
made almost continuously by large real estate
firms managing a number of major office build­
ings) is on a force-account basis.
Bricklayers are employed for maintenance
work in many industries, particularly those
using furnaces, kilns, and other facilities with
refractory linings. Such work is extensive in
glass factories, coke ovens, blast furnaces, and
steel mills, and, to lesser extent, in many other
industries. Bricklayers are also employed on
force-account for maintenance, alterations,
and (to some extent) for new construction by
other organizations having extensive property
— large industrial firms, railroads and other

utilities, large-scale owners or managers of in­
vestment property, Government agencies, and
others.
Training and Qualifications
A bricklayer needs an eye for straight lines
and proportions and a knack for using his
hands. Since the other trades must usually fit
their work to his, he should be able to picture
how the parts of a structure fit together. A
fair degree of physical endurance is necessary
for handling moderately heavy material hour
after hour, at some stages stooping very fre­
quently to get material. There must also be
ability to make rough sketches, to read blue­
prints, to make measurements, and to lay out
the various parts of a building with respect
to each other.
On small jobs, the bricklayer foreman is fre­
quently in charge of all work for the general
contractor, and, on large jobs, the general fore­
man is often a bricklayer by trade. For such
employment a thorough knowledge of construc­
tion is necessary,6 including a good working
knowledge of the other trades and their re­
quirements, real facility in reading blueprints
and visualizing the work which they indicate,
and ability to make all measurements for guide
lines and other marks so that proper allowance
is made for the space needed by each trade—
and thoroughness which detects any discrepan­
cies in the drawings at the outset, when there
can be correction without changing any com­
pleted work. These abilities go beyond dexterity
in handling the tools and materials.
Training is ordinarily obtained through a
formal apprenticeship of 3 to 4 years, similar
in all important respects to apprentice train­
ing for the other trades. In a number of areas
the training program has been aided greatly
by trade school courses, in manipulation of
the tools and materials, conducted for a few
weeks before the start of apprenticeship. These
courses have been sponsored by the Structural
Clay Products Institute and in each case have
been given with the endorsement of locals of
the bricklayers union and associations of ma­
sonry or general contractors. They are intended
6 Commensurate, o f course, with the size and complexity o f the job;
a man might be an excellent foreman for a brick house or small
store building but be unsuitable as general foreman on a large, com­
plicated building, such as a 500-bed hospital.




to give sufficient skill in handling the tools
and materials so that the beginning appren­
tices will be useful at the very start of the
on-the-job training and will also be better
prepared to benefit from such training. In some
cases, they result in advanced apprenticeship
standing.
The apprentice training program in many
cities calls for related classroom work in the
history of the trade, characteristics of the ma­
terials, masonry as a structural material, the
proper ways to make bonds, arches, corbels,7
etc., making and reading working sketches,
reading blueprints, making measurements and
laying out work, and similar subjects. Where
classroom training is not available, instruction
in these subjects must be obtained at the job
or through correspondence courses.
Outlook
Opportunities in bricklaying are very good
indeed. There is room for expansion of the
trade, and every indication that it will con­
tinue to be almost as important a part of con­
struction work as in the past, despite continu­
ing changes in the composition of its field of
work.
Within the past 60 years, changes in brick­
layers’ work have been startling. When steelframe and re-enforced concrete construction
for buildings was introduced, the exterior walls
no longer had to support the floors and roof
and became merely a way of enclosing the
building. This brought a great reduction in
wall thickness for tall buildings and heavyoccupancy buildings. By concentrating the load
on quite small columns, these construction sys­
tems allowed a great increase in window area,
and metal sash gave a convenient means of
providing almost unlimited window area.
Hence, factory and warehouse walls now con­
sist far more of windows and far less of ma­
sonry than was formerly possible. At one time,
brick was used extensively for sewers and for
the lining of tunnels, but it has been replaced
for these uses by other materials, although it
is still used for manholes and catch basins.
Curved and flat arches for the load-bearing
floors in fire-resistive buildings were an im­
7 A corbel is a masonry projection made by advancing each course
from the face o f the wall slightly further than the course beneath it.

51

portant masonry field until about a generation
ago, as was masonry fireproofing of structural
steel, but these have passed out of use com­
pletely. Ornamental brickwork, using specially
shaped brick for relief ornamentation and,
in some localities, using brick of two or more
colors laid in geometrical patterns ( “ diaper
work” ), was popular a little earlier but now
is exceedingly uncommon.
The trade has absorbed all of these changes,
and will absorb others. A few months ago the
13-story Equitable Savings and Loan Building
was completed in Portland, Oregon, with no
masonry in the exterior walls above the secondfloor level. This is the first multistory building
in the world embodying the long-discussed pro­
posal of making the exterior walls purely in­
sulating enclosures, without load-bearing prop­
erties. On a long-range basis, it seems likely
to exercise marked influence on design and
material usage in multistory commercial build­
ings and structurally similar buildings, such as
some types of apartment buildings. If so, this
will mean a gradual reduction in the employ­
ment field for bricklayers.
A number of attempts have been made to de­
velop factory-made chimney assemblies for
houses, in place of masonry chimneys. Those
used in war housing projects were seriously
unsatisfactory in many cases, and at some proj­
ects expensive alterations were made to reduce
the fire hazard. Presumably this experience has
guided the firms offering chimney units now,
and further improvements may reasonably be
expected, but the risk of early obsolescence of
masonry chimneys seems slight. The perma­
nence and fire protection of a well-built masonry
chimney set very high standards for other con­
structions intended to be equally satisfactory.
The over-all trend is by no means unfavor­
able, however. Fire-resistive partitions are very
old but, until structural tile became readily
available, were so heavy and expensive that
they were used only in the most massive build­
ings. Now, made of comparatively light ma­
terials, they are exceedingly common, and their
use is becoming gradually more widespread be­
cause of stricter fire and safety regulations.
Some are made of masonry units with or with­
out a covering of plaster, and others are “ solid
plaster” applied to a core of metal lath or, in
some cases, a core of gypsum board. The long-

52




range trend for lumber prices is unquestion­
ably upward, as stated in the preceding section
on carpenters, and this will tend to increase the
use of masonry. A new system of dimensions
( “ modular coordination” ) for buildings and cer­
tain of their parts, including masonry units, re­
duces the time and cost for almost any specific
job of building brickwork but, as it becomes
more widely used, is likely to increase the use
of masonry and masonry veneer in ordinary
houses enough to bring a noticeable net increase
in employment. The structural clay products
industry has for some years financed a pro­
gram of industrial research projects, mainly
at universities having colleges of ceramic en­
gineering, for the purpose of improving its
products and methods and of developing new
products and new uses. This program has al­
ready brought products tending to increase
bricklayers’ employment, and may be expected
to bring further accomplishment. Glass block
likewise has meant increased employment for
bricklayers and, in combination with ventilat­
ing or air-conditioning systems, it seems likely
to be used more extensively than in the past.
Transparent block with smooth interior and
exterior surfaces is now available, through
which occupants of buildings can see the out­
side without objectionable distortion. This
opens a new field of use.
Bricklaying is one of the fairly large trades,
with current employment of roughly 100,000
in new construction, exclusive of employment
(largely on a force-account basis) in main­
tenance. Because of the age distribution, there
is probably a loss of roughly 4,000 per year
from death and retirement, and an additional
but very much smaller loss from transfer to
other occupations, including contracting and
promotional building. At the end of October
1948, there were 12,068 apprentices (includ­
ing those for the combination of bricklaying
with stonemasonry) known to the Bureau of
Apprenticeship and an unknown but probably
rather small number of others. Since the ap­
prenticeship lasts at least 3 years and in many
cases 4 years, this number is at most sufficient
to maintain the size of the labor force. If main­
tained, it will reduce the average age in the
course of time, and thereby reduce the average
annual rate or death and retirement, but it

obviously offers no threat of a surplus of
trained workers.
Wage Rates
Minimum wage rates for journeymen es­
tablished by collective bargaining are given
below for a number of areas as of July 1, 1948.
In each case these rates are effective for a
surrounding area as well as for the city itself.
Area

Atlanta, Ga................
Baltimore, Md............
Birmingham, Ala.......
Boston, Mass..............
Buffalo, N. Y .............
Chicago, 111.................
Cincinnati, Ohio ......
Cleveland, Ohio ........
Denver, Colo...............
Houston, Tex..............
Indianapolis, Ind.......
Jackson, Miss.............
Kansas City, Mo.......
Little Rock, Ark.........
Los Angeles, Calif. .
Louisville, Ky.............
Milwaukee, Wis.........
Minneapolis, Minn. ...
New Haven, Conn. ...
New Orleans, La.......
New York, N. Y .......
Omaha, Nebr..............
Philadelphia, Pa........
Pittsburgh, Pa............
Portland, Oreg...........
Richmond, Va.............
St. Louis, Mo..............
San Francisco, Calif.
Seattle, Wash.............
Springfield, Mass. ...

Hourly
rate

$2.25
2.50
2.25
2.50
2.50
2.40
2.50
2.37%
2.25
2.50
2.40
2.25
2.50
2.50
2.62%
2.50

2.20
2.25
2.40
2.05
'3.20
2.25
’2.75
2.70
2.50
2.50
2.75
2.81%
2.36%
2.32%

1 35-hour workweek.

Annual earnings in bricklaying are lower
than the hourly earnings might indicate, be­
cause of lost time and seasonal unemployment.
Most jobs are outdoors and are more subject
to weather interruptions than is the work of
a number of other trades.
Additional Information
Additional information on apprenticeship
may be obtained from the Bricklayers, Masons,
and Plasterer’s International Union of America,
815 Fifteenth Street, NW., Washington 5,
D. C., from the Apprenticeship Committee of




the Associated General Contractors, 1227 Munsey Building, Washington 4, D. C., and from
the Mason Training Promotion Department of
the Structural Clay Products Institute, 1520
Eighteenth Street, NW., Washington 6, D. C.

Stonemasons
Outlook Summary
The outlook for stonemasons is good at
present but on a long-range basis is only fair.
This trade is employed mainly on rather spe­
cialized types of construction, and its prospects
are injured by recent and current trends in
architectural style. For “ combination men,”
who are both stonemasons and bricklayers, the
outlook is fully as good as for bricklayers.
Nature of Work
The work of stonemasons may be divided
into two principal parts: setting of cut stone,
mainly on more expensive nonresidential build­
ings, and rubble stone work in which the mason
trims the rough stone to size as he sets it. In
some localities, there is an occasional job using
field stones in which fitting to dimensions is
done by choosing stones of different sizes, with
a minimum of trimming.
Stonemasons deal strictly with natural stone
and with artificial stone (concrete units made
to size for an individual building just as is
cut stone, and not including ordinary concrete
block). In most localities, the greater part of
their work is setting of cut stone exteriors for
comparatively expensive buildings— office build­
ings, hotels, university buildings, churches,
public buildings of various sorts, and an oc­
casional residence. There is a small amount
of stone veneer work, in which a thin covering
of cut stone is applied to the exterior of a house
or other building which is basically of frame
construction, very much like brick veneer.
There are also some buildings with stonework
at the principal entrance or other special loca­
tions but with brick for the remainder of the
exposed masonry. In some cases stonemasons
set incidental stonework in brick walls, but
usually scattered pieces are set by the brick­
layers.
For cut stone work, a mason is guided by a
large-scale setting diagram in which each piece

53

is shown to scale and is identified by an individ­
ual number (in some jobs plain rectangular
pieces, known as “ ashlar,” are not numbered
individually). A tender, known as a derrickman, locates the pieces to be needed and brings
them to the mason. If sufficiently large and
heavy, they are set in place by a derrick or
crane, but most pieces are picked up and set
by hand. The mason prepares a mortar bed,
places the stone in the bed, and taps it into
position as needed with a wooden mallet until
it is in proper alignment. Because of the ex­
pense, a wall of solid cut stone is exceedingly
rare; usually the stone is mainly a rather thin
covering on the exposed surface or surfaces,
with brick or other less expensive materials
used for the remainder of the wall thickness.
Sometimes the bricks are laid by the stone­
masons, but, in cities large enough for the dis­
tinction between bricklaying and stonemasonry
to be observed, they are put in place by brick­
layers. Stonemasonry is much more exacting
than brickwork in the details o f appearance.
Surfaces, edges, and mortar joints are much
more easily seen and are viewed much more
critically; hence, it is necessary that alignment
be maintained much more accurately, that joints
be uniform, and that minor chipping of the
corners be avoided.
Rubble stone work was an important struc­
tural material until superseded by concrete
but is now used only for appearance in some
houses and other buildings and in some places
for a few minor uses, such as low retaining
walls at the edge of steeply banked lawns.
It uses rough stone, which the mason cuts
(breaks) to size as he lays it. He lays the pieces
in a bed of mortar but does not maintain uni­
form horizontal courses or vertical joints such
as are used for brickwork. Pieces can be cut
and fitted rapidly in this manner by a skilled
man, but it is still handwork and correspond­
ingly expensive; hence, this type of work is
uncommon.

Where Employed
Stonemasons’ employment is principally in
the construction industry. There is also em­
ployment in the larger cities in building of
family mausoleums.

54




Training and Qualifications
Training is through apprenticeship which in
some features is similar to that for bricklay­
ing. There are also combination apprenticeships
preparing for both brickwork and stonework,
in localities where there is not enough stone­
work for reasonably steady employment.
Outlook
It seems very likely that stonemasonry will
continue in use permanently, but there are
strong indications that it will be used less ex­
tensively than in the past. The trend toward
simpler lines means less stone ornamentation
and less extensive use of moldings and other
pieces than plain ashlar. The trend is also
toward larger window areas in some kinds of
buildings, with less exterior wall area. Gothic
is no longer the unchallenged first choice in
university architecture. Changed architectural
preferences have also appeared in church
buildings, and there are some indications that
a similar change will come in public buildings
within the fairly near future, although perhaps
not immediately.
These considerations mean likelihood of a
gradual decline in employment. This will prob­
ably be slow enough so that it will not threaten
present members of the trade, especially since
average age is high, and new workers will cer­
tainly be needed; but, since this is both a small
trade and a contracting trade, the apprentice­
ship opportunities are limited.
Wage Rates
The table shows hourly wage rates effective
July 1, 1948, as established by collective bar­
gaining agreements in a number of cities. In
each case, these apply to a surrounding area
as well.
Area

Atlanta, Ga..........
Baltimore, Md. ...
Birmingham, Ala.
Buffalo, N. Y .......
Chicago, 111..........
Cincinnati, Ohio .
Cleveland, Ohio ...
Denver, Colo.........
Houston, Tex........
Indianapolis, Ind.

Hourly
rate

$2.25
2.50
' 2.25
. 2.50
. 2.40
. 2.50
. 2.37 y2
. 2.25
. 2.50
. 2.40

Hourly
rate

Area

the cement finishers deal.

In other cases

there is no separate top coating, and the finish­
Jackson, Miss................................................................ 2.25
Kansas City, Mo.......................................................... 2.25
ers deal with the surface of the main mass of
Little Rock, Ark........................................................... 2.50
concrete. In either case they spread the ma­
Los Angeles, Calif....................................................... 2.62%
terial to about the level desired by means of a
Louisville, Ky................................................................ 2.50
straightedge, guided by strips which they have
Milwaukee, Wis............................................................ 2.20
set to indicate the proper surface, and then
Minneapolis, Minn...................................................... 2.25
New Haven, Conn....................................................... 2.40
trowel it a number of times at different stages
New Orleans, La......................................................... 2.05
of hardening. Often a level surface is wanted,
New York, N. Y ...........................................................>3.20
and in other cases a slope is wanted for water
Omaha, Nebr................................................................ 2.25
drainage— toward the floor drains in a garage
Philadelphia, Pa.......................................................... 2.40
floor, toward one or more sides of a concrete
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.70
Portland, Oreg............................................................... 2.50
roof slab, etc. Provision for this slope is made
Richmond, Va................................................
2.50 final grading of the ground (for a slab rest­
in
St. Louis, Mo................................................................ 2.75
ing on the earth) or in building of the forms,
San Francisco, Calif....................................................... 2.81%
Seattle, Wash...... ......................................................
2.36% and in pouring of the rough concrete, but it
is the finisher’s job to produce a final top sur­
Springfield, Mass.......................................................... 2.32%
1 35-hour workweek.

Additional Information
Additional information, including the address
of the nearest union local, may be obtained by
writing to the Bricklayers, Masons and Plaster­
er’s International Union of America, 815
Fifteenth Street, NW., Washington 5, D. C.

Cement Finishers
Nature of Work
The principal work of this trade is the finish­
ing of the exposed surface of concrete work,
with any pitch wanted for water drainage, etc.
Other work includes patching the surface o f
structural concrete after the forms have been
removed, laying of mastic floors, and laying
of composition (magnesium cement) floors.
Finishing of concrete floors and other con­
crete members is the most important source of
employment. This work is done on sidewalks,
driveways, curbs, roofs, stairs, and many other
structures or structural members, as well as
floors. Pouring of concrete which is to have
a trowel-finished surface sometimes proceeds
in two stages— first the main mass of material
containing gravel or other coarse aggregate,
which is leveled off about one-half inch below
the final surface, and then a top coating of
finer material without gravel, which is spread
onto the coarser concrete below. In such cases,
it is mainly this fine mixture with which




face conforming to that desired. Finishing of
curved rather than approximately flat surfaces
(street curbs, curbs at the edge of driveways,
etc.) is done in a generally similar manner.
More similar to plastering (particularly stucco
work) is the job of applying an outer covering
of fine material to retaining walls and other
vertical surfaces. This is done after the forms
have been removed, a few days after the main
mass of concrete has been poured.
The patching work occurs mainly in concreteframe buildings and is done to correct surface
defects which are exposed when the forms are
removed. Fins protruding where joints in the
forms were too wide are chipped off and ground
with an abrasive; “ honeycomb” areas, where
there had been insufficient spading during plac­
ing of the concrete, are cleaned, with any loose
material removed, and are filled with a cementsand mixture; and similar minor corrections
are made for the purpose of improving the ap­
pearance of concrete which is to be exposed in
a completed building.
Mastic floors are a layer of fine asphalt mix­
ture, quite like that used for the top surface
of street paving, and are usually laid over con­
crete. They are used where resistance to acid
is necessary — mainly in dairies, ice cream
plants, breweries, and other factories in the
food-products industry. The material is ap­
plied hot and is smoothed with heavy hand
tools.
Composition floors are thin layers made with
a type of magnesium cement laid over a rigid
base. The operations involved are very similar

55

to those for finishing a concrete floor, but modi­
fied by differences in the characteristics of
the material. At one time these were popular
for small commercial buildings, but now they
are used mainly for deck surfaces and similar
uses in shipbuilding.
Finishing of newly poured concrete usually
involves overtime work, frequently quite ex­
tensive overtime, because of the characteristics
of the materials. On better-grade jobs, where
high standards of workmanship prevail, the
finishing operation continues to a final trowel­
ing when the fine material is fairly rigid, and
this is several hours after it has been poured.
The setting time depends on the temperature
and the type of cement used but is fairly
lengthy in any case. For re-enforced floors in
buildings, very often pouring is continued until
after the normal quitting time in order to reach
boundaries where a break in the concrete will
not introduce structural weakness; this means
that the cement finishers often do not complete
their work before 10 and may work until mid­
night or later. Such hours bring high daily and
weekly earnings when they occur, but they are
offset by intermittent employment, because it
is exceedingly uncommon for pouring of build­
ing concrete to go on day after day; ordinarily
one or a few days of pouring are followed by
days of building forms, setting re-enforcing
steel, and making other preparations for the
next pour. Sidewalk and driveway work is
more regular, because many of the contractors
for such work are able to obtain a continuous
series of moderately small jobs, but on this
work the overtime is usually less. The jobs are
smaller, there is seldom the engineering neces­
sity for pouring until a suitable boundary is
reached, and pouring often stops earlier in
the day. The finishing specifications are also
less exacting in many cases, so that troweling
can be stopped at an earlier stage of setting.
In small localities, many journeymen are both
cement finishers and plasterers, and in such
places there is apprenticeship for the two
trades combined.
Where Employed
Cement finishers are employed predominant­
ly in the construction industry. Some work for
“ cement contractors” doing mainly small jobs

56




such as sidewalks, driveways, small retaining
walls, basement and garage floors, etc.; these
men work fairly regularly, except that the vol­
ume of employment is low in winter, and out­
door work is postponed for rain. Some work
for city paving contractors, mainly on street
curbing; this employment is rather similar to
that for “ cement contractors.” Some work for
general building contractors or for re-enforced
concrete contractors on finishing of floor slabs
and roof slabs in concrete-frame and steelframe buildings. There are numerous other
jobs— on bridges, abutments, and most struc­
tures where concrete is used. The early con­
crete highways were finished by hand, but
finishing machines have been used for a num­
ber of years; hand-finishing of highways is
confined mainly to curves and irregular areas
outside the range for which the finishing ma­
chine rails are set up, although on most con­
crete paving crews there are cement finishers
to perform smoothing operations supplemen­
tary to that of the finishing machine. Mastic
floors are laid mainly by finishers specializing
in such work, who move to successive jobs over
a quite wide area; the same is true of compo­
sition floors.
Government units (municipal public works
departments particularly), utilities, some
manufacturing firms, and a certain number of
miscellaneous establishments also hire cement
finishers.
Outlook
The employment outlook at the present time
is very good, and it should continue to be good
for a number of years, because this is likely to
be an expanding trade. Use of concrete in
building construction has increased and seems
likely to increase further. A comparatively
few years ago re-enforced concrete construc­
tion was almost unknown for apartment build­
ings below luxury grade, but it has become
moderately common in investment housing
projects as well as in public housing. Houses
without basements, with a concrete floor slab
laid on the ground, have come into use, and
have been stimulated by their suitability for
panel ( “ radiant” ) heating. Other uses have
also developed or grown, and further develop­
ment is very likely.

The prospect is for gradual increase in the
total volume of employment, but not for a
change in its basic characteristics. Nothing
evident to date indicates likelihood of substan­
tially improved regularity of employment or
an evening out of the alternation in concrete
frame buildings between days with extreme
overtime and days o f lay-off.
While finishing machines are highly satis­
factory for paving work, the vastly different
conditions for other types of poured-in-place
concrete make the use of similar machines un­
likely. Small machines for finishing floors, etc.,
have been used for several years and have
proved valuable on flat surfaces. These consist
of an electrically rotated blade covering an
area about 3 feet in diameter which is moved
over the floor by the cement finisher.
Wage Rates
Below are the wage rates established by col­
lective bargaining agreements and in effect on
July 1,1948, in a number of cities. In each case
they apply to a surrounding area as well.

Additional Information
For additional information, or for the ad­
dress of the union local nearest you, write to
the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Finishers
International Association, 200 Fidelity Build­
ing, Cleveland 14, Ohio; or the Bricklayers,
Masons, and Plasterer’s International Union
of America, 815 Fifteenth Street, NW., Wash­
ington 5, D. C. Information may also be ob­
tained from the Apprenticeship Committee o f
the Associated General Contractors, 1227 Munsey Building, Washington 4, D. C.

Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers
Outlook Summary
Opportunities are good for at least the next
several years for those who want to enter as
apprentices. The field for ornamental metal
work has increased noticeably within the last
two decades, and further increase seems very
likely.
Nature of Work

Structural iron workers erect the steel
framework for buildings. Best known are the
Atlanta, Ga....................................................................$2.10
Baltimore, Md.............................................................. 2.15
tall buildings common in downtown locations,
Birmingham, Ala.......................................................... 2.07%
but structural-steel columns and roof framing
Boston, Mass.......................................................
2.50
are used frequently in one-story factory build­
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 2.23
ings and to some extent in other types of build­
Chicago, 111.................................................................... 2.35
ings. Factories may also require steelwork for
Cincinnati, Ohio .................................
2.10
Cleveland, Ohio ........................................
2.25
crane runways and to support heavy equip­
Denver, Colo.................................................................. 2.25
ment. The men in this trade also put up steel
Houston, Tex................................................................ 2.00
bridges and towers and install or erect certain
Indianapolis, Ind.......................................................... 1.95
types of tanks. They install steel floor decking,
Jackson, Miss................................................................ 2.00
which has become popular for office buildings
Kansas City, Mo.......................................................... 2.05
Little Rock, Ark.......................................................... 2.00
and other buildings having light floor loads.
Los Angeles, Calif........................................................ 2.11%
In some cases they set structural-steel mem­
Louisville, Ky.........................
1.95
bers in place when they occur in buildings not
Milwaukee, Wis............................................................ 1.95
of steel frame design, such as beams over wide
Minneapolis, Minn....................................................... 2.15
doors and windows in masonry walls to sup­
New Haven, Conn....................................................... 2.40
New Orleans, La.......................................................... 1.75
port the brickwork above. Structural iron
New York, N. Y ............................................................ *2.75
workers erect steel scaffolding and sidewalk
Omaha, Nebr................................................................ 1.95
canopies for use by other construction trades
Philadelphia, Pa.......................................................... 2.25
and for protection of the public, both for new
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.50
buildings and repair work. The steel scaffolding
Portland, Oreg.............................................................. 2.00
Richmond, Ya............................................................... 1.75
for exterior repairs to a tall building can be a
St. Louis, Mo................................................................. 2.37%
fairly large job in itself. Other work includes
San Francisco, Calif................................................... 2.15
the placing of vault doors with their frames
Seattle, Wash................................................................. 2.06%
and installing the steel plate work covering*
Springfield, Mass......................................................... 2.32%
the exterior of burglar-resistive vaults. Struc1 35-hour workweek.
Area




Hourly
rate

57

tural iron workers do rigging (moving of heavy
machinery, equipment, etc.), except in those lo­
calities where rigging is treated as a separate
occupation.
In erecting a steel framework or structure,
the structural iron workers first take the steel
shapes already fabricated by other workers
and hoist them into place in the proper order.
They then connect them temporarily with bolts, ^
accurately align the structure as necessary, and
rivet or weld the parts together.
Ornamental iron workers typically handle
lighter materials, such as those not making
up the basic framework of a building. The name
“ ornamental iron” is historical and is likely
to be misleading. Within recent years a large
part of the work, probably more than half, has
dealt with other metals than iron and steel—
mainly aluminum alloys, brass, and bronze. In
some cases the installations are highly decora­
tive, although along much simpler lines than
20 or 30 years ago, while other installations
are strictly utilitarian.
Ornamental iron workers install metal stair­
ways (which are much commoner than they
seem, because the treads and platforms are
commonly filled with concrete) and the railings
and handrails at stairways, balconies, and
elsewhere. They install metal floor-gratings,
catwalks, and ladders, used extensively in
powerhouses and a few types of factories. They
put in place solid metal sash and doors and their
frames, including the common steel sash used
in many kinds of buildings; swinging and re­
volving metal doors with their frames; and
vestibules at the street entrances to office build­
ings, hotels, etc. Other work done includes
doors, grilles, and screens, such as used at
bank tellers’ compartments and elsewhere;
gratings; metal cabinets of many types, such
as display cases and safety deposit boxes; win­
dow and door guards; and a very wide variety
of other installations.

cial building, or the addition of window guards
to an existing building for burglary protection.
There is even a little repair work, despite the
durability of the materials — replacement of
members weakened by long neglect of painting,
replacement of bridge parts damaged by bad
traffic accidents, etc.
The structural workers do no fabrication of
their materials beyond reaming out of mispunched rivet holes and other small corrections
of shop errors. In general the ornamental
workers likewise do no fabrication, although
some of the smallest contractors (especially
in small communities) do not distinguish sharp­
ly between shop crews and field crews. Occa­
sionally, larger contractors use some of their
erecting crews for shop work to handle peak
loads, but this practice is not prevalent because
of the substantially higher wage scale for the
erecting men.
Ornamental iron workers are commonly em­
ployed within commuting distance of home be­
cause establishments capable of doing a wide
variety of work can be maintained on a fairly
low volume of business and hence are found
in many localities. Ornamental metal for an
occasional elaborate building in a small city is
likely to be provided by a contractor from a
larger city, who ordinarily either sends his own
crew or sends a partial crew and hires other
workers locally.
On the whole, more traveling is involved for
structural iron workers, because most locali­
ties have insufficient structural business to
support an erection contractor or local crew.
Consequently, workers must be brought in from
outside to handle the occasional structural work
that occurs, such as a steel-frame office or fac­
tory building. Workers living in the largest
metropolitan centers and preferring employ­
ment there are likely at times to find that the
only vacancies are for out-of-town jobs.
Training and Qualifications

Where Employed
Structural and ornamental iron workers are
engaged largely on new construction. They are
also employed on alteration work, such as in­
sertion of a mezzanine floor in steel-frame
buildings; installation of steel stairs, during
modernization of an old apartment or commer­

58




The standard apprenticeship period is 2
years, with provision for another 6 months of
training if necessary. Men with several years
of experience as helpers sometimes become
journeymen, but, as the trade is highly union­
ized, few enter without serving a formal ap­
prenticeship.

Outlook
Employment prospects for the next several
years are very good, and, although not many
additional workers will be needed thereafter,
the outlook will continue to be good for those
already at work in the trade.
Prospects for structural workers are im­
proved by developments in the use of steelwork
intended for buildings with light floor loads.
There has also been increased recognition of
advantages of steel construction in some kinds
of one-story nonresidential buildings. The pos­
sibilities of a fairly new type of unconventional
design ( “ rigid frames” ) are likely to be real­
ized much more fully than in the past.
For ornamental metal work, prospects are
likewise good. It is admirably suited to recent
trends in architectural design; there has been
steady progress in its fabrication; and it is
likely to be used more extensively in buildings
where cost is an important consideration, be­
cause for many uses there is now a fairly wide
range of stock and semistock parts (such as
extruded mouldings). Strictly utilitarian uses
are likely at least to be sustained, if not in­
creased.
For many years ornamental metalwork has
been used to some degree as an exterior cover­
ing on buildings. Within recent years this has
consisted mainly of panels for covering the
spandrels,8 but the Equitable Savings and Loan
Building (mentioned in the section on brick­
layers) established a precedent in having an
exterior of ornamental metal rather than ma­
sonry above the second-floor level. This is likely
to be the forerunner of more extensive use of
exterior metalwork, but the effect will be grad­
ual rather than sudden. So great a departure
from conventional practice as that embodied in
the Equitable case requires revision of building
ordinances and is in a field of strong conflicting
interests.
Some workers will also be needed to replace
those who leave these trades because of death,
retirement, or shifting to other kinds of jobs.
Wage Rates and Working Conditions
Minimum wage rates established by collective
bargaining agreements for structural iron
8 A spandrel is that part o f the exterior wall directly above the
head o f a window, extending upward to the sill o f the corresponding
window on the next story.




workers and in effect on July 1, 1948, in a
number of areas are given in the table below.
In most areas rates for ornamental workers are
the same or differ by only a few cents.
Area

Hourly
rate

Atlanta, Ga................................................................... $2.00
Baltimore, Md............................................................... 2.40
Birmingham, Ala........................................................ 2.07%
Buffalo, N. Y ................................... ............................ 2.40
Chicago, 111.................................................................... 2.40
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.35
Cleveland, Ohio ........................................................... 2.37%
Denver, Colo.................................................................. 2.00
Houston, Tex................................................................ 2.12%
Indianapolis, Ind.......................................................... 2.32%
Jackson, Miss................................................................ 2.00
Kansas City, Mo......................................................... 2.20
Little Rock, Ark.......................................................... 2.00
Los Angeles, Calif....................................................... 2.10
Louisville, Ky................................................................ 2.10
Milwaukee, Wis............................................................ 2.05
Minneapolis, Minn...................................................... 2.17%
New Haven, Conn....................................................... 2.50
New Orleans, La......................................................... 2.00
New York, N. Y ......................................................... 3.00
Omaha, Nebr................................................................ 2.05
Philadelphia, Pa........................................................... 2.65
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.50
Portland, Oreg.............................................................. 2.12%
Richmond, Va.............................................................. 2.25
St. Louis, Mo................................................................ 2.42%
San. Francisco, Calif................................................... 2.40
Seattle, Wash................................................................ 2.26%
Springfield, Mass........................................................ 2.30

Workers in the erection crews receive much
higher wages than do shop workers. However,
structural and ornamental workers in construc­
tion are not as steadily employed throughout
the year as shop workers. Since there is little
maintenance and repair work that they can
do during the dull building season, annual
earnings usually are low relative to the hourly
wage rates.
Accidents are infrequent but in structural
work are likely to be quite serious. Safety stand­
ards have been greatly improved over those
prevalent 25 years ago, and safety measures,
such as nets and scaffoldings, are used much
more extensively. Nevertheless, it cannot be
expected that accidents will be completely pre­
vented. Men occasionally fall from high places,
and that is likely to be fatal unless they are
stopped by a safety net; men are also occasion­
ally hit by falling objects, and once in a long

59

while in past years there has been a catas­
trophe such as collapse of the structure.
Additional Information
For further information about apprentice­
ship for either of these trades, write to the
International Association of Bridge, Structural,
and Ornamental Iron Workers, Syndicate Trust
Building, St. Louis 1, Mo., or regarding struc­
tural metal work, write to the National Erec­
tors’ Association, 33 West 42d Street, New York
18, N. Y.

Rodmen
(Reenforcing Iron Workers)
Outlook Summary
The employment outlook for rodmen is good
and should continue to be good for a number
of years because of a prospective increase in
the importance of re-enforced concrete work.
Nature of Work
Rodmen set the re-enforcing steel for re­
enforced concrete work of all sorts. Most of
this is in the form of steel bars, which, by the
time of concrete pouring, must be assembled
in proper relation to each other and supported
in the forms so that each piece is in the posi­
tion where it gets the intended structural load.
Re-enforcing for round columns usually comes
assembled from the plant, but collapsed, and is
merely spread out to the proper shape, tied, and
then placed inside the column forms. Other bar
re-enforcing comes as separate bars, cut to
length and bent as necessary at the plant, but
not assembled. The rodmen are guided by a
drawing on which all re-enforcement is in­
dicated, and the code numbers used for the
different pieces are given. They select the
pieces, put them together into framelike assem­
blies for beam or rectangular column re-en­
forcement, tie all intersections securely with
wire, and place these assemblies in the forms
on wire supports ( “ chairs” ) as necessary.
When occasion arises, they weld the pieces to­
gether. They assemble the re-enforcing rods
for slabs and concrete joists in a somewhat
similar manner, but by building up the as­
sembly in the forms. As necessary, they cut
and bend the bars, when the shopwork of cut­

60




ting and bending has been done incompletely
or incorrectly. Some re-enforcing is in the form
of a coarse mesh made of heavy steel wires. The
rodmen cut the mesh to the desired size and set
it in place with overlapping edges where pieces
join.
There are of course many structural uses for
“ plain” concrete — i.e., concrete without re­
enforcing steel. These applications provide no
employment for rodmen.
This is one of the less highly skilled trades,
acquired through a 2-year apprenticeship. It
requires dexterity, familiarity with established
usage in re-enforced concrete construction, and
a full realization of the necessity for assembling
the bars accurately, and fastening and support­
ing them securely so that each will in fact bear
the structural load for which is was designed.
Where Employed
Rodmen are employed almost entirely in the
contract construction industry. The employers
include general contractors for re-enforced con­
crete buildings, general contractors for other
structures (bridges, dams, some types of sewer
and water projects, etc.), special trade con­
tractors for re-enforced concrete work, and
(in large cities) special trade contractors for
the setting of re-enforcing steel. There is no
doubt some force-account employment on new
construction, and probably a little employment
(for utilities, municipal public works depart­
ments, etc.) in force-account maintenance, but
very few maintenance and repair jobs involve
rodmen’s employment.
Outlook
Because of the increasing use of re-enforced
concrete, the outlook for this trade is good.
Seasonal variation in employment is important,
however, because almost all re-enforced con­
crete work is done outdoors and is hindered by
cold weather. Employment in many cases is
intermittent, because setting of re-enforcing
is only one of many activities fitted together in
the over-all construction process; in a multi­
story concrete building, the rodmen are finished
when a given floor is ready for pouring and
often do not start again until pouring is com­
pleted, column and beam forms for the next
floor are completed, and floor forms are almost

completed. Of course, the more active con­
tractors for re-enforcing have several jobs un­
der way at once and are able to transfer their
workers from one to another, but risk of lost
time is usually greater in work where many of
the jobs last only to a few days, than where
jobs last several weeks or a few months.

Wage Rates
Below are minimum wage rates in effect July
1, 1948, in a number of cities and their sur­
rounding areas, as established by collective
bargaining agreements.

Area

Hourly
rate

Atlanta, Ga................................................................... $1.75
Baltimore, Md.............................................................. 2.10
Birmingham, Ala....................................................
1.82%
Boston, Mass................................................................ 2.40
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 2.40
Chicago, 111.................................................................... 2.40
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.20
Cleveland, Ohio ........................................................... 2.37%
Denver, Colo.................................................................. 2.00
Houston, Tex................................................................ 2.00
Indianapolis, Ind.......................................................... 2.32%
Jackson, Miss................................................................ 1.75
Kansas City, Mo........................................................... 2.07%
Little Rock, Ark........................................................... 1.75
Los Angeles, Calif....................................................... 1.97%
Louisville, Ky................................................................ 1.90
Milwaukee, Wis............................................................ 1.91%
Minneapolis, Minn....................................................... 2.05
New Haven, Conn........................................................ 2.50
New Orleans, La.......................................................... 1.70
New York, N. Y ............................................................ *2.75
Omaha, Nebr................................................................. 2.05
Philadelphia, Pa........................................................... 2.25
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.50
Portland, Oreg.............................................................. 1.92%
Richmond, Va.............................................................. 2.00
St. Louis, Mo................................................................ 2.42%
San Francisco, Calif.................................................. 2.15
Seattle, Wash............................................................... 2.06%
Springfield, Mass......................................................... 2.30

Boilermakers
Outlook Summary
The short-range outlook for boilermakers is
fair only, because of continued reduction in
railroad employment, as the replacement of
steam locomotives by Diesel locomotives con­
tinues. The outlook in other employment fields,
including construction, is good. Additional
journeymen must be trained for this trade be­
fore many years, but there must be an adjust­
ment of the number of journeymen to the re­
duced employment field. Because of the fairly
high average age of present journeymen, this
adjustment will probably be achieved within
a comparatively few years by deaths and retire­
ments, without the necessity for present jour­
neymen to transfer to other occupations.
Nature of Work
Boilermakers constitute mainly a shop rather
than a construction occupation and are engaged
in the building of ships, barges, etc., and in
the manufacture of steam boilers (power,
marine, and locomotive, and also low-pressure
heating boilers), pressure vessels for industrial
uses, some kinds of tanks, and numerous other
products. They are employed extensively in
maintenance and repair of ships, locomotive
and marine boilers, powerhouse boilers, and
some kinds of industrial equipment. Construc­
tion employment consists mainly of the assem­
bly in place of power boilers too large to be
shipped completely assembled, the building of
some kinds of tanks, and the building in place
of many types of industrial equipment (other
than pipe work) operating under pressure or
vacuum, particularly for oil refining and other
chemical operations, but in other industries as
well. Factory manufacture of boilers, tanks,
stills, etc. is not regarded as construction em­
ployment, although the products are to be used
in construction.

1 35-hour workweek.

Outlook
Additional Information
For additional information, or for the ad­
dress of the nearest union local, write to the
International Association of Bridge, Structural,
and Ornamental Iron Workers, Syndicate Trust
Building, St. Louis 1, Mo.




The outlook for boilermakers’ employment
in construction is good, but for the present this
is overshadowed by the quite poor outlook in
building and repair of steam locomotives, and
by reduced employment in shipbuilding. This
trade is basically in active, healthy condition
and should be marked by some degree of ex­

61

pansion after the necessary adjustments have
been made to employment reduction in the rail­
road and shipbuilding field. Until such adjust­
ments are well advanced, however, its employ­
ment prospects are inferior to those of many
other trades.
Wage Rates
Minimum wages rates established by col­
lective bargaining agreements and in effect on
July 1, 1948, in a number of areas are given
below.
Hourly
rate

Area

Atlanta, Ga...................................................................$2.00
Baltimore, Md.............................................................. 2.25
Boston, Mass................................................................ 2.25
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 2.40
Chicago, 111.................................................................... 2.40
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.15
Cleveland, Ohio ........................................................... 2.30
Denver, Colo................................................................. 2.15
Houston, Tex................................................................ 2.12^
Indianapolis, Ind.......................................................... 2.35
Kansas City, Mo........................................................... 2.15
Los Angeles, Calif....................................................... 2.15
Louisville, Ky............................................................... 2.25
Milwaukee, Wis.......................................................x... 2.20
Minneapolis, Minn....................................................... 2.15
New Orleans, La........................................................... 2.00
New York, N. Y ........................................................... 2.75
Philadelphia, Pa.......................................................... 2.25
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.25
Portland, Oreg............................................................. 2.15
Richmond, Va............................................................... 2.25
St. Louis, Mo............................................................... 2.25
San Francisco, Calif.................................................. 2.15
Seattle, Wash................................................................ 2.15

Additional Information
For additional information, write to the In­
ternational Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron
Shipbuilders, and Helpers, Brotherhood Build­
ing, Kansas 11, Kans.

Operating Engineers
(Construction Machinery Operators)
Outlook Summary
The outlook is for additional job openings
for several years, with a trend toward further
but probably slow expansion.

62




Nature of Work
The types of work vary in their requirements
of training and skill probably more for oper­
ating engineers than for any other trade.
These men operate construction machinery of
almost all sorts for practically every type of
construction: buildings, highways and streets,
airfields, sewer and water lines, underground
utility work, tunnels and subways, railroad
work, bridges, dams, dredging, harbor improve­
ment, and numerous other types. This machin­
ery is used for many purposes, including ex­
cavating, grading, and earth-moving; mixing
of concrete and other materials; hoisting; load­
ing, unloading, and handling materials; pile
driving; rolling of earth and pavement; pump­
ing; and providing of power in the form of
compressed air and in other forms. There are
many different types of machines. Some are
quite complex, requiring coordination of nu­
merous motions and controls; others are
simpler but require constant active attention;
and still others are simple in operation and re­
quire infrequent attention. These differences in
a sense break the trade into several levels of
skill.
Among the machines operated are shovels;
pull-shovels; draglines; cranes; derricks;
hoists; pile drivers; stationary concrete mixers;
paving mixers; bituminous paving mixers and
paving machines; numerous types of rollers;
trench excavators; elevating graders; “ pans”
(tractor-drawn scrapers) ; bulldozers; graders
(self-propelled and tractor-drawn); tractors;
pumps; and air compressors. In addition, there
are many others. For the most part, operators
learn their work quite informally and in the
course of experience become familiar with a
number of kinds of machines; a capable opera­
tor can ordinarily learn to handle other ma­
chines of the same general types as those on
which he is experienced, within a fairly short
time. Differences in requirements for operation
of the various types of machines are recognized
by differences in wage rates, mentioned later.
Operators are often known by titles, based on
the machines which they are using, as shovelman, craneman, hoistman, etc., but these titles
do not indicate separate occupations. The more
experienced and capable operators, able to
handle a wide range of machines, frequently

prefer one or two types, and work on these
when such jobs are available but at other times
work on quite different machines. Naturally,
the differences in wage rates cause all men who
are qualified to confine themselves to the top
grade of machines (shovels, cranes, trench ex­
cavators, paving mixers, a number of others)
as much as possible, and men who are employed
on machines carrying lower wage rates want
to transfer to the more difficult machines as
opportunity affords.
W here Employed

Operating engineers are employed in the con­
struction industry by general building contrac­
tors, by special trade contractors (for excavat­
ing, steel erection, and other special trade fields),
by highway contractors, and by heavy construc­
tion contractors for the remaining kinds of
nonbuilding work. They also work for utility
companies, government bodies (highway de­
partments, public works departments, etc.),
and other organizations carrying out their own
construction. In addition they work in many
industries not engaged in construction. In some
cases the machines and the duties are about
the same in these other industries as in con­
struction; operation of a crane to unload cars
of coal at a factory or a power plant is very
similar to operation of a crane to unload cars
of sand or gravel for a paving job. In other
cases the machines are the same but the duties
rather different; manipulation of the controls
for handling heavy assemblies by crane at a
factory is the same as for handling heavy ob­
jects by crane at a construction job, but the
conditions governing the work are different.
Still other kinds of jobs have no close equiva­
lents between construction and factory employ­
ment, although the coordination of numerous
controls make them the same general kind
of job.
Wage rates in factory employment are usu­
ally much less than in construction, but greater
regularity of employment is likely to make
annual earnings greater in a number of cases.
Training and Qualifications

In some localities there is a formal appren­
ticeship for operating engineers, but this ar­
rangement is not general. For machines oper­




ated by steam power, it is necessary under most
circumstances for the operator to have a sta­
tionary engineer's license. When all machines
of any size were driven by steam, possession
of a license tended to distinguish journeymen
from others. At this stage there was usually
a fireman on the larger machines, and many
of these men were able to qualify for licenses
and to advance to operating engineers. Re­
placement of steam power started more than
30 years ago, and has been virtually complete
for all but a very few types of machines for
almost 20 years, so that this means of entrance
to the trade has been almost completely closed.
Oilers are employed on the larger machines
under some circumstances, and some of these
men advance to operating machines under some
circumstances, and some of these men advance
to operating engineers just as firemen did under
earlier circumstances. For the most part, how­
ever, entrance has been quite informal; a man
with aptitude for machinery and often some
relevant experience, such as driving a truck,
may get a job operating one of the simpler
machines (a pump, an air compressor, a tractor
without attachments, etc.) and obtain union
membership. As opportunity affords, he may
get more exacting jobs (on a bulldozer, a trac­
tor with other power attachments, a roller,
various other machines) and then with more
experience get a job on one of the top-grade
machines.
The jobs vary greatly in their requirements.
Some are quite easy, while others require con­
tinuous attention throughout the day, with care­
ful timing and accurate coordination of numer­
ous controls. There has been great improve­
ment in grouping the controls for convenience
and in reducing the physical work of moving
them, but operation of the more complicated
machines is strenuous work. Some machines
(particularly bulldozers and some types of
scrapers) are physically wearing, because of the
shaking and jolting which the operator receives
all day long.
Pile drivers are the principal machines for
which steam is now used, and for which the
operator must have a stationary engineer's
license in most localities.
Outlook

The long-range outlook is for an increased

63

use of construction machinery. The construc­
tion machinery industry started with units
which, although basically fairly simple, were
large, heavy, expensive, and suited only for
big projects. There has been development in
different directions. One course has been the
design and production of larger, more special­
ized, and more complex machines, some having
constantly increasing output (such as several
of those used for earth-moving), and some per­
forming a group of related operations (such
as some machines used in asphalt-paving). An­
other course has led to smaller and more readily
portable machines suited to progressively
smaller jobs. Machines for new uses have also
been brought out from time to time. These
developments have been notably rapid within
recent years and show every sign of continu­
ance; small as well as large companies have
been active in increasing the usefulness of their
products. Because all construction projects are
temporary, the degree of mechanization is
necessarily less than in many kinds of factory
operation, but the limit of mechanization has
by no means been reached as yet. In fact, be­
cause of continued machine development, no
inflexible limit can be foreseen for mechaniza­
tion of any kind of building work.
Wage Rates
The wage-rate picture for operating engi­
neers is quite the most complicated for any
construction trade. Hourly rates are established
for different types of machines, very commonly
with different rates for machines of the same
type but of different capacity and, in some
cases, with different rates for a given machine
depending on the type of construction for which
it is used. Classification systems vary greatly
among different areas, and machines having
the top wage rates in one area do not neces­
sarily have the top wage rate in all other areas.
Space does not permit a detailed presenta­
tion of wage rates because of the different
classification systems used in different localities.
Below are minimum wage rates in effect July
1, 1948, in a number of areas as established
by collective bargaining for shovel operators
(who have the highest rate in most but not
all areas) and for bulldozer operators (who
have a lower rate in most cities).

64




Hourly Rate
Bulldozers
Shovels

Area

Atlanta, Ga............................. ......... $1.80
Baltimore/Md......................... ......... 2.20
Birmingham, Ala................... ......... 2.00
Boston, Mass........................... ......... 2.45
Buffalo, N. Y ......................... ......... 2.40
Chicago, 111............................. ........... 2.35
Cincinnati, Ohio.................... ........... 2.25
Cleveland, Ohio .................... ........... 2.37 y2
Denver, Colo. ........................ ........... 2.15
Houston, Tex.......................... .......... ........
Indianapolis, Ind................... ......... 2.20
Jackson, Miss......................... ......... i.8 7 %
Kansas City, Mo.............................. 2.27 y2
Little Rock, Ark.................... ......... 2.00
Los Angeles, Calif................ ......... 2.23%
Louisville, Ky......................... ......... 2.15
Milwaukee, Wis..................... ......... 2.35
Minneapolis, Minn.................
New Haven, Conn................. ......... 2.10
New Orleans, La................... ......... 1.87%
New York, N. Y .................... ......... 3.12%
Omaha, Nebr........................... ......... 2.15
Philadelphia, Pa..................... ......... 2.50
Pittsburgh, Pa........................ ........... 2.65
Portland, Oreg....................... ........... 42.00
Richmond, Va......................... ........... 1.87%
St. Louis, Mo......................... ........... 2.55
San Francisco, Calif........... ........... 52.52%
Seattle, Wash......................... ......... 62.50
Springfield, Mass................... ......... 2.15

*$1.40
1.57%
1.77%
2.07%

—
2.05
2.00
2 .12%

2.00
*1.87%

2.20
1.75
2.05
1.75
2.03%
2.15
82.00
2.00
1.70
1.62%

—
1.87%
1.87%
2.55
1.75

2.15
1.70

1 40 hp. or over, $1.50.
2 When cutting to finish grade, $2.12%.
3 Over 40 hp., $2.20.
4 1 to 5 cu. yds., $2.10, over 5 cu. yds., $2.35.
5 Over 1 cu. yd., $2.62%.
6 120-B type capacity, $2.80.

Additional Information
For additional information write to the Inter­
national Union of Operating Engineers, 1003
K Street, NW, Washington 1, D. C.

Lathers
Outlook Summary
The outlook for lathers is very good at the
present time and should continue to be good.
This is, however, one of the smaller trades and
so can provide comparatively few apprentice­
ship openings.
Nature of Work
A lather’s principal work is installing a base
to which plaster or stucco is to be applied. In
houses, nonfireproof apartment buildings, and
many other buildings, this base usually consists

of gypsum lath or insulating lath (pieces of
perforated gypsum board or perforated insulat­
ing board) which is nailed to wood members.
For more exacting work, he uses metal lath
(large pieces of sheet steel which have been
slit and “ expanded” to give an over-all mesh
pattern) or occasionally a coarse-mesh wire
screen similar to hardware cloth. When used in
ordinary construction to give greater strength
at critical locations only (in bathrooms and
elsewhere to give a strong plaster backing for
wall tile, at interior corners of walls and ceil­
ings to prevent cracking, etc.) this is also nailed
to supporting wood members. For the most part,
however, in a metal lath job the lather first
builds a light supporting framework of light
steel channels (commonly known as light iron
furring), fastened securely to the structure
proper, and ties the metal lath to the frame­
work with wire. This is done for suspended
ceilings, which are hung down from the struc­
tural floor above to allow space for pipes, ven­
tilating ducts, etc.; it is commonly done at
columns, to provide space for pipes, etc., behind
the plaster; it is done to provide a base for
plaster enclosure of beams, ventilating ducts
and other members, protruding downward from
the ceiling. In some cases, when a ceiling is to
be plastered in concrete joist construction, metal
lath is fastened to the bottom of the joists to
bridge over the open spaces between them; in
other cases, a level bottom surface is obtained
by use of structural tile or other material as
fillers between the joists. The usual type of solid
plaster partition consists of a core of metal
lath and metal channels, fastened securely to
the floor and the ceiling, and plastered on both
sides; a newer and less common type uses sheets
of gypsum board as a core, and these are also
installed by lathers. If there is to be a plaster
cornice, the lather builds out beneath it with
channels and metal lath to a rough approxima­
tion of the profile that is wanted, in order to
reduce the thickness and weight of plaster that
is needed. Lathers also install corner bead and
many other supplementary items. For stucco
over wood construction, they nail a large-mesh
wire fabric (much coarser than metal lath) onto
the wood. Wood lath, the original material, has
declined greatly in importance and in many
localities is scarcely used when gypsum lath or
insulating lath is available.




Not all plastering means a job for lathers,
however. In fire-resistive construction, parti­
tions (when not of solid plaster) are structural
tile or gypsum block, to which plaster is applied
directly. Exterior walls often have what is
essentially a tile lining, also plastered directly.
In contrast, there can be lathing without plas­
tering—principally the building of frameworks
of metal supporting channels, quite similar to
those for suspended plaster ceilings, for instal­
lation of acoustical tile.
The two outstanding requirements to be met
by lathers’ work are accuracy and sturdiness.
True vertical, horizontal, and curved surfaces
must be provided within rather close limits;
the lath backing for cornices must be level and
accurate in profile. Unless these requirements
are met, the plasterers cannot do a presentable
job without using an excessive thickness of
plaster, and hence an excessive weight, for some
parts of their work. Channels must be fastened
securely enough to the structure proper so that
they withstand the pressure during plastering,
and beyond any question will support perma­
nently the weight of the plaster despite possible
vibration of the building, the impact of any
heavy objects that may be dropped onto the
floor above, and other contingencies.
Where Employed
Lathers work principally in the construction
industry, mainly on new construction but on
modernization and alterations to a considerable
degree. There is also extensive employment else­
where, in the lath-backing for display material,
scenery, etc., when this is made of plaster.
Outlook
The outlook for lathers is good, for a number
of reasons. Commercial modernization will con­
tinue to be important, and it often emphasizes
types of work (new ceilings, flat, or in many
cases curved) for which lathing is needed.
Acoustical treatment moved out of the luxury
class several years ago and is being increasingly
accepted as a standard feature in many types
of commercial buildings. Suspended ceilings
are probably more common than in the past. A
new fireproofing method for structural steel
(described briefly in the section on plasterers)
consists of enclosing the steel members in a

65

framework of light channels covered with metal
lath, to which a particular type of lightweight
plaster is applied. This method is likely to be­
come popular. At the same time, however, the
work has been much more seasonal than that
of most other trades, and in that respect has
been very similar to plastering.

W age Rates

Minimum wage rates in a number of cities
and their surrounding areas, established by
collective bargaining agreements and in effect
on July 1, 1948, are given below.

Area

Hourly
rate

Atlanta, Ga..................................................................$2.00
Baltimore, Md.............................................................. 2.25
Birmingham, Ala.................................................. ....... 2.00
Boston, Mass................................................................ 2.50
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 2.40
Chicago, ill.................................................................... 2.40
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.25
Cleveland, Ohio ........................................................... 2.37%
Denver, Colo.................................................................. 2.25
Houston, Tex................................................................ 2.50
Indianapolis, Ind.......................................................... 2.15
Jackson, Miss................................................................ 1.75
Kansas City, Mo.......................................................... 2.20
Los Angeles, Calif.........................................................1
2.25
Louisville, Ky............................................................... 2.10
Milwaukee, Wis............................................................ 2.25
Minneapolis, Minn...................................................... 2.35
New Orleans, La......................................................... 2.00
New .York, N. Y . ..........................................................*2.75
Omaha, Nebr. ............................................................. 2.15
Philadelphia, Pa.......................................................... 2.50
Pittsburgh, Pa............................................................. *2.62 %
Portland, Oreg............................................................ 2.25
Richmond, Va................................................................ 1.87%
St. Louis, Mo................................................................ 2.25
San Francisco, Calif................................................. 2.50
Seattle, Wash................................................................ 2.26 %
Springfield, Mass. ....................................................... 2.10
1 30-hour workweek.
2 35-hour workweek.
3 Residential— $2.25.

Plasterers
Outlook Summary

Job opportunities for plasterers during the
next few years are excellent and additional
workers must be trained. Plastering will always
be an important part of building construction,
as far as can be seen at the present time, al­
though there will probably be changes in the
relative importance of the different kinds of
work.
Nature of W ork

The principal work of plasterers is the appli­
cation and finishing of several coats of plaster
to a suitable base, to produce wall and ceiling
surfaces and stucco exterior wall surfaces. In
some interior work, they produce textured sur­
faces which get no further decorative treat­
ment, and, in more elaborate work, they produce
surfaces in imitation of stone, marble, or other
materials. In some types of buildings they pro­
duce curved ceilings and in ornamental work
obtain a great variety of architectural effects
using cornices, pilasters, vaulted and groined
ceilings, arches, and relief ornamentation.
This occupational statement includes the
work of plasterers only, exclusive of modelers,
model makers, casters, and sculptors (engaged
mainly in the shop production of relief plaster
pieces for building and other uses). While the
work is closely related, these are distinct oc­
cupations.
W here Employed

Employment is primarily in the construction
industry and almost exclusively at the con­
struction site. Most of this is in new construc­
tion, but plastering is usually needed in exten­
sive alterations and has become particularly
important as a means of obtaining architectural
and lighting effects in commercial moderniza­
tion. Repairs in old buildings are restricted in
both number and size by the durability of
plaster.

Additional Information

For additional information, or for the ad­
dress of the union local nearest to you, write to
the International Union of Wood, Wire and
Metal Lathers, 2605 Detroit Avenue, Cleve­
land 13, Ohio.

66




Training and Qualifications

A 4-year apprenticeship, or its equivalent, is
needed for qualification as a journeyman. Dur­
ing this period the apprentice is trained in a
wide variety of skills, of which manipulation of

the tools is only one part. He must learn the
properties and appropriate handling of the dif­
ferent kinds of materials and the different mix­
tures; the characteristics of various backing
materials or bases to which the plaster is ap­
plied ; and procedures for getting true vertical
and horizontal surfaces. He must also acquire
ability to lay out curved, arched, vaulted, and
other ornamental work which (when elaborate)
presents difficult geometrical problems; he must
learn methods of forming cornices and moldings
in place, of installing shop-made ornamental
pieces and fastening them securely, and of ap­
plying and forming wet plaster onto ornamental
pieces to join them smoothly or to add small
repetitive figures which cannot be put on con­
veniently at the shop. The apprentice should
become familiar with the work of other trades
and must learn to judge from inspection
whether lathing and other preparatory work
is satisfactory.
Standard apprenticeship includes 144 hours
of classroom instruction each year, with par­
ticular attention to drawing, blueprint reading,
and mathematics applicable to lay-out work.
Outlook

The expected volume of construction will re­
quire many more plasterers than the number
employed just before the war. During recent
decades the number of apprentices trained was
comparatively small, but more than 7,000 have
been registered by the Operative Plasterers’
and Cement Finishers’ International Associa­
tion since the beginning of 1946.
The long-range outlook is affected by several
conditions, some favorable and others not. Many
attemps have been made to get less expensive
surfacing materials for ordinary walls and
ceilings, and some of the materials made in
sheet form have been used widely. It is likely,
however, that alleviation of the shortage of
plasterers will cut down the use of these other
materials to at least some degree.
Public taste and architectural usage have
changed, so that ornamental plastering in large
metropolitan buildings (banks, the lobbies and
public rooms of major hotels, the lobbies of
leading office buildings, etc.), is used much less
extensively than prior to the depression. It was
in such buildings, in churches, in movie thea­
ters, and in larger government buildings, that




ornamental plastering had its real market.
There is little doubt that such work will always
be used to some degree in certain types of
buildings, and it seems likely to be used exten­
sively in a few types, particularly some
churches. For nonresidential buildings as a
whole, however, the trend toward simpler lines
seems to be the desire of owners and architects.
While the demand for plastering has been
reduced in these directions, it has been in­
creased in others. Within the past 20 years
acoustical treatment has had widespread adop­
tion, and plastering is one of the means by
which such treatment is obtained.
During the same period, extensive attention
has been given to lighting, including the effect
of ceiling design. This has been most pro­
nounced for retail stores, restaurants, and
similar establishments, but by no means con­
fined to such places. The result here has been
a marked trend toward curved ceilings, com­
monly with recesses for concealed lighting fix­
tures or with flush fixtures fitting into rather
than protruding from the ceiling. This'work
obviously required many more man-hours than
would an ordinary flat ceiling for a room of the
same size. Curved surfaces as a form of archi­
tectural or decorative treatment, without spe­
cial consideration for lighting effects, have also
come into increasing use.
Very recently a new method of fireproofing
structural steel members came into use, con­
sisting of enclosing them in metal lath to which
a lightweight gypsum plaster is applied. Tests
to date indicate that this method provides satis­
factory fire protection, and it has the advantage
of a great saving in weight over poured con­
crete, which has been standard for the purpose.
Widespread use of this method is likely, with
resulting employment for plasterers, although
in some places adoption may be delayed until
building ordinances are revised.
Stucco finish on exterior walls has been used
widely in certain parts of the country and used
to at least some degree almost everywhere.
Greater use may be expected because of an in­
creased range of finishes and colors that can
be provided, suitable to almost any architectural
style.
W age Rates

Minimum wage rates in effect on July 1,1948,

67

as established by collective bargaining agree­
ments for a number of cities and their surround­
ing areas, are given below.

Area

Hourly
rate

Atlanta, Ga...................................................................$2.25
Baltimore, Md................................ .............................. 2.25
Birmingham, Ala......................................................... 2.20
Boston, Mass................................................................. 2.50
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 2.40
Chicago, 111................................................................... 2.40
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.37%
Cleveland, Ohio ......................................................... 2.37%
Denver, Colo................................................................. 2.25
Houston, Tex................................................................ 2.50
Indianapolis, Ind......................................................... 2.35
Jackson, Miss.............................................................. 2.00
Kansas City, Mo.......................................................... 2.50
Little Rock, Ark.......................................................... 2.50
Los Angeles, Calif........................................................ *2.25
Louisville, Ky............................................................... 2.25
Milwaukee, Wis........................................................... 2.25
Minneapolis, Minn....................................................... 2.35
New Haven, Conn........................................................ 2.40
New Orleans, La......................................................... 2.00
New York, N. Y ...........................................................J
3.00
Omaha, Nebr................................................................ 2.25
Philadelphia, Pa.......................................................... 2.50
Pittsburgh, Pa............................................................. 2.62%
Portland, Oreg.............................................................. 2.35
Richmond, Va.............................................................. 2.25
St. Louis, Mo............................................................... 2.50
San Francisco, Calif................................................... *2.25
Seattle, Wash............................................................... 2.36%
Springfield, Mass........................................................ 2.32%
1 30-hour workweek.

While hourly wage rates have been high,
annual earnings prior to the war were com­
paratively low. In part this was caused by a
workday in some cases shorter than was com­
mon for other trades (in some localities a 6hour day in comparison with an 8-hour day
for most of the trades) and in part by seasonal
unemployment.
Plastering in a small building is a compara­
tively brief job, and such jobs tend to be sea­
sonal because of concentrated rental and sales
seasons for new apartments and houses. Work
on nonresidential buildings is less seasonal and,
when these are sufficiently large, the plaster­
ing extends over several months. Almost threefourths of the plasterers working in 1939 had
at least 6 months of work, but only a third had
work for 9 months or more during the year.

68




Additional Information
If you want the address of a union local which
sponsors apprentice training in your locality,
write the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement
Finishers
International
Association,
200
Fidelity Building, Cleveland 14, Ohio, or to the
Bricklayers, Masons, and Plasterer’s Interna­
tional Union of America, 815 Fifteenth Street,
NW, Washington 5, D. C. Information on ap­
prenticeship may also be obtained from the
Contracting Plasterers International Asso­
ciation, 1327 Majestic Building, Detroit 26,
Michigan.

Marble Setters, Tile Setters, and
Terrazzo Workers
Outlook Summary
The outlook for marble setters is good; for
tile setters, uncertain but probably fairly good;
and for terrazzo workers, is decidedly good.
Each of these trades is comparatively small,
and each is essentially an urban trade.
Nature of Work
These trades are distinct, although occasion­
ally combined in small places. The purposes
served are broadly similar, but there are fairly
sharp differences in the skills required and the
detailed character of the work performed.
Marble setters install marble, and other ma­
terials handled in a similar manner, almost
entirely in the interior of buildings. These ma­
terials are used principally in nonresidential
buildings (office buildings, banks, public build­
ings, etc.) but also extensively in hotels, to some
degree in elevator-type apartment buildings,
and to a small degree elsewhere. The principal
uses are for wall surfaces in entrances, lobbies,
banking rooms, and other public spaces, for
wall surfaces and stall partitions in toilets, for
the front and top surfaces of tellers’ counters,
for the treads and risers of stairways and in
some cases for the railings as well, and for
customers’ check desks in banks. There are
numerous infrequent uses, such as window and
door trim. Marble setters install natural marble,
shop-made artificial marble (making of arti­
ficial marble in place is the work of the plaster­

ers), shop-made terrazzo in panels or other
pieces, some kinds of stone cut into thin pieces
and used like marble, and structural glass9 in
the interior of a building. (Structural glass used
outdoors, as above a store window, is set by
glaziers.)
The marble setters use materials made to
exact size and polished before delivery and do
no fabrication beyond what may be needed for
minor fitting and for attachment of hardware.
They lay out the work carefully to insure ac­
curate fitting, apply a special plaster mixture
to the backing material (a tile or metal lathplaster partition, a brick core for a bank
counter, etc.) to hold the marble pieces in the
proper position and alignment and to attach
them securely, set the pieces in place, and when
necessary brace them until the setting plaster
has hardened. For toilet partitions, some of
the pieces are usually mortised into others, and
the setters fit these together and apply the hard­
ware for supporting and connecting them. Usu­
ally each setter has a helper. The helpers pre­
pare plaster, do much of the carrying of the
marble (large panels weigh as much as several
hundred pounds each), act as general assistants
but do not use tools, and clean the surface of
the completed work.
Tile setters deal with floor and wall tile, which
are thin ceramic materials (not self-support­
ing) used as a final surface over other ma­
terials. Wall tile comes as separate pieces, han­
dled individually— plain square or rectangular
pieces for the bulk of the work, and specially
shaped pieces for the corners, for the base
where the wall joins the floor, for the cap at
the top edge, and for numerous other uses.
Large pieces of floor tile are also handled indi­
vidually, while small pieces come in sheets of
several dozen glued to a paper backing, and as
far as possible are handled in sheets.
In nonresidential buildings, floor tile is in­
stalled in the entrances, lobbies, corridors, and
toilets, and less frequently in many other places
— stair landings, restaurant kitchens, labora­
tories, operating rooms, and numerous others.
In houses, it is frequently used for bathroom
floors, but seldom elsewhere, and, in apartment
buildings, it is used mainly for bathrooms, en9 Structural glass is a type o f thick, sturdy plate glass, non­
transparent, polished on one side or both sides, made in a fairly
extensive range o f colors.




trances, and corridors. Wall tile in residential
buildings is used mainly for the wainscot1 in
0
bathrooms, and occasionally elsewhere. In non­
residential buildings it has many applications,
of which the more important is probably in
toilets, but it is used extensively in hospitals,
in kitchens of well-equipped restaurants, hotels,
and institutions, and to a smaller extent in many
other places. For almost all of their uses, wall
tile and, to a greater extent, floor tile are in
active competition with other materials.
A tile setter lays out the room in which he
is working so that the surfaces will be where
intended and all high spots in the rough wall or
floor will be covered without any bulges. He
applies a backing o f stiff mortar and puts the
tile in place so that the pieces and joints will
make the desired pattern. As necessary, he cuts
pieces of tile to fit the dimensions or to fit
around pipes, etc. For a floor he covers the area
with a stiff mortar layer and then lays the tile in
sheets as far as possible, using partial sheets
or individual pieces to fill out the dimensions
or to give a border or other pattern different
from that of the sheet-mounted pieces. Stand­
ard practice is that he works with a helper, who
mixes the mortar, keeps him supplied with ma­
terials, sets up portable scaffolding if needed
for high work, fills the joints after the setting
is finished, and finally cleans the completed
work.
Terrazzo is essentially a type of ornamental,
non-structural concrete, in which marble chips
are used as the coarsest ingredient; it is ground
and polished after hardening to give a smooth
surface in which the marble chips are exposed
against a background of other material. Very
commonly a colored background is obtained by
mixing pigment with the sand and cement, with
white sand and white portland cement used as
necessary for the lighter colors. Choice o f the
type or types of marble chips used obviously
governs their color. Shop-made terrazzo is used
to varying degrees for wainscoting, toilet stall
partitions, stair treads, etc., but such pieces
are installed in the same manner as pieces o f
marble. A terrazzo floor is usually divided into
a number o f distinct areas by means o f thin
metal strips to localize and minimize any cracks
resulting from settlement of the building. All
1 The wainscot is the lining o f an interior wall, especially o f the
0
lower part when this is different from the upper part.

69

areas may have the same color pattern, but
usually there is color contrast at least between
the main body of the floor and the border, and
in many cases further color contrast is used.
Areas of different color are separated by metal
strips to obtain sharp distinction. Simple geo­
metrical patterns, such as squares of alternating
color, are the most common, but lettering, sym­
bols, trade-marks, etc., not involving fine detail,
have become fairly popular for retail stores and
elsewhere.
A terrazzo worker starts by laying a first
course of fine, fairly dry concrete, leveling this
accurately and tamping it. He then places the
metal strips wherever there is to be a joint
between panels or a change in color, embedding
their bottom edges in this first course. If there
is to be lettering or an ornamental figure, he
embeds a shop-made mold for this also. Then he
mixes the top course, pours it onto the lower
course, and levels it ; there is, of course, a sepa­
rate batch for each color, made with the appro­
priate kinds of marble chips and pigment, and
each is placed inside the strips bounding the
areas of that particular color. After a few days
of hardening, the floor is ground by abrasive
blocks rotated by power, protruding down from
a heavy machine which is moved slowly back
and forth over the floor. This grinding is con­
tinued until there is a smooth, level surface
slightly below the original top edge of the
strips. Installation of a terrazzo base is gener­
ally similar but differs in detail. In these opera­
tions, the terrazzo worker is assisted by helpers
for mixing and placing the base course but does
the leveling himself, places the metal strips, and
at least supervises mixing of the top course,
which (along with the grinding) governs the
final appearance. The grinding is usually done
by another worker.
Outlook

The outlook for marble setters is probably
about the same as that for building journey­
men as a whole. Marble is used less than form­
erly to give an appearance of luxury to other­
wise mediocre buildings, and it is much less
popular than some years ago for a few applica­
tions, particularly soda fountains. It is also
used much less than formerly in the toilets of
nonresidential buildings. Its excellent qualities

70




need no description, however, and it is suitable
in buildings of almost any architectural style.
In buildings where initial cost is not the first
consideration, it seems likely to maintain its
present position. Use of structural glass and
some other alternate materials does not affect
the work of marble setters, although it does
reduce the employment of marble shop workers;
where these are used as alternates for tile, they
actually increase the employment of marble
setters.
Although tile is a splendid material, greatly
improved over a period of years by its manu­
facturers, the outlook for tile setters is uncer­
tain because of the active competition of other
materials. For floors, it has been replaced to a
considerable degree by terrazzo. While the
architectural possibilities of tile have been more
fully appreciated and more fully developed with­
in the last quarter century, the same is even
more true of terrazzo. Improvements in asphalt
tile (laid by soft-floor layers or carpenters)
have made it a strong competitor of ceramic
floor tile, in buildings where first cost is im­
portant. For wall surfaces, structural glass has
established a definite place for itself, and in­
creasing use of plastic and plastic-coated wallboard seems likely. Partitions of glazed finish­
ing tile (described briefly in the section on
bricklayers) have been used in some applica­
tions in place of rough partitions covered with
plaster and wall tile. Two fairly large manu­
facturers have brought out porcelain enameled
metal sheets for wall surfaces in house bath­
rooms, both apparently satisfactory. Each is for
use with a specific factory-made assembly of
additional house parts, but other firms are
known to be contemplating the manufacture of
similar products for a more general market.
There is no question that tile will continue to be
an important material and no question that it
has a combination of desirable qualities not
fully obtainable otherwise. There is serious
questions, however, that it will continue perma­
nently to be used as extensively as in the past,
in view of the active development of competing
materials.
Terrazzo work is likely to expand, with very
good long-range prospects, as recognition of its
possibilities continues to increase. From its
nature, of course, it will continue to be one of
the small trades despite expansion.

For tile work and also for terrazzo work and
especially for the two in combination, there is
probably an opportunity in many of the smaller
cities (mainly of 10,000 up to 25,000 popula­
tion) for a capable journeyman to establish
himself as a small contractor, working on the
jobs himself. These trades have been practiced
mainly in larger places, and use of these ma­
terials has been hindered in the smaller cities
by absence of a local man able to do a competent
job and to advise local owners, builders, and
contractors on just what can be done with tile
and terrazzo. This opportunity does not extend
to marble setting, because marble contracting
requires a more extensive shop than can be
supported by the local volume of work in most
small cities.
Wage Rates
Minimum wage rates in effect July 1, 1948,
as established by collective bargaining agree­
ments for a number of cities and the surround­
ing areas of each are given below.
Hourly rate

Area

M
arble
setters

Atlanta, Ga..................... .... $2.25
Baltimore, Md................ .... 2.25
Birmingham, Ala........... .... 2.25
Boston, Mass................... .... 2.25
Buffalo, N. Y ........................ 2.35
Chicago, 111.......................... 2.35
Cincinnati, Ohio .......... .... 2.50
Cleveland, Ohio ........... .... 2.25
Denver, Colo.................. .... 2.25
Houston, Tex.................. .... 2.25
Indianapolis, Ind........... .... 2.00
Jackson, Miss................. .... 2.25
Kansas City, Mo........... .... 2.22 y2
Little Rock, Ark............ .... 2.50
Los Angeles, Calif........ .... 2.25
Louisville, Ky................. .... 2.00
Milwaukee, Wis............. ..... 2.10
Minneapolis, Minn.............. 2.25
New Haven, Conn.......... .... 2.40
New Orleans, La............ .... 2.05
New York, N. Y ............ .... 2.75
Omaha, Nebr................... .... 2.10
Philadelphia, Pa................. 2.45
Pittsburgh, Pa................ .... 2.25
Portland, Oreg............... .... 2.00
Richmond, Va................. .... 2.50
St. Louis, Mo.................. .... 2.25
San Francisco, Calif.......... 2.25
Seattle, Wash................. .... 2.26%
Springfield, Mass.......... .... 2.32%




Tile
setters

Terrazzo
workers

$2.25
2.25
2.00
2.25
2.37%
2.35
2.34
2.25
2.25
2.25
2.00
2.25
2.22 %
2.50
2.50
2.00
2.15
1.90
2.40
2.00
2.75
2.10
2.40
2.12 y2
2.12%
2.25
2.17%
2.37%
2.11%
2.32%

$2.25
2.25
2.00
2.25
2.37%
2.35
2.34
2.25
2.25
2.25
2,00
2.25
2.22%
2.50
2.40
2.00
2.20
2.15
2.40
2.00
2.75
2.10
2.45
2.50
2.00
2.25
2.30
2.25
2.11%
2.32%

Additional Information
For additional information about any of these
trades, or the address of the nearest union
local, write to the Bricklayers, Masons, and
Plasterer's International Union of America,
815 Fifteenth Street, NW, Washington 5, D. C.

Painters and Paperhangers
Outlook Summary
Opportunities for new workers are limited in
each of these trades, and the outlook is not
encouraging. There has seldom been an excess
of fully competent men, and there is not an
excess at the present time, but property owners’
standards of workmanship have been low in
many cases, and both trades have been over­
crowded with partially trained workers much
of the time. Technological developments in
paints and finishes, developments in other build­
ing materials, and the increased extent to which
property owners do their own redecorating com­
bine to lower the employment outlook. Fully
competent men will of course be needed, but
they will be subject to disadvantages absent in
many of the other trades. The brightest part of
the outlook is the notable improvement in stand­
ards for commercial decorating and even
greater improvement in standards for industrial
painting.
Nature of Work
Painting and paperhanging are recognized
as separate trades, but many men (including
the great majority of those doing redecorating)
perform both types of work.
Painters are skilled workmen who prepare
surfaces and then apply paint, varnish, enamel,
lacquer, and similar materials, to buildings and
other structures. Some work is on the exterior,
for protection from the weather as well as for
appearance; indoor work is primarily for ap­
pearance in most cases but may be for protec­
tion also. Repainting and redecorating houses,
apartments, and commercial buildings make up
a large part of the work; in such work, painting
and paperhanging are usually done by the same
men. An important maintenance field is repaint­
ing for protection of factories, warehouses, etc.,
and of outdoor structures, such as tanks and

71

bridges. In small places, the painters also do
glazing, and “ combination men” skilled in both
trades are recognized.
The most important part of many painting
jobs is preparing the surface, especially in
repainting of old work. On high-grade jobs,
rough spots must be sandpapered, nail holes and
other imperfections filled, dust brushed off and
grease washed off, and any loose paint removed
by scraping or, if it is in sufficiently bad condi­
tion, . by heating with a blowtorch and then
scraping. Areas scraped down to the wood must
be primed to give a suitable surface for the new
paint. Then the new paint is applied with a
brush or, in some cases, a spray gun.
A painter must be able to mix paint of all
standard types from the basic ingredients, to
match color samples by mixing colored pig­
ments with either the basic ingredients or with
prepared paint, and, of course, to set up safe
scaffolding appropriate to whatever working
conditions he encounters. He must know the
characteristics of all common types of paints
and finishes from the standpoint of durability
and suitability for different purposes and also
from the standpoint of handling and applica­
tion. He should have a good knowledge of color
harmony, because owners and tenants will fre­
quently want his suggestions on choice of
colors. He must be skillful in handling brushes
and other tools in inconvenient positions, such
as directly overhead, and be able to apply the
materials uniformly, thoroughly, and rapidly, to
any type of surface.
Paperhanging involves trimming off the
edges of a sheet of wallpaper; pasting it; fold­
ing it for temporary storage until several sheets
are ready; placing it on the wall or ceiling;
cutting it as necessary to fit window trim, etc.;
adjusting it until its pattern matches that of
the next strip; smoothing it so that it adheres
firmly all over; and rolling the joint. In redecor­
ating work it may be necessary to remove the
old paper by soaking or, if there are many
layers, by steaming; it is also necessary in many
cases to do minor plaster patching in order to
get a smooth surface for the paper. Paperhangers also handle other materials calling for
generally similar operations — cloth-backed
wood veneer, imitation veneer, and some others.

72




W here Employed

About 80 percent of the painters as described
in this statement work in the construction in­
dustry, as employees or as self-employed work­
men. The remaining 20 percent are employed as
maintenance painters in almost all industries.
Hotels, office buildings, railroad and other
utility companies, manufacturing firms, school
boards, other government units, and organiza­
tions of every sort that own extensive property
commonly employ maintenance painters. When
the interior redecorating involves papering also,
as in hotels or apartment buildings, usually the
maintenance painters must be able to do paper­
hanging as well. Some of these maintenance jobs
also involve nonconstruction work, such as re­
finishing of furniture at a hotel or painting
window display material at a department store.
There is some degree of nonconstruction paint­
ing requiring full journeyman skill, as in paint­
ing of large pieces of machinery during manu­
facture, but most painting of factory products
(whether by brushing, dipping, or spraying)
is handled as semiskilled work.
For paperhangers, the percentage of employ­
ment in the construction industry is even
greater than that of painters. There are many
maintenance jobs, but in most cases these re­
quire competence in painting also; maintenance
employment for paperhanging only is much less
frequent than for painting only and is likely to
be found only at an unusually large hotel, an
unusually large apartment group, or some other
uncommon type of establishment.
Training and Qualifications

A 3-year apprenticeship is provided for either
of these trades, although less formal training
has been fairly common. A number of the
union locals have offered special courses by
which journeymen competent in one trade could
be trained in the other. In some cases, they have
accepted into membership applicants without
formal training after an oral examination and
a demonstration of their ability. Policies in this
respect are decided by the locals. While accept­
ance as a journeyman has been easier for those
without formal training than in many of the
other trades, it should kept in mind that a high
level of competence (which means thorough
training) is particularly important for those

wishing to be accepted and paid as craftsmen
in a field having a large number of mediocre
workmen.
Outlook
There is a great deal of painting to be done
in new construction and in repainting and re­
decorating existing structures. Nevertheless,
the employment outlook is comparatively poor,
for several related reasons. Painting is a trade
in which labor cost usually exceeds material
cost. For some of the most important opera­
tions, in fact, material cost is negligible—
washing o f walls preparatory to repainting,
scraping or burning off loose or scaly old paint,
other preparatory jobs. Any saving in labor
cost makes a greater proportionate saving in
total cost than in trades where material ex­
pense is high; thus pressure for saving in labor
cost is greater than for most other trades. For
the commonest grade of papering, in which
cheap wallpaper is used, labor cost is also a
high part of the total; this is not the case,
however, on the better grades of decorating for
which expensive papers are used.
In the painting and paperhanging fields, the
number of self-employed workmen and small
contractors is unusually large, so that ordi­
narily there is keen competition for work, par­
ticularly redecorating work. Since owners’
standards of workmanship are frequently low,
and for rental property the desire in many
cases is merely to give a fresh surface until
it is time for another redecorating job, much
of the work is done by poorly trained men at
correspondingly low wages. While the work­
manship on such jobs is inferior to that of
thoroughly trained journeymen, this kind of
work is done in enough cases to cut down the
volume of work available for the latter.
There seems also to have been a great in­
crease within recent years in the extent to
which property owners and occupants do their
own interior decorating. New types of paint
intended mainly for such use have been mar­
keted actively and sold in very great quantity.
Other new types of interior paint with im­
proved “ covering power” (opacity) have made
it easier for inexperienced persons to do work
meeting their own standards of acceptability;
even though these latter products were not
brought out primarily for the householder mar­




ket, they are sold in great quantity through
consumer outlets, such as drug stores and hard­
ware stores. It is probably a safe assumption
that workmanship has been poor and final re­
sults disappointing in many cases of strictly
amateur redecorating of this sort, but there are
no indications of a decrease in such work.
The same conditions of competition from in­
formally trained workers hold, although prob­
ably to a smaller extent, for exterior repainting.
Competition from property owners doing their
own painting is much less. The amount of ex­
terior repainting done has been cut by two
factors, however: improvement in paint ma­
terials and formulas, so that painting is needed
less frequently; and covering of wood exteriors
with other materials (asbestos shingles, imita­
tion brick with or without insulating backing,
etc.) which do not need painting, although the
time-consuming “ trim” work at door and win­
dow openings is not reduced thereby.
Long-range trends in building design and an
unmistakable trend to the use of more com­
pletely processed material are also unfavorable
to the painters to some degree. Many items
formerly painted at the building site now come
from a factory ready for installation, with at
least a priming coat and often with a final, per­
manent finish. Even prefinished hardwood floor­
ing has been brought out and has met with a
ready acceptance. Aluminum products, requir­
ing no painting either at the factory or at the
job, have been introduced within fairly recent
years and made in increasing quantity— garage
doors, roof gutters and downspouts, window
sash and frames. While these are still luxury
items, they are less so than in the past, and ex­
pansion into a still wider market seems likely.
The trend in design has been toward simpler
lines and simpler ornamentation, readily noted
by comparison of window and door casings
popular now with those popular some years
ago. This change, simplifying the work of
painters and of other trades as well, seems still
to be in progress.
From an employment standpoint, spray
painting is unfavorable but probably less so
than is commonly supposed. The painters’ union
has accepted spray work, provided methods and
equipment protecting the health of the workers
are used. Conditions differ greatly from those
in painting of factory products, however, and

73

the full timesaving possible in factory work
can seldom be realized in construction painting.
Commonly, it is necessary to cover nearby areas
with masking type or to use other measures to
keep the paint off places where it is not wanted.
Wind can be a serious hindrance outdoors. A
spray outfit is obviously not applicable to pre­
paring the surface before the paint is applied,
and, unless this work is done carefully and
thoroughly (especially in repainting of old sur­
faces), the results will be unsatisfactory, re­
gardless of how the paint is applied.
The situation is not greatly different for
paperhangers, despite the fact that in some
areas there are only a few thoroughly competent
men. Like painting, this field has had the prob­
lem of a large number of semitrained men who,
however, do work good enough to satisfy many
property owners. Paperhanging by property
owners has always been done to some degree.
It may have increased within recent years
through use of “ ready pasted” (i.e., adhesivebacked) paper, but it has never been common
and it seems unlikely to affect employment pros­
pects substantially. Much more serious has been
the painting of walls by property owners with
the new types of interior oil paints and espe­
cially with water-emulsion paints. The common
practice of applying these latter over loose wall­
paper is a sufficient indication of the low stand­
ards of redecorating workmanship held by
many property owners and their consequent un­
willingness to pay the prices necessary for care­
ful, competent work.
While the outlook for residential work' has
been deteriorating, that for nonresidential work
has been improving. The importance of an at­
tractive interior for retail establishments is
recognized as never before. For factories of
many types, the standards for interior painting
have risen greatly— to obtain better lighting, to
improve morale, to increase safety, in some
cases to designate trucking lanes and storage
spaces, etc. While such improvement is already
widespread, the trend toward higher standards
still seems to be in effect.
All of these considerations mean that paint­
ing and paperhanging cannot be regarded as
expanding trades, but they are not by any
means in process of disappearing. Under these
conditions there is not only room for addi­
tional well-trained men but need for them.

74




Such men will, however, find competition much
keener than in expanding trades or in trades
where inferior work done by property owners
and poorly-trained workmen is less acceptable.
Real aptitude for the work and through training
are more important for a person expecting to
be recognized in his locality as a craftsman and
to obtain corresponding earnings.
Wage Rates
Minimum wage rates for painters and paperhangers in a number of cities and their sur­
rounding areas, as established by collective bar­
gaining agreements and in effect on July 1,1948,
are given in the table below. In many places
established rates are higher for some types o f
painting— by use of a spray gun, from a swing­
ing scaffold, and painting of structural steel.
These rates should be considered with recogni­
tion of the high seasonal unemployment to
which painting and decorating work has been
subject.
Wage rates for maintenance painters are
ordinarily substantially lower than the estab­
lished scales paid in new construction. Annual
earnings may actually be higher in many cases,
however, because of more regular employment.
In some cases it is necessary for organizations
having their own maintenance painters to con­
centrate their work within a brief period
(school redecorating during the summer vaca­
tion period, for example), but many establish­
ments are able to carry on repainting and re­
decorating work throughout the year. When
they can do so conveniently, they usually pre­
fer to employ one or a few painters continu­
ously, rather than a larger gang intermittently.
Hourly rate
Area

Painters

Atlanta, Ga......................... ................ $1.75
Baltimore, Md..................... ................ i.7 7 y 2
Birmingham, Ala.............. ................. 2.00
Boston, Mass...................... ................ 2.00
Buffalo, N. Y ....................... ................ 2.12 y2
Chicago, Til......................... ................ 2.15
Cincinnati, Ohio ............... ............. 2.00
Cleveland, Ohio ............... ............. 2.12 y2
Denver, Colo....................... ............. 1.92%
Houston, Tex..................... ............. 1.87%
Indianapolis, Ind............... ............. 2.00
Jackson, Miss..................... ............. 1.75
Kansas City, Mo............... ............. 2.05
Little Rock, Ark................ .............. 1.62%

Paperhangers

$2.00
1.77%:
2.00

—
2.12%
2.15
2.00
2 .1 2 %
1.92%
1.87%:
2.00
1.75
2 .0 5
1.75

Hourly rate

Area

Painters

Los Angeles, Calif................. .......... 2.00
Louisville, Ky.......................... .......... 1.82
Milwaukee, Wis...................... .......... 1.80
Minneapolis, Minn.................. ........ 1.95
New Haven, Conn.................. .......... 2.00
New Orleans, La..................... .......... 1.62%
New York, N. Y ..................... .......... 22.30
Omaha, Nebr............................ ........ 1.75
Philadelphia, Pa...................... ........ 2.05
Pittsburgh, Pa........................ ........ 2.20
Portland, Oreg........................ ........ 1.87%
Richmond, Va.......................... ...... 1.62y2
St. Louis, Mo........................... ........ 2.07
San Francisco, Calif........... ........ 22.15
Seattle, Wash.......................... ........ 2.06 y2
Springfield, Mass.................... ........ 1.87%

Paperhangers

*1.50
1.95
2.00
1.62%
22.30
1.62%
2.05
2.20
2.02%
1.62%
2.07
-2.15
2.06%
1.87%

144-hour workweek.
235-hour workweek.

Additional Information
For additional information, write to the Bro­
therhood of Painters, Decorators and Paperhangers of America, Painters and Decorators
Building, Lafayette, Indiana, or to the Painting
and Decorating Contractors Association of
America, 12 South Twelfth Street, Philadelphia
7, Pa.

Glaziers
Outlook Summary
There will be job openings in the next several
years for a small increase in the trade, but
openings thereafter will be little greater than
those needed for replacement. This is one of
the smaller trades.
Nature of Work
Glaziers install all types of glass, although
not in all places where glass is used. In many
localities the largest single part of their work
has been the installation and replacement of
plate glass in store windows. They also install
ordinary window glass (sheet glass) in the win­
dows and doors of houses, apartments, and busi­
ness or factory buildings, put wire-glass in sky­
lights and fire-resistant doors and windows, set
mirrors when these are not already mounted,
and install any unusual items, such as pre­
assembled stained glass or leaded-glass panels.
Since it became available about 25 years ago,
glaziers have installed structural glass (a non­
transparent plate glass, usually polished on one
surface only, made in a number of colors) as an




ornamental surfacing on the exterior of build­
ings (usually for stores, above and below their
display windows). Structural glass used in the
interior of buildings is handled by marble set­
ters. Glaziers install glass blocks under some
conditions, but these are used mainly in exterior
walls, where they are set in mortar by brick­
layers.
Ordinary glazing work consists of cutting the
glass to size (except where stock sizes fit with­
out cutting, which is commonly the case with
steel sash), speading a bed of putty around the
edges of the opening, pressing the glass into
place, fastening it with wire clips pressed into
small holes in steel sash or with triangular
metal points driven into the edge of wood sash,
and then placing and beveling a strip of putty
on the outside to keep out moisture. Plate glass,
cut to size at the shop or at the job, is held in
a special supplementary frame built into the
store front and partially disassembled for the
removal and replacement of glass.
In many localities the wood sash and doors
used in ordinary residential building are glazed
at the millwork factory. Factory glazing is
much less practical for steel sash, because of
greater difficulty in protection during trans­
portation, handling, and installation. Even when
both are glazed at the site, steel sash brings
more work for glaziers than wood sash, because
of the customary division into a number of
small openings. While each of these can be
glazed rapidly, in total they require more time
than would a two-pane wood window having
the same total glass area. In the past, shop
glazing has been done mainly by semiskilled
factory workers rather than by glaziers, and in
most localities such sash have not been used on
buildings constructed under collective bargain­
ing agreements. During 1948 the international
union removed its objection to installation of
shop-glazed sash, provided the glass was in­
stalled by its members. This action is likely to
mean greatly increased use of shop-glazed sash
in numerous localities.
Glazing is primarily an urban trade. In large
and moderately large cities it is done by men
who are strictly glaziers, while in small cities
it is frequently done by “ combination men” who
also do painting and, in many cases, paper­
hanging too. In places too small to support an
establishment with a stock of plate glass, ordi­

75

nary glazing is done as a sideline by painters
and often by carpenters or other journeymen,
while occasional plate glass or structural glass
jobs are handled by a crew from a larger city
nearby.
Where Employed
The great majority of glaziers work in the
construction industry as employees of glazing
contractors. These men work on new construc­
tion, on alterations and modernization, and on
replacement of broken glass, particularly in
store windows. A few are employed in the man­
ufacture of glass and in various industries as
maintenance workers. Some have also been em­
ployed in millwork factories for shop glazing
of sash, doors, etc., but, in the past, most of
the men employed for such work were opera­
tives rather than journeymen. Some have also
been employed in factories for shop glazing of
cabinets, store fixtures, etc., but much of this
work has also been done by operatives.
Training and Qualifications
Glazing is a skilled craft customarily requir­
ing 3 years of apprentice training. In most areas
the trade can be entered only by way of formal
apprenticeship, but in some localities helpers
with several years of experience may qualify
and be admitted to the trade as journeymen.
Outlook
The importance of glass in building construc­
tion, and hence the importance of glazing, show
definite signs of increase. There is a trend
toward the use of more glass in residential
buildings, for which double glass assemblies1
1
are one of several stimulating influences. Any
increase in the extent to which shop-glazed
sash are used will bring some reduction in the
total work of setting glass, but there may be a
small increase in the total employment of gla­
ziers through their replacement of factory
operatives.
In recent years there has been a very marked
development of the use of glass in commercial1
11 These are assemblies o f two panes o f glass held in a light metal
frame, separated by a layer o f dry air, and handled in the same man­
ner as a single pane o f glass except that they must be ordered in
the exact size wanted and cannot be cut satisfactorily after manu­
facture. Their purpose is to reduce heat loss.

76




buildings, especially retail stores. Store modern­
ization has often been centered around im­
proved store windows, which involves a com­
pletely new glass installation. It is also likely
that structural glass will be used more widely
than before. Architectural publications indicate
a rather strong interest in larger glass areas
for oflice buildings and other major downtown
buildings. There has been some tendency to
design retail buildings almost or completely
without windows above the first story, and this
was increased for a time following the war­
time blackouts, but it seems to be temporary and
already to be decreasing. Replacement of store
windows broken by windstorms or other acci­
dents is, of course, a year-round employment
source for glaziers.
There is a present need for additional skilled
workmen, because only a few apprentices have
been trained within recent years to make up
for those who died or retired. In the longer
run, a few additional workers may be added
to this relatively small occupation, but most of
the job openings will be to replace workers who
drop out of the trade.
Earnings
The minimum wage rates established by col­
lective bargaining agreements as of July 1,
1948, are given in the table below for a number
of cities and their surrounding areas.
Area

Hourly
rate

Atlanta, Ga.................................................................... $1.75
Baltimore, Md............................................................. 1.92%
Birmingham, Ala......................................................... 1.80
Boston, Mass................................................................ 2.00
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 1.90
Chicago, 111.................................................................... 2.45
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.05
Cleveland, Ohio ........................................................... 2.25
Denver, Colo.................................................................. 1.89
Houston, Tex................................................................ 1.87%
Indianapolis, Ind.......................................................... 2.00
Jackson, Miss................................................................ 1.25
Kansas City, Mo.......................................................... 2.15
Little Rock, Ark.......................................................... 1.62%
Los Angeles, Calif...................................................... 1.96
Milwaukee, Wis............................................................ 2.00
Minneapolis, Minn....................................................... 1.85
New Orleans, La.......................................................... 1.62%
New York, N. Y .............................................................*2.75
Omaha, Nebr................................................................. 2
1.70
Philadelphia, Pa...............................................
2.09
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.00
Portland, Oreg.............................................................. 1.96

Hourly

Area

rate

St. Louis, Mo.................................................................
San Francisco, Calif....................................................
Seattle, Wash................................................................
Springfield, Mass..........................................................

2.25
2.00
1.96
2.00

1 35-hour workweek.
2 $1.40 for shop work.

Additional Information
For additional information, or for the ad­
dress of the nearest union local, write to the
Brotherhood o f Painters, Decorators, and
Paperhangers of America, Painters and Decor­
ators Building, Lafayette, Indiana.

Roofers
Outlook Summary
The outlook for roofers is substantially the
same as that for construction workers as a
whole. Their employment is better sustained
than that of many other trades during periods
of declining construction activity, however, be­
cause of the importance of maintenance, repair,
and re-covering of the roofs of existing build­
ings particularly large nonresidential and
apartment buildings.
Nature of Work
Roofers’ work includes the application of
composition roofing, such as built-up roofing;
the installation of roofing tile, roofing slate, and
a number of other roofing materials; and the
waterproofing and dampproofing of wall sur­
faces, etc., for buildings and other structures.
The first of these is the most important as a
source of employment.
For built-up roofs, the roofers cover the sur­
face with strips of asphalt impregnated felt,
coating each strip thoroughly with tar, pitch,
or other bituminous material. They lap each
strip over the preceding strip sufficiently so
that all parts are covered with the desired num­
ber o f thicknesses, and coat each over its entire
width before the next strip is laid down. Then
they cover the entire exposed surface with
bituminous material, and usually with gravel
or slag to hold it down and protect it from the
elements. Formerly hot tar or hot pitch was
used almost exclusively and was applied by
mopping. Emulsified asphalts applied without
heating are now used also, and the most recent




product of this general type can be applied
by spraying. Built-up roofs are used mainly on
nonresidential buildings and apartment build­
ings. Within recent years new types of material
have been developed, permitting use of builtup roofs on steeper slopes than was formerly
practical.
There are many types of waterproofing. It is
used largely but not entirely below ground
level and primarily on nonresidential buildings
and some types of nonbuilding structures. While
commonly used on large apartment buildings
and hotels, it is seldom applied for houses, ex­
cept where the ground water conditions are
unusually bad. Among the locations where it is
used are basement and areaway walls, to a
smaller degree walls above ground level, floors
below ground level, swimming pools and other
tanks, and nonbuilding structures (such as
cable vaults) below ground level. Waterproof­
ing of walls is often done by coating them with
hot bituminous material, covering this with felt
or cloth, and then coating them again. Water­
proofing of floors (between a lower and an
upper layer of concrete) or of a sidewalk above
a basement (between the concrete of the base­
ment roof and the concrete o f the sidewalk
itself) is more similar to roofing. Some types
of waterproofing are applied by spraying.
Dampproofing is a coating applied to interior
and exterior surfaces, to prevent penetration of
moisture. Ordinarily it is applied by spraying.
Use of this treatment has been increasing, and
seems likely to increase further.
Slate and tile come as separate pieces and are
nailed into place individually; they are suitable
only for surfaces having at least a fairly steep
pitch. Tile roofs are popular for houses in some
parts of the country but elsewhere are used
mainly on nonresidential buildings having steep
roofs— churches, some public buildings, some
school and college buildings, etc. They are also
used for ornamentation on various types of
small retail buildings (gas stations, lunchstands, miscellaneous others), but the total
amount of work involved for these is compara­
tively small. At one time slate roofs were used
extensively on good houses but because o f the
great improvement in other materials such use
has been infrequent for a number o f years in
most parts of the country and seems unlikely
to increase. Slate is used on the same types of

77

nonresidential buildings as tile. In larger areas
the men doing slate and tile roofing are differ­
ent from those doing composition roofing. In
general, slate and tile have been losing ground
to other materials.

Where Employed
Roofers work almost exclusively in the con­
struction industry on new construction and on
maintenance and repairs. For built-up roofing
there is a lot of maintenance and repair w ork;
while high-quality roofs often last longer than
the guarantee period, a great many owners
choose lighter, cheaper roofs which usually need
repairs after a very few years, and re-covering
after a few more years. Waterproofing is usu­
ally not subject to maintenance and repair w ork;
it lasts longer. Slate and tile never wear out, but
individual pieces (particularly slate) are sub­
ject to breakage— by windstorms, by tree limbs,
by baseballs and other objects, by being walked
upon, and by concentrated stresses resulting
from uneven settlement or from sagging of the
supporting woodwork. On a nonresidential build­
ing or an unusually expensive house, the broken
pieces are replaced at intervals, but on a good
house below luxury grade, if the breakage is
extensive, the owner is likely to replace the
entire area with some less expensive material
such as asphalt shingles.

Outlook

There is nothing to indicate a noteworthy
change in roofers’ employment. The importance
of repair work on composition roofs helps to
even out seasonal unemployment. There is lost
time at all parts of the year because of rain or
snow; the principal work that can be done dur­
ing wet weather is trying to locate leaks that
have been baffling at other times.

W age Rates

Below are wage rates in effect for composi­
tion roofers and for slate and tile roofers on
July 1, 1948, in a number of cities and the
surrounding area for each, as established by
collective bargaining agreements.

78




Hourly rate
Composition Slate and tile
roofers
roofers

Area

Atlanta, Ga............................ ............ $1.50
Baltimore, Md....................... ............ 1.65
Birmingham, Ala................... ............ 1.55
Boston, Mass.......................... .......... 2.15
Buffalo, N. Y ........................ .......... 2.15
Chicago, 111............................ ............ 2.40
Cincinnati, Ohio ................. ............ 2.00
Cleveland, Ohio ................... ............ 2.30
Denver, Colo.......................... ............ 2.10
Houston, Tex.......................... - ......... 1.87 y2
Indianapolis, Ind.................. .......... 1.68
Jackson, Miss........................ .......... 1.50
Kansas City, Mo.................. .......... 1.90
Los Angeles, Calif............... .......... 2.00
Louisville, Ky........................ .......... 1.55
Milwaukee, Wis.................... .......... 1.90
Minneapolis, Minn................ .......... 1.90
New Haven, Conn................ .......... 2.25
New Orleans, La.................. .......... 1.62 y2
New York, N. Y ................... .......... 2.75
Omaha, Nebr......................... ........... 1.62 y2
Philadelphia, Pa................... .......... 2.15
Pittsburgh, Pa...................... ............. 2.25
Portland, Oreg................................. 2.00
Richmond, Va........................ ............ 1.80
St. Louis, Mo........................ ............. 2.12 y2
San Francisco, Calif: ........ ............. 2.16
Seattle, Wash..................................... >2.06 y2
Springfield, Mass................. ........... 2.00

$1.50
1.90
1.71
2.15
2.30
2.40
2 .1 2 ^
2.37 y2
2.10
2.12 y2
1.80
1.50
1.90
2.00
1.85
2.05
1.90
2.50
1.62 y2
2.75
1.82 y2
2.55
2.25

2.00
2.00
2.16
2.15

2.20

1 Composition, steep— $2.15%.

Additional Inform ation

For additional information, or for the ad­
dress of the nearest union local, write to the
United Slate, Tile, and Composition Roofers,
Damp and Waterproof Workers’ Association,
130 North Wells Street, Chicago 6, 111., or to
the National Roofing Contractors’ Association,
315 West Madison Street, Chicago 6, 111.

Asbestos Workers
Outlook Summary

The immediate outlook for asbestos workers
is very good, and the long-range outlook is
above average for the construction trades. Good
prospects for refrigeration installation and for
industrial pipework (in oil refining, the chem­
ical industry, some other industries) mean em­
ployment opportunities for asbestos workers.
Nature of W ork

Employment is mainly for two principal
types of work, plus one minor type. The first

of these, around which the trade was originally
formed and from which its name is taken, is
insulation against heat loss of boilers, pipes,
kettles, tanks, and a wide variety of industrial
equipment intended to contain steam or other
hot substances. Insulation is applied to save
fuel, to maintain the desired operating pres­
sures or temperatures with greater uniformity,
to keep down the temperature in the rooms
where the equipment is located, and for several
less frequent reasons. Straight runs of pipe are
usually covered with short sections of prepared
material, which are placed around the pipe and
fastened. Boilers, tanks, kettles, etc., may be
covered with prepared material in sheet form,
or with a paste of asbestos mixed with other
materials, followed by an outer wrapping of
cloth. This last procedure is used for irregular
surfaces, which are encountered to some de­
gree in industrial insulating jobs and in most
other jobs also. Insulation is installed in power­
houses (public utility, and at factories), in the
boilerooms of large buildings of many types,
on the main steam lines and sometimes on the
branch lines of large heating installations (ho­
tels, department stores, office buildings, large
apartment projects, etc.) and, of course, in
manufacturing establishments having indus­
trial processes using steam, hot liquids, or hot
gases.
The other principal type of work is insula­
tion against absorption of heat. Some of this
is done on the pipework, etc., of refrigeration
installations (for cold storage, for freezing or
other processing of foods and other commodi­
ties, for drinking water lines, under some cir­
cumstances in air-conditioning installations) ;
this work is very similar to insulation of hot
pipes or vessels against loss of heat. Related to
this, although quite different in the materials
used and the method of installation, is the in­
sulation of enclosed cold-storage spaces too
large for economical use of factory-made panels
such as those from which ordinary “ walk-in”
cooling rooms are assembled. This cold-storage
lining is applied to the walls, ceiling, and floor
of a large space— in some cases an entire build­
ing. Often there are insulating partitions on
the interior also, to permit maintenance of
different temperatures in different portions.
In many localities a subdivision of this trade
installs home insulation. This work is less skill­




ed than the activities described above and car­
ries a lower wage scale.
W here Employed

Employment is mainly in the construction
industry, but there is a substantial amount of
employment in numerous other industries for
alterations and maintenance. Some types of
chemical plants and others having extensive
steam installations for power and heating are
engaged in more or less continuous alteration
and maintenance of their insulated pipework
and apparatus, and employ asbestos workers
for this work. Force-account maintenance em­
ployment for cold-storage installations is much
more limited, and is uncommon unless at the
very largest establishments in the major cities.
There is also a substantial volume of employ­
ment at shipyards on new work, maintenance,
and repairs.
Outlook

While asbestos workers will necessarily con­
stitute one of the smallest trades, the employ­
ment outlook is good. Their work is closely
tied to the increasing importance of pipework
and related equipment in industrial plants, and
to the increasing importance of refrigeration
installations. This includes cold-storage locker
buildings and other establishments, smaller
than were formerly common, but too large for
portable equipment and factory-made assem­
blies.
W age Rates

Wage rates in effect on July 1, 1948, in ac­
cordance with collective bargaining agreements
are given in the table below for a number of
cities and their surrounding areas.
Area

Hourly
rate

Atlanta, Ga..................................................................$1.87^
Baltimore, Md.............................................................. 2.12^
Birmingham, Ala........................................................ 1.90
Boston, Mass................................................................ 2.15
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 2.40
Chicago, 111.................................................................... 2.35
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.20
Cleveland, Ohio ........................................................... 2.25
Denver, Colo.................................................................. 2.15
Houston, Tex................................................................ 2.00
Indianapolis, Ind......................................................... 2.20

79

Hourly

Area

rate

Kansas City, Mo.......................................................... 2.00
Little Rock, Ark.......................................................... 2.00
Los Angeles, Calif.........................................................*2.25
Louisville, Ky............................................................... 2.00
Milwaukee, Wis.................................. ......................... 2.20
Minneapolis, Minn....................................................... 2.25
New Haven, Conn....................................................... 2.25
New Orleans, La...........................................................*2.00
New York, N. Y ............................................................ s
2.75
Omaha, Nebr............................................................... 2.15
Philadelphia, Pa............................................................4
2.50
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.25
Portland, Oreg............................................................. 2.20
Richmond, Va.............................................................. 1.87%
St. Louis, Mo............................................................... 2.25
San Francisco, Calif................................................... 1.90
Seattle, Wash................................................................ 2.16%
Springfield, Mass......................................................... 2.20
1 Home insulators, $1.75.
2 Home insulators, $1.62 ^
3 35-hour workweek.
4 Home insulators, $1.45.

Additional Information
For additional information, write to the In­
ternational Association o f Heat and Frost In­
sulators and Asbestos Workers, Ninth Street
and Mount Vernon Place, NW., Washington,
D. C.

Plumbers and Pipe Fitters
Outlook Summary
The outlook for plumbers and pipe fitters is
excellent at present and, on a long-range basis,
is very good. There has been a long-continued
trend to greater emphasis on plumbing and
other pipework, and this is likely to continue.
Nature of Work
Journeymen in the plumbing and pipe-fitting
industry install, alter, and repair the piping
systems (including fixtures and similar parts)
for household and other water use, and for
heating, steam power, refrigeration, fire
sprinklers, industrial processing, and numer­
ous other purposes. This broad field has been
divided among several trades, but a few years
ago the international union representing all o f
them adopted the policy of combining the entire
pipe field into a single trade. The carrying out
o f this policy in any particular locality is de­
cided by vote o f the members of the union’s
locals there, and in many places (including
many large cities) the craft distinctions are

80




observed by journeymen as fully now as in the
past.
The plumbing field takes in water supply and
waste plus the fixtures themselves and their
“ trimmings” for houses, for other buildings,
and elsewhere (outdoor drinking fountains, for
example). It includes many items for special
uses, such as hospital plumbing fixtures, res­
taurant sinks, built-in dishwashers, commer­
cial and nonportable domestic washing ma­
chines, etc.; gas piping; the public water-supply
lines under streets and elsewhere; and a variety
o f infrequent installations (swimming pools,
ornamental fountains, etc.).
The general pipe-fitting field takes in hotwater and steam heating systems (including
vapor and vacuum systems), high-pressure
steam plants for power generation and for
steam used otherwise (as for heating of ma­
terials in manufacturing operations), sprinkler
systems for fire protection, refrigeration sys­
tems for processing and storage o f perishables
and for air conditioning (but not the ventilat­
ing work connected with air conditioning),
lines for compressed air and industrial gases,
and piping for industrial processing. This last
type of work is used most extensively in oil’
refineries, chemical plants, and food-processing
plants, but occurs to some degree in many other
industries.
This is a field where adeptness in the use o f
tools and in handling of materials, althpugh
necessary, is less important than thorough
knowledge. A truely skilled workman must be
familiar with a wide variety o f materials and
an extremely wide variety of fittings and
specialties, including their particular uses, their
limitations or disadvantages, and the proper
methods of handling. He must know the operat­
ing principles for different kinds o f systems
and the operating relationships between the
different parts. He must be able to lay out the
system so that it fits the building where it is
being installed and be able to avoid unneces­
sary damage to other work in any cutting that
is needed. For plumbing, he must know the
State laws and city ordinances so that his work
will pass inspection.
For a major installation, there are separate
piping drawings showing where all the pipes
are to be placed, with sizes and the location of
valves and other special items, thus giving a

complete picture of the installation. At the
other extreme there may be no more than a
verbal statement of the fixtures wanted and
their approximate locations. From such infor­
mation, plus measurement of the building, the
journeyman or foreman decides where and
how the pipes will go. Then the necessary pieces
are cut to length and assembled with necessary
fittings, valves, and other parts. At the end o f
this “ roughing-in” stage, there is usually an
inspection of plumbing by the city or State
inspector, including a test under water pres­
sure. When carpentry, plastering, and the other
trades are far enough advanced, the job is
finished by installation of the plumbing fix­
tures with their “ trimmings” (faucets, drains,
traps, etc.) or the corresponding parts o f the
heating system (radiators, etc.).
Examples of changes in the work within re­
cent years are the rapid adoption of copper
pipe with brass fittings for plumbing, the very
recent growth of panel (frequently known as
radiant) hot-water heating, and, quite inter­
estingly, the use of copper pipe for some o f the
panel-heating installations. The use of welding
has grown rapidly since about 1930. Many
others could be cited. Even the new kinds of
pipe now used (including aluminum, stainless
steel, rubber-lined steel, nickel alloy, plastic,
copper, and brass) suggest the active develop­
ment of materials that has occurred. Such
changes, combined with the exceedingly wide
range in types of work included, give particular
importance to over-all knowledge and an un­
derstanding of principles.

There is at all times a considerable amount
of alteration and improvement work in addi­
tion to new construction. This includes home
modernization, store and office modernization,
alterations and installation of new equipment
in industrial plants, and preparation o f busi­
ness property for new occupants. Soda foun­
tains, restaurants, even dental offices, use
equipment which must be connected to watersupply pipes and waste lines. Since these are
usually not at the locations where the equip­
ment is to be placed, they must be extended.
Repairs and replacements are more impor­
tant in plumbing than in many other types of
work and help greatly in providing a sufficient
volume of business in small localities. They are
the mainstay o f many of the small plumbing
establishments.
Opportunities for the heating and industrial
piping part of the work are more limited geo­
graphically than opportunities for plumbing.
Steam and hot-water heating systems are
naturally uncommon in the warmer parts of
the country and in the north are most frequent
in cities having many apartment buildings and
nonresidential buildings. Industrial piping is
greatest where the industrial operations in­
clude processing of fluids but is used to some
degree in factories of many other types as well
(for steam, compressed air, oil, other sub­
stances). Refrigeration and fire-sprinkler sys­
tems are installed in industrial and commercial
buildings of many different types.

Where Employed

A person interested in becoming a journey­
man should have an interest in and the ability
to master elementary physical science and be
skillful at using his hands. He must learn to
make clear working drawings, to read archi­
tectural and piping blueprints, and to take
measurements for laying out his work. Average
physical strength is needed, but no more than
for several other trades. As in other building
trades, at times it is necessary to work under
inconvenient and uncomfortable conditions.
Generally, the trade is learned through a 5year apprenticeship. The apprentice signs an
agreement, commonly with a joint committee
representing the union and the local employers,
about training, related school instruction, and

Most journeymen work in the construction
industry, primarily on buildings but on other
construction as well. Others work for munic­
ipal water departments, other utilities, and in
shipbuilding. Commercial and industrial estab­
lishments also employ plumbers and pipe fit­
ters for maintenance work and alterations,
and some companies in other industries employ
them for force-account construction work.
They are found in almost every locality; al­
though they are most numerous in large cities,
opportunities have been increasingly good in
small places because of rising standards, in vil­
lage and farm sanitation.




Training and Qualifications

81

wages and nours. Under the usual program,
all-round training is given on the job, and an
apprentice is likely to be transferred to several
employers in order to get experience in differ­
ent kinds of work.
At least 144 hours of classroom work are
given a year, including elementary mathe­
matics applicable to pipe work; physics, with
special attention to liquids and gases, the ele­
ments of hydraulics, and heat; mechanical
drawing; and theory, which includes materials,
sanitation and elements of bacteriology, and
piping systems. Also covered in school courses
are piping drawing, shop work, and acetylene
and electric welding. A new training course
covering the entire piping field has been pre­
pared by the international union. In localities
where apprenticeship is for the separate trades
(plumbing, steam fitting, sprinkler fitting, re­
frigeration fitting) rather than for the entire
plumbing and pipe-fitting field, the classroom
training for any of these usually omits the ma­
terial dealing almost entirely with the other
trades. It seems likely that in localities where
the apprenticeship is for the entire pipe field,
many of the apprentices on reaching journey­
men status will prefer to specialize in a par­
ticular type of work whenever such jobs are
available.
In some localities a journeyman’s license is
required for plumbing work, obtainable after
satisfactory completion of apprenticeship. A
master’s license is very commonly required for
those engaged in plumbing contracting or in
self-employment on repairs and other small
jobs done directly for property owners.
Outlook
Prospects for the next several years are ex­
cellent, and thereafter the outlook for those
already in the trade will continue to be good.
A larger than usual number of replacements
will be needed during the next 5 to 10 years, to
fill openings left by those who leave the trade
because of death or retirement. A large part of
the journeymen plumbers and pipe fitters are
in the older groups, where drop-outs for these
reasons are frequent.
For a considerable number of years plumb­
ing and other pipe work have been increasing
in importance in many types of building con­

82




struction. This trend is almost certain to con­
tinue. It is encouraged by active development
of new products and improved products car­
ried on by a large number of manufacturers.
For houses and apartments, mere observa­
tion shows change in the general standards.
Currently the high level of building cost has
brought less complete plumbing installations in
many houses than would have been used other­
wise, but this is a temporary departure from
the trend; it is not a lowering of the standard
regarded as desirable. In addition to the
standard bathroom and kitchen fixtures, per­
manently connected appliances (especially
washing machines and dishwashers) have be­
come popular enough to be regarded as a sig­
nificant part of the field.
Heating is another field showing signs of
expansion. For domestic heating, panel ( “ radi­
ant” ) hot-water installations have been acceted very rapidly. The excellent results ob­
tainable from a first-class installation seem
likely to bring a noticeable increase in the
use of hot-water heating. For large buildings
meeting even moderately good standards, the
heating installation is designed for the lowest
annual cost (including fuel expense) rather
than the lowest initial cost. This means a more
elaborate installation than would otherwise be
used and, because of improvements in the
specialty products available, a more elaborate
installation than would have been used some
years ago.
Industrial pipe work is far from a new field,
but its importance has increased steadily and
seems likely to increase further. Chemical
plants and others dealing with fluids are the
principal users, but it is used in industries of
almost all types. Means for reducing the han­
dling of materials and supplies are emphasized
in the design of modern factories, and piping
is one of the important means of achieving
that purpose. Internal transportation o f liquids
through pipes rather than in portable con­
tainers contribute to good factory housekeep­
ing, with reduction of the accident hazard and
in some cases reduction of the fire hazard as
well.
The trend toward greater use of refrigera­
tion equipment is apparent for cold storage,
for air conditioning, for processing of foods
and other commodities. Sprinkler work is un-

likely to increase much in importance but will
continue to be needed for protection of the
inflammable contents of buildings. Many dis­
astrous fires have shown that there is no basis
for the common belief that a fire cannot occur
in a fire-resistive building. Fire-resistive con­
struction protects the building from structural
damage by fire and provides no combustible
material to contribute to a fire, but does not
remove the fire hazard to the interior finishing
materials or the contents, if these are readily
combustible.
A very few years ago a factory-made plumb­
ing assembly was brought out, consisting of a
frame in which was mounted the basic pipe­
work for a house, as well as some other equip­
ment; this was arranged for ready attachment
of covering panels and fixtures. Adoption was
appreciable, but production and distribution
were so greatly hindered by differences in the
detailed requirements of local plumbing codes
that active marketing has been discontinued,
at least temporarily. When greater uniformity
in plumbing codes is achieved, it is possible
that a similar unit may be brought out by the
original manufacturer and perhaps by other
firms also. This would reduce site employment
but is scarcely a cause for serious concern.
Assemblies of this type by their nature are
suited to specific parts of the market, rather
than the entire market. For large housing
projects, it is doubtful whether they offer a
saving greater than that potentially possible
through a highly efficient site operation.
Modernization has been an important field.
For domestic plumbing it means replacement
of fixtures and often of supply pipes as well;
in some cases rearrangement of fixtures; in
other cases provision of an additional complete
or partial bathroom. This work and also nonresidential modernization of plumbing will con­
tinue. Modernization of domestic steam or hotwater heating occurs in the case of extensive
remodeling and sometimes for the replacement
of obtrusive old-fashioned radiators; this latter
has been stimulated by the development of
baseboard radiators. Installation of automatic
firing equipment and automatic controls is also
important. Noneresidential heating moderni­
zation is always present to some degree, for
the purpose of saving fuel by converting older
systems to take advantage of improved steam




specialties.
Repair work is traditional for plumbing.
Correction of leaks, stoppages, and other mis­
haps can seldom be postponed, and unless very
simple, these jobs are beyond the capacity of
most householders and occupants of business
property. Repairs are also needed from time
to time on heating systems, although less fre­
quently than for plumbing. Servicing of auto­
matic firing equipment and refrigeration and
air-conditioning equipment has, however, be­
come an important scource of employment.
W age Rates

Minimum hourly wage rates for plumbers
and steam fitters (pipe fitters) in effect on July
1, 1948, for a number of cities and their sur­
rounding areas are given below, according to
the terms of collective bargaining agreements.
Hourly rate

Area

Plumbers

Atlanta, Ga............................ .............. $ 2.5 0
Baltimore, Md...................... ........... 2 .25
Birmingham, Ala................. ........... 2 .25
Boston, Mass......................... ........... 2 .30
Buffalo, N. Y ......................... .............. 2 .40
Chicago, 111............................ .............. 2 .35
Cincinnati, Ohio .................. .............. 2 .35
Cleveland, Ohio .................. .............. 2 .3 7 y2
Denver, Colo.......................... .............. 2 .24
Houston, Tex........................ .............. 2 .3 7 y2
Indianapolis, Ind............................. 2 .30
Jackson, Miss................................... 2 .00
Kansas City, Mo................... ........... 2 . 1 2 y2
Little Rock, Ark................... ........... 2 .00
Los Angeles, Calif............... ........... 2.50
Louisville, Ky................................... 2 .10
Milwaukee, Wis. ................. .......... 2.25
Minneapolis, Minn............... .............. 2 .25
New Haven, Conn............... .......... 2.25
New Orleans, La.................. .......... 2.25
New York, N. Y ................... .... ...... *3.00
Omaha, Nebr.......................... ............. 2.15
Philadelphia, Pa................... ............. 2.50
Pittsburgh, Pa...................... ............. 2 .50
Portland, Oreg...................... ............. 2 .3 7 y2
Richmond, Va........................ ............. 2.00
St. Louis, Mo........................ ............. 2.25
San Francisco, Calif........... ............. 2 .37 y2
Seattle, Wash........................ ............. 2.50
Springfield, Mass................... ............. 2 .20

Steam
fitters
$ 2.5 0
2 .25
2 .25
2 .30
2 .40
2 .35
2 .35
2 .3 7 y2
2 .24
2 .25
2 .30
2 .00
2 .1 2 %
2 .0 0
2 .20
2 .1 0
2 .25
2 .2 5
2 .25
2 .2 5
*2.75
2 .1 5
2 .5 0
2 .5 0
2 .3 7 %
2 .0 0
2 .25
2 .3 7 %
2 .5 0
2 .2 0

1 35-hour workweek.

Although plumbing. work on new construc­
tion is seasonal, repair and maintenance work
makes for more regular year-round employ­
ment than in most other building trades. Com­
mercial alterations and modernization are less
seasonal than new construction.

83

Additional Information
For information on where to apply for ap­
prenticeship in a given locality, write to the
United Association o f Journeymen and Ap­
prentices of the Plumbing and Pipe-Fitting
Industry, Ring Building, Eighteenth and M
Streets, NW., Washington 6, D. C .; to the
Heating, Piping, and Air Conditioning Con­
tractors National Association, 1250 Sixth Ave­
nue, New York 20, N. Y .; or to the National
Association o f Master Plumbers, 1105 K
Street, NW., Washington 5, D. C.

Electricians
Outlook Summary
The prospects for this trade are good. There
are likely to be continued openings for addi­
tional construction electricians for several
years.
Nature of Work
Construction electricians install electric wir­
ing and related devices, lighting fixtures, and
numerous types of electrical equipment; they
make the electrical connections to electrical
machinery, equipment, etc., and its control
apparatus. On a large job there are drawings
showing the various circuits and the approxi­
mate location of outlets, load centers, panel
boards, etc., plus specifications describing the
materials to be used. On small jobs the electric
outlets may be indicated on the general draw­
ings, there may be a simple sketch, or there
may be merely a verbal statement of what is
wanted.
Whether the job is large or small, the elec­
trician must follow the electrical laws of the
State and, unless it is in a small community,
the municipal electrical ordinances. For ex­
ample, under most codes he installs metal
boxes wherever there is to be an outlet or
switch. If a conduit system is used, the wiring
is enclosed in metal pipes (or conduits) con­
necting the metal boxes. Frequently, instead
of conduit systems, wires wrapped with a con­
tinuous strip of steel ( “ BX” ) or with a flame­
proof fabric are used, but the codes (laws and
ordinances) specify that certain minimum re­
quirements must be met both in the material

84




and the way it is utilized. For a high grade
building, the electrical installation is better
than the minimum called for by the State or
municipal electrical code. Unless there is an
electrical drawing showing which outlets are
to be on each circuit, the electrician arranges
them according to his own judgment so that
the loads will be properly distributed and no
circuit will have a heavier load than is suit­
able for the gauge (diameter) of wire used.
A somewhat different class o f construction
work is heavy electrical installations at power
plants, steel mills, and other establishments
with unusually large electrical requirements.
Such work is done mainly by journeymen with­
out family responsibilities, who move to suc­
cessive jobs in different localities. Other types
of installations are described briefly in the
paragraphs below on Outlook.
Remodeling work provides a considerable
part of total employment, as does also the
installation of additional business or factory
equipment in existing buildings. Commercial
remodeling usually means substantial changes
in the electrical system, especially in store
modernization. Residential remodeling and
modernization also affect the electric wiring.
The installation or shifting of electrical equip­
ment in stores, restaurants, factories, etc.,
means extension of existing-circuits or instal­
lation of new circuits to provide the necessary
current and avoid overloading the old circuits.
Even the smallest portable items, such as drink
mixers at soda fountains, require nearby out­
lets and, if these are not already in place, they
must be provided.
Not included among the construction elec­
tricians are stage and motion-picture electri­
cians, electrical equipment repairmen, line­
men, men working on telephone equipment,
and many others working with electrical ma­
terials.
Where Employed
Construction electricians are principally
employed along with the other building trades
in the construction of residences, apartment
buildings, stores, office buildings, and indus­
trial plants, and in remodeling work. Some,
however, work for electric utility systems,
city or Federal Government departments, or

work in coal and other metal mines, manu­
facturing plants, and large buildings, where
they install, change, and maintain wiring sys­
tems and electrical equipment. There are also
various types of specialists, such as those who
restrict their work to the construction and
installation of electric signs.
Employment is naturally greatest in densely
populated areas, partly because of the large
amount of commercial and industrial wiring.
However, small cities, towns, villages, and
rural areas are offering more new opportun­
ities than previously; at the end of June 1948
almost 70 percent of all farms had centralstation electric service.
Training and Qualifications
A 4-year apprenticeship or, in some cases,
several years as electrician’s helper, is neces­
sary to learn the trade. Picking up the trade
informally through employment as a helper
was fairly common at one time but is much
less prevalent nowadays. The union does not
recognize helpers; they are, however, still em­
ployed in some cases on nonunion jobs. In
many localities an electrician is required to
have a journeyman’s license, for which he
must pass an examination showing a wellrounded knowledge of the job and of State
and local regulations. In most cities of any
size and in many of the States, a man wishing
to engage in electrical contracting must have
a contractor’s license. Men who held ratings
as electricians in the armed forces usually will
not qualify as journeymen without further
training, but their past experience may afford
an opportunity to enter the trade as advanced
apprentices.
Outlook
The outlook for additional workers is good,
and at the present time there are about 19,000
apprentices, according to the Bureau o f Ap­
prenticeship records; probably a considerable
number of these will be employed in industries
other than construction.
This is the newest of the large recognized
trades, dealing with a new group of materials
and a new type of w ork; the present stage has
been reached in about two generations. Devel­
opment over these two generations has been




rapid and almost continuous, standards have
changed, and changes are occurring at the
present time. Several of these reduce the time
needed for specific operations, but separately
and in combination they have helped to raise
the general standards of electric wiring, have
encouraged modernization of obsolete or over­
loaded wiring in old buildings, and have tended
to increase the total volume of electricians’
employment.
Flexibility and provision for unforeseeable
future needs are of primary importance in
nonresidential buildings of almost all types,
and the standards of recent years make provi­
sion for this. For factories, this flexibility is
obtained by use of “ bus duct” for power wir­
ing. Bus duct consists of lengths of metal
conductors supported by insulators inside a
long sheet metal box, with provision at fre­
quent intervals for easy, convenient connection
of branch circuits, which can be added or
changed at any time without change of the
basic installation. In better grade office build­
ings, “ raceways” are installed instead of con­
duit for wiring; these are fairly large sheet
metal passages with closely spaced provision
for outlets, installed usually just beneath the
floor surface but sometimes in the ceiling or
the walls. These provide almost unlimited flex­
ibility for whatever demands may arise during
the life of the building. Modernization of old
wiring has been greatly aided by new insu­
lating materials which need not be so thick
as those formerly used. They reduce the over­
all diameter of insulated wire, and thus make
it possible to replace overloaded circuits in
old buildings with heavier circuits, merely by
replacing the wires in the old conduits. This
has given great impetus to improvement o f
inadequate wiring systems.
The uses of electric current continue to
increase. One illustration is the continuous
increase in the use of electric ranges and water
heaters. These are installed in old as well as
new buildings and, in each case, require a
special circuit. Permanently installed electric
heating panels for individual rooms were put
on the market recently. While these seem un­
likely to become common in the near future,
they are significant in illustrating the increase
in the range of current-using products avail­
able. Electrically charged dust collectors are

85

another fairly recent product adapting electric
current to a new purpose. The employment out­
look is good for any trade in which real im­
provement in the products (as distinct from
mere novelty or style change) proceeds rapidly,
and electric work is one of the trades in which
this condition is met most fully.
Since most of the work is indoors, it is rela­
tively free from interruption by bad weather,
although, of course, the volume of new work
in progress varies seasonally. Alteration and
modernization work are less seasonal, and help
to smooth out annual employment.

erhood of Electrical Workers of America, 1200
15th St., NW., Washington 5, D. C., or from
the National Electrical Contractors Associa­
tion, Ring Building, 1200 18th St., NW., Wash­
ington 6, D. C.

Sheet Metal Workers
Outlook Summary
The outlook for sheet metal workers is good;
this has been an expanding trade, and its
principal type of work is more prominent in
building operations now than at any time in
the past.

Wage Rates
Wage rates as of July 1, 1948, established
through collective bargaining agreements for
a number of cities and their surrounding areas
are given in the table below.
Area

Hourly
rate

Atlanta, Ga....................................................................$2.00
Baltimore, Md.............................................................. 2.25
Birmingham, Ala........................................................ 2.25
Boston, Mass................................................................. 2.30
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 2.36V
2
Chicago, 111.................................................................... 2.35
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.37%
Cleveland, Ohio ........................................................... 2.37%
Denver, Colo.................................................................. 2.25
Houston, Tex................................................................ 2.37%
Indianapolis, Ind.......................................................... 2.30
Jackson, Miss............................................................... 2.00
Kansas City, Mo......................................................... 2.15
Little Rock, Ark........................................................... 1.87%
Los Angeles, Calif...................................................... 2.40
Louisville, Ky................................................................ 2.12%
Milwaukee, Wis............................................................ 2.00
Minneapolis, Minn....................................................... 2.21
New Haven, Conn....................................................... 2.00
New Orleans, La......................................................... 2.00
New York, N. Y ........................................................... '2.50
Omaha, Nebr................................................................ 2.20
Philadelphia, Pa........................................................... 2.37%
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.37%
Portland, Oreg.............................................................. 2.00
Richmond, Va................................................................ 2.00
St. Louis, Mo................................................................ 2.25
San Francisco, Calif.................................................. 2.40
Seattle, Wash............................................................... 2.26%
Springfield, Mass.......................................................... 2.20
1 30-hour workweek.

Additional Information
Additional information on apprenticeship
may be obtained from the International Broth­

86




Nature of Work
Sheet metal workers fabricate and install
a rather wide variety of building products
made from thin metal sheets. The largest field
is that of ventilating, with or without heating
or air conditioning, but there are many addi­
tional kinds of work. This is a highly skilled
trade, and should not be confused with semi­
skilled factory occupations in the routine pro­
duction of articles from sheets or strips of
metal by stamping, die-forming or other repe­
titive methods.
A ventilating system consists basically of
a system of ducts for the supply of air and
the removal of stale air throughout all or
certain parts of a building, combined with a
blower and other apparatus.1 It is usually but
2
not always combined with a heating system,
and frequently with the other apparatus (for
cooling, filtering, humidifying and dehumidifying) needed for an air-conditioning system.
Sheet metal workers make and install the
ducts, the blower, and the other apparatus
except that used for heating and cooling. They
perform similar work on more restricted airmoving systems, such as for removal of fumes
in factories or for collection of shavings or
dust at woodworking machines and elsewhere.
Hot-air heating systems (furnaces) are in­
stalled by sheet metal workers. While these are
popular for detached houses, most installations
are quite simple and the total volume of em­
ployment afforded is much less than that in
1 A quite different type of ventilating system uses an individual
2
air inlet-blower-radiator combination for each room. These are much
less common than duct-type systems; their principal use is in school
buildings.

ventilating work. The work consists mainly
of assembling the furnace in place from fac­
tory-made parts, installing a blower and air
filter if these are to be used, and installing
ducts to the hot-air registers in the various
rooms and to the return registers. This duct
work is far simpler than that for a ventilating
system, and a comparatively small range of
sizes and shapes is sufficient in most cases.
Hence, these are commonly bought ready-made
by the contractor, although in other cases they
are made in his shop. A recent development
is panel-type hot-air heating in which the hot
air ducts pass across and heat the ceiling, and
the heated air does not enter the rooms. From
an employment standpoint this new type of
furnace heat is favorable, but of only moderate
importance, because hot-air heating systems
are a fairly small part of the trade’s total
work.
Sheet metal workers install metal roofing
where this is used, and also metal siding. These
usually come as large sheets, corrugated or else
grooved for stiffening, and require no further
processing beyond such cutting as is needed to
fit the building. Sheet metal workers install
roof gutters and (unless when soil pipe is used
for the purpose) downspouts for drainage of
rain water, in conjunction with all types of
roofing. They make and install flashings
(formed metal strips) at roof valleys, at chim­
neys, and elsewhere, to prevent seepage of rain
or melted snow. They make and install sky­
lights. Altogether, these roof and exterior ma­
terials are fairly important as a source of
employment. Since they are exposed to the
weather, they are subject to deterioration and
require repair or replacement from time to
time. On expensive buildings, the gutters and
downspouts are usually made in the contrac­
tor’s shop, but for ordinary buildings factorymade parts are frequently used. Stock design
skylights, made in advance as a standard item,
have become important for industrial and
warehouse buildings. For the most part they
are made by sheet metal workers rather than
factory operatives.
Factory-made doors, window sash, frames,
partitions, etc., are commonly used in nonresidential buildings. Sheet metal workers
frequently install these. They also install some
types of concrete forms made of sheet metal,




such as those for round columns and conical
column heads, but these are a small part of the
total work on concrete forms. Other minor
fields are commercial signs and the like for
theaters, stores, etc.
Some contractors make ducts and duct fit­
tings at the building where they are to be
installed, sending out the machines needed for
the purpose. Others make them at a permanent
shop from the drawings and measurements
taken at the building. In either case, however,
shop work is a basic part of the trade. Use o f
standard factory-made ducts and fittings for
a ventilating installation, comparable to stand­
ard parts frequently used for furnace installa­
tions, has been entirely impractical to date,
and it is difficult to see how this condition can
change. The reason is the almost unlimited
variation in conditions to be met— dimensions
of the building, rate of air movement wanted,
space allowed for the ducts, etc. This variation
means that each installation of any size must
be a specially designed and custom-made job,
if it is to fit the building and perform effi­
ciently.
Where Employed
Most sheet metal workers are employed in
making and installing equipment for new
buildings or for new installations in existing
buildings. A very small number specialize in
repair work. Apart from this work on build­
ings, sheet metal workers employed in small
shops manufacture, often to special order, a
variety of kitchen equipment, such as steam
tables, dish racks, canopies, sinks, steel or
copper kettles, and similar products, for hotels
and restaurants. Another specialization is the
coppersmith work in constructing vats and
stills for breweries and distilleries and hand­
made fittings for marine work. But the num­
ber so employed is quite small.
Sheet metal workers are also employed in
a fairly wide range of manufacturing indus­
tries, though there are only a comparatively
small number in each. Probably the largest
number are employed in the machinery indus­
tries, particularly those making blowers, ex­
hausts, electrical generating and distributing
equipment, food products machinery, and steam
engines and turbines. Here they make and

87

assemble sheet-metal parts on an individual
order basis— enclosures and parts for special
machinery, industrial ovens, and a great many
other items. This work requires the same skills,
tools, and equipment as does sheet metal work
for buildings, and is totally different from
repetitive operations found in many factories,
where one worker stamps out thousands of
identical parts. During the war, the aircraft
and shipbuilding industries employed large
numbers of men in work with sheet metal.
Many of them were trained only for quite spe­
cific operations, however, and in skill were
not comparable to journeymen.
Training and Qualifications
An apprenticeship of 4 or sometimes 5 years
is required, including a minimum of 144 hours
per year of classroom instruction in pattern
drafting, elementary mathematics, blueprint
reading, estimating, basic principles of heating
and ventilating, and related subjects. Workers
with several years of experience as helpers
sometimes become journeymen, or their equiv­
alent, without serving a formal apprenticeship.
While it is necessary to acquire skill in the
use of tools and to become adept at working
from difficult positions, these qualities alone
are not enough to make a person a thoroughly
capable workman. This is a trade where
rounded knowledge of the work being done and
good elementary knowledge of the principles
being followed are necessary, particularly for
ventilating work. Some knowledge of the
characteristics of air flow is necessary for a
competent journeyman. While journeyman
knowledge is much less technical than engineer­
ing knowledge, it requires thorough training
and cannot be acquired casually. Even for fur­
nace work, corresponding knowledge is needed.
For example, a journeyman should be able to
estimate the heat loss from each room of a
house and measure the stack temperature
(temperature of the combustion gases near the
bottom of the chimney) and know what it
means regarding heating efficiency of the in­
stallation.
Outlook

Prospects for sheet metal workers in con­
struction are decidedly good. In addition, a
88




number of skilled all-round sheet metal work­
ers will be needed in the other industries men­
tioned above. For a number of years, both
before and during the war, there were not
enough apprentices in training. As a result,
the present supply of skilled workers is con­
siderably below the expected demands, and
many new workers must be trained, if these
demands are to be met.
The use of air conditioning in major build­
ings has been increasing, and further increase
is very likely. It is used for improving the
quality of product in manufacturing opera­
tions. While an installation is expensive and
operating cost is substantial, there are many
situations in which it brings an over-all saving
rather than additional expense. For numerous
kinds of factory operations, it improves the
quality of the product and cuts down the per­
centage o f rejects and seconds; for office work
and some kinds of factory activities, it in­
creases the efficiency of workers in hot
weather. These advantages are being more
widely recognized. Its effectiveness in attract­
ing and retaining customers in hot weather for
retail establishments, restaurants, and amuse­
ment places is of course already well known.
True air conditioning is not on the horizon
as a common feature in ordinary houses, how­
ever, because of the initial cost; “ winter air
conditioning,” “ air conditioning heat,” and
similar expressions used for domestic heating
systems mean merely a hot-air furnace with
a blower and frequently with some sort of
air filter and rudimentary humidifying appa­
ratus.
Ventilating installations without air condi­
tioning may increase also, though already
widely used. Other parts of the field are un­
likely to change enough for an important ef­
fect on total employment.
Wage Rates
Wage rates established by collective bargain­
ing agreements for a number of cities and their
surrounding areas are given in the table below
as of July 1, 1948.

Area

Hourly
Tate

Atlanta, Ga...................................................................$1.85
Baltimore, Md.............................................................. 2.25
Birmingham, Ala........................................................ 1.90
Boston, Mass................................................................ 2.15
Buffalo, N. Y ................................................................ 2.25
Chicago, 111.....................................................................— —
Cincinnati, Ohio ......................................................... 2.12%
Cleveland, Ohio........................................................... 2.25
Denver, Colo........ :....................................................... 2.00
Houston, Tex................................. .............................. 2.37%
Indianapolis, Ind.......................................................... 2.12%
Jackson, Miss................................................................ 1.60
Kansas City, Mo.......................................................... 2.30
Little Rock, Ark.......................................................... 1.50
Los Angeles, C a lif...................................................... 2.15
Louisville, Ky................................................................ 1.95
Milwaukee, Wis............................................................ 2.00
Minneapolis, Minn...................................................... 2.15
New Haven, Conn....................................................... 2.00
New Orleans, La.......................................................... 1.87%
New York, N. Y ........................................................... *2.75
Omaha, Nebr................................................................ 1.87%
Philadelphia, Pa.......................................................... 2.50
Pittsburgh, Pa.............................................................. 2.50
Portland, Oreg.............................................................. 1.95
Richmond, Va.............................................................. 1.87%
St. Louis, Mo................................................................ 2.50
San Francisco, Calif................................................... 2.12%
Seattle, Wash................................................................ 2.21%
Springfield, Mass........................................................ 2.20
1 35-hour workweek.

Additional Information
For additional information about this trade,
write to the Sheet Metal Workers’ Interna­
tional Association, Transportation Building,
Washington 6, D. C., or to the Heating, Piping,
and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National
Association, 1250 6th Avenue, New York 20,
N. Y.

Elevator Constructors
Outlook Summary
The outlook for elevator constructors is,
and should continue to be, very good. This is
a small trade, however, and so the number
of openings for additional workers in a city
at any time will be small. Because of mainte­
nance and modernization work, seasonal regu­
larity of employment is better than for almost
all of the other trades.
Nature of Work
Elevator work is essentially the assembly in
place and adjustment of machines for vertical




transportation of passengers and freight,
using factory-made subassemblies and parts.
These are principally elevators, but include
small units for light freight service (dumb­
waiters), moving stairways, and a number of
specialized devices which are useful for specific
purposes but not common enough to be im­
portant as a source of employment. Ordinarily
all real fabrication is done at the elevator
company’s factory, or (in the case o f some
of the smaller companies) at factories from
which it buys parts, or at which it has custom
shop work performed.
The entire installation is treated as a re­
lated whole and is not divided among several
trades on the basis of the materials from which
the various parts are made. An elevator job
starts with the shaft opening, usually with all
adjoining shafts enclosed by a surrounding
partition. The work is done by teams, each
consisting of an elevator constructor and a
helper. They first install the guide rails for
the car and the counterweight. They install
the car frame and platform, the counterweight,
the machine itself, and the control apparatus,
and connect the car frame to the counterweight
with cables (wire ropes) which pass over the
sheaves at the top o f the shaft. Other parts
of the installation are the cab body and roof,
the cab door, and the control wiring. If there
is mechanical operation of doors, the operators
and control apparatus are put in by the eleva­
tor constructors. The job ends with careful
adjustment and testing. A moving stairway
installation is entirely different in the type of
materials and the manner of assembly but is
the same in being handled as a whole by a
single group of workers.
Maintenance and repair work is important.
This consists o f thorough inspection, periodical
replacement of cables, adjustment of worn
parts (brake surfaces, contact surfaces in the
control apparatus), and replacement o f worn
parts as necessary. Commonly, it includes pe­
riodical lubrication and adjustment.
Modernization of elevator installations has
also been important for a number of years,
because of the rapid rate of improvement. This
is quite similar to a partial new installation,
in many cases using the old rails, car frame,
platform, and counterweight, but replacing
almost everything else.

89

Where Employed
Elevator constructors are employed almost
entirely in the construction industry, mainly
by elevator contractors whose principal busi­
ness is new installations and modernization.
For the most part these firms operate nation­
ally or regionally, but a number of them are
active within smaller territories. Some work­
ers are employed by small local contractors
specializing in maintenance and repair, and
in some cases doing an occasional new job. A
small amount of maintenance and repair is
done on essentially a self-employment basis.
There is also a certain amount of employment
by city building departments and similar or­
ganizations as elevator inspector. Forceaccount employment for maintenance is very
slight; the work is so specialized that few
property owners find it economical to employ
a journeyman regularly.
Training and Qualifications
While this is unquestionably one of the more
highly skilled trades, training is comparatively
informal and is obtained through employment
as a helper for a number of years. Among the
principal requirements for a young man wish­
ing to enter the field are mechanical aptitude
and an interest in machinery. Assignments at
first are to simple jobs which can be done with­
out experience and to work done directly with
the journeyman.
It is necessary to acquire fairly extensive
knowledge during this period as a helper—
detailed knowledge of the many different kinds
of circuits used in present-day and old instal­
lations, the many different kinds of mechanical
arrangements that have been used, the proper
sequence of actions in making adjustments,
interpretation of symptoms of faulty adjust­
ment, indications of needed replacements in
the parts most subject to wear, and many other
subjects. In addition, of course, it is necessary
to become adept in the use of tools and in the
particular operations involved.
Outlook
The outlook for elevator constructors is very
good and seems likely to remain so. This is
probably an expanding trade but from its

90




highly specialized character will never be able
to take any large number of entrants at one
time.
Standards of elevator service have been ris­
ing steadily, largely as a result of the note­
worthy improvements made over a period of
years by the large companies and by some of
the other companies also. Concentrated atten­
tion has been given to elevators from the
standpoint of traffic flow. Architects and prop­
erty owners recognize that under many condi­
tions an installation embodying recent im­
provements is economical over the life of a new
building, even though the initial cost is greater
than for a simpler installation. These improve­
ments tend to increase employment in three
respects. On the average, new installations are
more highly developed (in a sense, more elab­
orate) than was the case some years ago, re­
quiring more work for installation and initial
adjustment; the improvements over the eleva­
tors in sound buildings constructed 30 years
ago or more (and in many sound buildings
constructed more recently) are so great that
modernization is greatly encouraged, to bring
the buildings up to current standards and in
some cases to bring operating economy as w ell;
and the maintenance needed is obviously
greater for an installation with automatic door
operations, automatic leveling at the floors,
etc., than in older installations without such
features.
The market for moving stairways has been
increasing also; their value in handling very
heavy passenger movement of a few stories
without congestion and their low operating
cost have been recognized by property owners
and architects as offsetting their fairly high
initial cost. The early public attitude of doubt
about the passengers’ safety, although ground­
less, was somewhat widespread. This has been
succeeded by appreciation of their convenience,
so that in many types of buildings they are
expected. A very large number have been in­
stalled within recent years in old buildings—
department stores, railroad stations, other
buildings. The two largest manufacturers have
brought out less expensive models suited to a
fairly wide range of conditions, although not
to all conditions for which the older models
can be used, and another firm has brought out
a fairly new line intended for a lower-price

market. These are likely to widen the field
of use.
The trade of elevator constructor is urban
but is not confined to the largest cities. One
of the elevator companies has offices in about
250 cities, some of which had a 1940 population
well below 50,000, and a few o f which were
below 25,000. Some of the moderately large re­
gional companies also have branch offices, and
there are many small local firms for mainte­
nance and repair in cities o f moderate size.
The work is almost entirely indoors, and in
most cases a particular job continues steadily
over a period of at least a few weeks. It is
not subject to weather interruptions, and in­
termittent lost time while other trades perform
related work is not a serious matter. Modern­
ization, repairs, and maintenance smooth out
seasonal irregularity of employment very
greatly. There are probably a few opportuni­
ties for self-employment and for establishment
of small contracting businesses in maintenance
and repair work. Establishment of a contract­
ing business primarily for new work cannot
be termed impossible for a journeyman and
has been done successfully in the past— in one
case with the most conspicuous success. Never­
theless, the capital requirements and other
considerations make this one of the decidedly
difficult contracting fields to enter.
Wage Rates
Below are wage rates for elevator construc­
tors and for elevator constructors’ helpers in
effect on July 1, 1948, for a number of cities
and their surrounding areas, as established by
collective bargaining agreements.
Hourly rate

Elevator con­
structors
Area
Atlanta, Ga......................... .............. $2.00
Baltimore, Md.................... .............. 2.18
Birmingham, Ala............................. 2.03
Boston, Mass...................... .............. 2.17
Buffalo, N. Y ................................... 2.41%
Chicago, 111......................... .............. 2.38
Cincinnati, Ohio ............. .............. 2.39
Cleveland, Ohio ............... .............. 2.37 M
i
Denver, Colo..................................... 2.22
Houston, Tex...................... .............. 2.17%
Indianapolis, Ind............... .............. 2 .3 3 %
Little Rock, Ark................ .............. 1.87%
Los Angeles, Calif............ .............. 2.25
Louisville, Ky.................... .............. 2.16%




Elevator con­
structors’
helpers
$1.40
1.53
1.42
1.52
1.69
1.66%
1.67
1.66
1.50
1.52
1.63%
1.31%
1.57
1.51%

Hourly rate

Area

Elevator con­
structors
Wis................... ............... 2 .15

Milwaukee,
Minneapolis, Minn..............................
New Haven, Conn.............. ...............
New Orleans, La................ ...............
New York, N. Y ................. ................
Omaha, Nebr........................................
Philadelphia, Pa.................. ...............
Pittsburgh, Pa.................... ............
Portland, Oreg.................... ............
Richmond, Va...................... ............
St. Louis, Mo...................... ............
San Francisco, Calif......... ...............
Seattle, Wash....................... .............
Springfield, Mass................ ............

Electric con­
structors*
helpers
1 .5 0 %

2 .21

1.55

2 .41

1.69

2 .0 0

1.40

2 .75

2 .0 3 %

2 .18

1.53

2 .58

1.81

2 .5 6 %

1 .7 9 %

2 .2 4 %

1.59

2 .10

1.47

2 .3 0
2 .3 7
2 .3 2
2.25

1.61

—
1 .6 2 %
1.59

In considering the helpers’ rates, it must be
kept in mind that they are in a sense informal
apprentices, with the expectation that in time
they will advance to journeyman status.
Additional Information
For additional information, or the address
of the nearest union local, write to the Inter­
national Union of Elevator Constructors, 12
South Twelfth Street, Philadelphia 7, Pa.

Building Laborers and Hod Carriers
Outlook Summary
The outlook for laborers in building con­
struction is fairly good; in other types of
construction their outlook is better, and these
are the types likely to be best sustained, or
even expanded, during a reduction in private
building construction •and general economic
activity. The outlook on the whole seems better
than that of a few of the skilled trades but
not as good as that of the others. In building
construction particularly and to a smaller de­
gree in other construction, laborers’ employ­
ment has been reduced by developments in
machinery and methods. There are some op­
portunities, however, for advancement to
classes of work involving a considerable de­
gree of skill and having higher wage rates and
better employment prospects.
The outlook for hod carriers (bricklayers’
tenders and plasterers’ tenders) is probably
about equal in each case to that of the trade
which they serve.
Nature of Work
Building laborers and corresponding labor­
ers on other types of construction (highways,

91

sewer and water projects, engineering con­
struction, etc.) do work which requires no
formal training. Laborers’ work is commonly
known as unskilled, but this term can be mis­
leading. The work covers a wide range in its
requirements; in most of the operations exper­
ience is valuable, in some of them it is neces­
sary, and experienced laborers have a large
fund of knowledge of methods and working
conditions.
One type of work is hand excavating, for
footings, small trenches, and other places
where a machine cannot be used or is not
economical. This work is a good illustration
of the proficiency gained by experience. Any­
body can dig a hole for a footing, but without
experience he will have serious difficulty in
preventing excess size and in getting a firm
and reasonably level bottom. This is not skilled
work; neither is it work which can be done
efficiently by a strong but completely inex­
perienced person. Other work is hand backfill­
ing and grading, and conveying of materials
by carrying or by wheelbarrow, handcart, etc.
Laborers move the smaller units of machinery
and equipment. They set bracing in place to
prevent cave-in of trenches, and drive sheet
piling at the sides of excavations, unless a
power pile driver is used. Where concrete is
mixed at the job, they charge the mixer with
ingredients, and in any case place the concrete,
spread it out, and spade it to prevent air
pockets. They do the general cleaning up and
removal of rubbish at successive stages o f the
job. In alteration and modernization jobs they
tear out the old work and then perform the
operations that they would on a new building.
In nonbuilding construction laborers do
comparable work, and usually form a much
larger part of the crew than in most building
projects. In highway work and also in heavy
engineering work, there are numerous jobs
generally similar to those done in building,
although not exactly the same. A few examples
in concrete highway paving are handling and
placing the side forms which also act as rails
for the strike-off machine and finishing ma­
chine; setting up and moving hose lines to
supply the mixer with water; covering the
new pavement to prevent excessive drying dur­
ing the curing period. A fairly large volume
of employment is cutting through city pave­

92




ments for underground utility work, excavat­
ing for whatever is to be done, backfilling and
tamping, and replacing the pavement; there is
also extensive employment in track mainte­
nance for streetcars, where these are used. On
the whole, individual jobs last longer than in
building construction.
The work of masons’ tenders and plasterers’
tenders has already been mentioned in the
sections on bricklayers and plasterers. These
men serve the journeymen of their respective
trades, supplying them with materials, setting
up and moving portable scaffolding for them,
and providing the other services needed for
performance of the journeymen’s work. These
duties require familiarity with the work of
the journeyman, limited knowledge of the ma­
terials used, alertness, and some degree of
judgment.
A number of other types of work are done
also, including demolition of ordinary build­
ings and many other structures, excavation
through rock, application of “ gunite” (a ce­
ment-sand mixture sprayed into place by com­
pressed air), and all operations carried out
under compressed air. These last occur mainly
in construction of tunnels and caisson founda­
tions. These special jobs are almost always
regarded as quite distinct from the work of
building laborers, require specific on-the-job
experience, and carry higher pay rates. The
men working under compressed air must pass
quite rigid physical examination. They do all
the work back of the air lock, including oper­
ations which would be done by journeymen if
located elsewhere; some of these men, such as
those doing blasting, have very serious respon­
sibilities.
Where Employed
Laborers and tenders are employed primar­
ily in the construction industry but are also
employed in many other industries for forceaccount construction and maintenance. Large
numbers are hired by public bodies (public
works departments, highway departments,
etc.) and by public utility companies. Those
in special fields are employed almost exclusive­
ly by contractors specializing in particular
types of work— demolition, tunnel work, etc.
Factory laborers are usually regarded as quite
distinct from building laborers.

Training and Qualifications
Training for these occupations is obtained
on the job. Laborers enter the construction
industry by getting a job, plus obtaining mem­
bership in the union if they are working on
union projects. Contractors naturally prefer
experienced workers, and this first job is usu­
ally on the simplest type of work. Experience
as a laborer is the usual background for brick­
layers’ and plasters’ tenders and for men in
other special fields. New workers for jobs done
under compressed air (tunnels, caisson foun­
dations, etc.) are ordinarily chosen from men
having experience in above-ground employ­
ment at similar projects.
Outlook
In considering the outlook, the range of
work done and the range o f individual abilities
must be kept in mind. Experienced men are
proficient in a wide range of operations, know
construction practices, and understand condi­
tions that they encounter, such as the stability
o f types of earth they encounter in hand ex­
cavating. Such men are, of course, employed
more steadily than those with little experience.
However, the field of work has been reduced
by mechanization, and this process is still go­
ing on.
Unless when there is strong, effective union
organization, the labor force is subject to ex­
pansion during an employment drop in other
industries. While not equal to experienced
building laborers, these potential workers con­
stitute an employment threat because there
are some jobs that they can do well, and some
others for which they can obtain the necessaryexperience within a fairly short time. Hence
wage rates for nonunion laborers can drop
sharply and rapidly during a period of general
unemployment.
There is a considerable amount of lost time
because much of the work is outdoors, where
it is interrupted by bad weather, and because
o f the seasonal nature o f many kinds of con­
struction. There are numerous long jobs for
experienced, capable laborers, but there are
also many brief jobs. Not uncommonly men
are hired for a few days or even a few hours,
for pouring of a concrete slab or some other




peak requiring more men than the regular
crew.
Because of the importance of physical
strength in many operations, the employment
situation is likely to be less favorable for lab­
orers than for journeymen as they become
older. There are, however, a fair number of
steady jobs for elderly laborers whose main
employment assets are dependability, good
judgment, knowledge of construction opera­
tions, and adeptness at the types of work for
which experience is most important.
An extreme illustration of reduced employ­
ment through mechanization is given by the
mixing and placing of concrete. Although mix­
ers had been available for a number of years,
concrete was often mixed by hand until about
40 years ago. This work was done by laborers.
Since then, hand mixing has decreased greatly
in extent and now is seldom used except for
very small quantities. When mixers were used,
the laborers charged these, measuring the sand
and gravel into wheelbarrows and emptying
these into the drum or into a loading skip; the
work of mixing had been abolished. Then came
overhead bins for storage and measurement
of aggregates, used on large jobs, and most of
the work of charging the mixer on such jobs
had been abolished. Then came ready-mixed
concrete, and the entire set of mixing opera­
tions had been abolished. The mixed concrete
was transported in wheelbarrows at first, but
on jobs of moderate size these were replaced at
an early date by buggies (two-wheeled carts)
which carried much more and cut down the
work involved. Until fairly recently, concrete
above ground level for buildings was hoisted
in a tower and emptied into a hopper, from
which it was wheeled to the places wanted.
This hopper was at one side of the building.
Now this has been supplanted in many cases
by hoisting in a bottom-dump bucket operated
by a crane, and when it is at the proper height
swung to a location over the floor. This cuts
down even the wheeling needed, leaving main­
ly depositing the concrete, spreading it, and
spading it.
Employment of bricklayers’ tenders and
plasterers’ tenders at any job bears a fairly
regular relationship to that of bricklayers or
plasterers and does not have the brief peak
of many kinds of laboring work. Their types

93

of work and the conditions under which it is
done make it much less suitable for further
mechanization. It is customary practice for
tenders to be transferred from one building
to the next along with the journeymen. The
situation for laborers in nonbuilding work
(paving and most types o f heavy construction)
is also better than that of laborers on build­
ings.
Experience as a laborer is the customary
background for tenders and for those in special
fields such as caisson and tunnel workers.
While not a preparation for any of the skilled
trades, it may lead to an opportunity for ap­
prenticeship. Cases are known in which con­
tractors have operated semiformal training
programs, hiring inexperienced young men as
laborers, advancing them to helpers, and ulti­
mately advancing them to journeymen.
Wage Rates
Below are wage rates for building laborers,
bricklayers’ tenders, and plasterers’ tenders
established by collective bargaining agree­
ments, and in effect on July 1, 1948, in a num­
ber of cities and their surrounding areas.

Area

Buildinglaborers

Atlanta, Ga.................. ....... $0.90
Baltimore, Md............. ....... 1.25
Birmingham, Ala........ ...............95
Boston, Mass............... ....... 1.55
Buffalo, N. Y .............. ....... 1.65
Chicago, 111................... ....... 1.70
Cincinnati, Ohio ....... ....... 1.46
Cleveland, Ohio ......... ....... 1.72%
Denver, Colo................ ....... 1.40

94




Hourly rate
Brick­
layers*
Plasterers*
tenders
tenders

$1.00
1.35
.95
1.55
1.65
1.70
1.66
1.72%
1.75

$1.00
1.35
1.00
1.70
1.75
1.82 y2
1.66
1.72%
1.75

Hourly rate
Brick­
Building
layers*
Area
laborers
tenders
Houston, Tex.................... .... 1 .0 7 %
1 .2 7 %
Indianapolis, Ind............. ... 1.371/2
1 .5 7 %
Jackson, Miss................... ...
.80
.90

Kansas City, Mo............. ... 1 .4 7 %
Little Rock, Ark.......................... 80
Los Angeles, Calif......... ... 1 .4 8 %
Louisville, Ky.................. ... 1.25
Milwaukee, Wis............... ... 1.55
Minneapolis, Minn........... ... 1.45
New Haven, Conn........... ... 1.55
New Orleans, La............ .......... 921/2
New York, N. Y ............. .... *1.95
Omaha, Nebr................... .... 1.20
Philadelphia, Pa............. ... 1.25
Pittsburgh, Pa. ............. .... 1.50
Portland, Oreg..................... 1 .5 2 %
Richmond, Va............................ 90
St. Louis, Mo................... .... 1.50
San Francisco, Calif...... .... 1 .5 2 %
Seattle, Wash................. .... 1 .6 6 %
Springfield, Mass........... .... 1.25

1 .65

Plasterers*
tenders
1 .2 7 %
1 .5 7 %
.90
1.65

1.25
1.75

2 .2 0

1 .50

1 .50

1.65

1 .8 2 %

1.55

1.95
1.55

1.55
1 .0 2 %
*1.95
1.20

1 .1 2 %
2 .1 0
2
1 .3 2 %

1.25

1 .7 7 %

1.75

1 .75

1 .7 7 %
1.15

1 .7 7 %

—

1.80

2 .00

2 .25

32 .1 0

1 .9 1 %
1.50

1 .9 1 %
1.50

1 35-hour workweek.
2 30-hour workweek; $2.40 in Brooklyn.
8 30-hour workweek.

Rates for those doing special types of work
are higher in most localities, and for the most
part these men are recognized as separate
occupational groups. The higher rates common
for work under compressed air are a reflection
of the exacting physical requirements, the dis­
comforts, and the occupational hazards o f such
work.
Additional Information
For additional information, write to the In­
ternational Hod Carriers’ , Building and Com­
mon Laborers’ Union of America, 821 F if­
teenth Street NW., Washington 5, D. C.

PART II
TH E GEOGRAPHICAL D ISTRIBUTION OF CONSTRUCTION
EM PLOYM ENT
It has already been pointed out that total
construction employment can be predicted only
in relationship to over-all business activity.
Prospective employment in construction is even
more uncertain for any given locality than for
the country as a whole.
First of all, the geographical distribution of
construction operations is governed by demand
on the part of owners1 rather than by fixed
plant of the construction industry. The bulk of
the industry’s plant and equipment is portable,
used at the job, and is at contractors’ ware­
houses or yards only when not in use. All com­
mon kinds of construction machinery are widely
distributed throughout the country and uncom­
mon specialized machines are shipped several
hundred miles between jobs when necessary.
Shop equipment of the special trade contractors
remains in their shops, but the products can be
and are shipped as far as is necessary. In the
case of shop fabrications for which only a few
contractors are prepared (because the work is
unusually large, or in a highly specialized field,
or requires technical or artistic services which
only a few leading firms can provide) these
contractors operate over a very wide area, fre­
quently shipping their shop-made materials to
jobs as much as 500 to 1,000 miles away.
For a comparatively small area it is possible
to state what past construction has been, what
the current construction rate is, and what the
trend for such areas in the same general part
of the country seems to be. It is not possible
to make a forecast for such an area on any other
basis than guessing, because of the great im­
portance of large individual projects. Within
fairly recent years a building project was car­
ried out in New York City for quite unpre­
dictable reasons, large enough to have marked
influence on total construction employment in
1
This demand includes the expected sales or rental demand for the
product o f builders, as well as the known demand o f property
owners who authorize contractors to proceed with construction.




the entire city. At about the same time there
was a similar case in Chicago, entirely unre­
lated to the New York project. The effect of
outstanding individual projects is, of course,
proportionately much greater in smaller places.
In contrast, there have been announcements of
quite definite and exceedingly large building
projects for a number of the leading cities,
made by financially responsible operators with
a background of notable success in less ambi­
tious undertakings, which have either gone
ahead on a far smaller scale than announced
or been temporarily abandoned with slight ap­
parent likelihood of revival.
Almost without exception individual projects
are unpredictable. Expansion plans of indus­
trial and commercial establishments and plans
for replacement of obsolete buildings are highly
elastic, and final decisions are seldom made
until shortly before the awarding of contracts.
This is well illustrated by the action of a na­
tionally known manufacturing firm having
plants in many parts of the country, which some
years ago undertook an expansion program. It
contemplated construction of an unusually
large building at its home plant, proceeding to
the stage of having detailed architectural and
engineering drawings prepared and of receiv­
ing contractors’ bids. Then it changed its pro­
gram drastically, abandoned this project,
modernized a plant several hundred miles
away, bought existing plants in distant parts
of the country, and remodeled them extensively
to fit its own standards of plant lay-out and
facilities. While extreme, this instance indicates
that expansion of an industry or an individual
firm does not necessarily mean construction at
a given place.
Technical developments in industrial proc­
esses or in the use of basic materials can have
great influence on construction, in part directly
through bringing about construction of appro­

95

priate industrial facilities, and in larger part
indirectly through the economic stimulation of
large areas. The rayon industry is one example.
Another is the process whereby satisfactory
newsprint and other paper can be made from
fast-growing types of pine trees in the South.
The direct construction and the general stimu­
lating effect resulting from this treatment for
wood pulp are still in process and seem likely
to continue for several years.
Developments with long-range importance to
the geographical distribution of industrial ac­
tivity and,'hence, of population and construc­
tion, were announced in late summer of 1948
by the steel industry. The principal of these is
a new method in which molten steel is cast
directly from the furnace intc& semifinished
shapes, ready for the later rolling and finishing
stages; the earlier stages of casting the steel
into ingots and reducing these to semifinished
shapes are omitted. This eliminates need for
some of the heaviest and most expensive equip­
ment and cuts down sharply the investment
needed for a steelmaking plant. Industry
sources think it likely that over a period of
years new plants using this process will be built
in several parts of the country distant from
the leading steel centers. If so, in each case in­
dustrial and other developments will be stimu­
lated over an extensive area, urban population
Will increase, and construction activity of al­
most all types will be accelerated. Conserva­
tion and development programs likewise have
a stimulating effect through increasing the area
of land suitable for farming and increasing the
extent of industrial development. The increase
in construction employment for local journey­
men may be even greater following completion
of a conservation project than during its exe­
cution.
An indication of the sometimes erratic dis­
tribution of construction may be seen from
summaries of urban building activity. A sum­
mary of the leading places in all construction
and in each of several types of 1947 was pre­
pared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the
basis of building permits issued and Federal
contracts awarded during the year. Eight cities
each had a total permit valuation of 50 mil­
lion dollars or more. As might be expected,
these included all 5 cities with 1940 population
of 1,000,000 or more; but there were not any
S6




of the 9 cities with population of 500,000 up to
a million, there were 2 of the 23 with popula­
tion of 250,000 up to 500,000, and 1 of the 55
with population of 100,000 up to 250,000. This
group of leading cities varies from year to year,
and in some years does not include even all 5
of the million-or-over cities.
For individual types of building, some of the
leading places in 1947 are quite surprising.
The sixth place in rank for the entire country
for the construction of factories and workshops
was an unincorporated urban township in New
Jersey with 1940 population under 20,000. The
third city in rank for office and bank buildings
and also the second in rank for public buildings
was an inland city in northern Florida of about
16,000 population. Two of the seven leading
cities for institutional buildings had 1940 pop­
ulations of 50,000 up to 100,000, and a third
was below 25,000.
Obviously all of these small places were in
positions of leadership because of a very few
remarkably large projects— in most cases, a
single project. Such construction is occurring
constantly in small places but infrequently in
any one place. A single modern hotel is ordi­
narily all that the market will support in a city
of 10,000 to 25,000; once built, it will probably
not be replaced for at least 50 years, and a
competing hotel is unlikely to be built until
advances in design, materials, and equipment
have made the existing hotel at least partly ob­
solete— a matter of decades rather than years.
The same is true of other major buildings.
This section deals mainly with the general
construction prospects for each of the country’s
geographic divisions2, with separate material on
individual States where these differ substanti­
ally from the remainder of the regions in char­
acteristics affecting the construction outlook.
For each geographic division there is a very
brief statement of its economic background, its
recent construction and population trend, and
an evaluation of its construction prospects. Re­
gional forecasts of construction expenditures or
construction employment are not offered; nu­
merical forecasts on a national basis more than
2 Geographic divisions are regions established by the Bureau of
the Census, each consisting o f a number of adjoining States. There
are numerous other systems of regional classification, each having
definite 'advantages from the standpoint of one or more specific in­
dustries, but the geographic divisions are the most satisfactory for
an over-all consideration.

a year in advance are regarded as exceedingly
tentative by all responsible construction econo­
mists and statisticians, and from their nature
regional forecasts are subject to much greater
uncertainty than are national forecasts. Instead,
the intention is to present an evaluation of the
relative positions in economic development of
each of the geographic divisions, the changing
status of the divisions, and the conditions by
which construction activity within each seems
likely to be influenced most strongly.
The comment that a particular division has
reached a stage of economic maturity and is
likely to have a smaller part of national con­
struction expenditures than in the past means
only what it says, and not that construction
activity has been almost completed in this part
of the country. Construction operations mea­
sured in dollar value or in physical terms may
actually increase, but the increase will be less
rapid than in parts of the country which are in
a stage of rapid industrial growth. There will
be much less need for housing of additional
families or for provision of additional indus­
trial and commercial plants than in rapidly
growing parts of the country. There can, how­
ever, be an exceedingly active market for addi­
tional housing and improved housing for a
relatively stable population, for new industrial
facilities to replace older plants which have be­
come obsolete, for plants to produce new types
of products, and for buildings in the nonprofit
category (public buildings, hospitals, churches,
others) for which ordinarily the standards are
highest in mature localities.
On the whole, construction employment with­
in any geographic division is concentrated in
and around its larger cities— particularly within
its metropolitan districts.3 This does not neces­
sarily mean that employment prospects are best
in such localities, because construction workers
are similarly concentrated within them. Where
one lives and works is a matter of preference,
which can be exercised more freely by construc­
tion workers than by workers in most other
3
Metropolitan districts are areas defined by the Bureau o f the
Census, each consisting o f a central city having 1940 population o f
50,000 or over (in some cases, two or more nearby cities of such
population) plus the surrounding places extending outward as far
as population density is 150 per square miles or over. They are es­
sentially tpols for the study o f population, employment, markets,
etc., and are not units o f local government. It is reasonably accurate
to regard them as containing that part o f the total population which
is influenced substantially by the environment o f a large or moder­
ately large city.




fields. There are opportunities in comparatively
small cities and in villages. A person preferring
living conditions in a large metropolitan center
should certainly choose such a locality, but it
would be a serious mistake for a young journey­
man who prefers the particular advantages of
a city of 5,000 or a village of 1,000, to attempt
to migrate to one of the larger cities just be­
cause more members of his trade are employed
there. He should keep in mind that there are
also more members of his trade available for
employment in such a city. The very great im­
provement in rural and, particularly, farm
housing conditions, the extension of rural elec­
trification, the startling increases since 1940 in
farm plumbing, mean that there has been an
exceedingly active market for the services o f
skilled construction workers in small localities.
It can be expected confidently that this will
continue, unless there should be a serious drop
in farm income. Members of the less common
trades must, of course, live within commuting
distance of a city large enough to have a con­
tractor in their field.
The section on each geographic division is
accompanied by a table giving an estimate of
expenditures in 1939 and also in 1947 for total
construction, for private residential building
(nonfarm ), for private nonresidential building
(nonfarm), and for total publicly financed con­
struction, for the geographic division and for
each State. It also shows these expenditure
figures as a percentage of the corresponding
national total. The source of these estimates is
the pamphlet “ State Distribution of Construc­
tion Activity, 1939-47,” published by the Con­
struction Division of the Bureau of Foreign
and Domestic Commerce, U. S. Department of
Commerce, as a statistical supplement to the
June 1948 issue of its monthly publication “ Con­
struction and Construction Materials.” 4
These tables are in terms of dollar expendi­
tures in each of the respective years, without
adjustment for the increase in construction
costs over the period. Such adjustment would
be highly desirable but cannot be made because
there are no satisfactory regional or State cost
indexes for most of the important types of con­
4 Estimates o f expenditures by State for 1948 are only partially
available; because o f curtailment in the collection of field data, in­
formation was insufficient for individual estimates of 1948 expendi­
tures for private residential building (and hence for total construc­
tion) for 25 o f the 48 States.

97

struction. The generally accepted indexes of
construction costs, both national and local, are
suited to their intended purposes but not to
the adjustment of State construction activity.
Expenditure increases from 1939 to 1947 as
shown in the tables do not mean a correspond­
ing increase in the physical volume of construc­
tion. This is not a serious defect for the com­
parisons which are made, however, because
these are on two bases for which unadjusted
figures are reasonably satisfactory: (1) Geo­
graphic divisions or State expenditures as a
percentage of the national total, and (2) per­
centage increase in geographic division or State
expenditures as compared to percentage in­
crease in national expenditures.

It is recognized that estimates of construc­
tion expenditures of the various States are, by
their nature, less reliable than for the United
States as a whole. It is also recognized that
comparison between two individual years has
serious shortcomings and that an apparent
trend indicated by such comparison cannot be
extended into the future by mere mechanical
computation. These estimates are, however,
quite the best available and are presented along
with other material as an indication of the
relative importance of the different parts of
the country with respect to construction and of
the effect of some of the economic forces men­
tioned in the text.

N EW ENGLAND STATES
Summary
Employment prospects in construction are
fairly good, although less in proportion to popu­
lation than in newer parts of the country.
Activity will probably be greatest in the dur­
able-goods area (most of Connecticut, western
Massachusetts), lower but more stable in the
remainder of southern New England, and com­
paratively small in the three northern States
(Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont).
Background
There are six New England States— Maine,
New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Con­
necticut, and Rhode Island. Although the region
is commonly referred to as a single homogenous
unit, actually the northern States (Maine, New
Hampshire, and Vermont) follow an economic
pattern quite different from that of the three
States to the south. The northern States are
predominantly agricultural: Lumbering, farm­
ing, and vacation resorts are the principal in­
dustries. In contrast, Massachusetts, Connecti­
cut, and Rhode Island are highly industrialized,
with about 40 percent of the labor force en­
gaged in manufacturing.
New England is one of the most highly ur­
banized sections of the United States. Close to
70 percent of the population is concentrated in
metropolitan districts, as compared with 48
percent for the Nation as a whole. The indus­
trial States are by far the most populous. Mas­

98




sachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, with
only 22 percent of the total land area in the
region, have approximately 80 percent of the
population. All of the metropolitan districts in
the region except Portland, Maine, and Man­
chester, New Hampshire, are located in the
industrial States, and Manchester, near the
Massachusetts border, may be regarded as the
northern tip of industrial New England.
Industrial New England may be broken down
into two main areas. In the eastern part— from
Manchester, New Hampshire, down to Provi­
dence, Fall River, and New Bedford — soft
goods industries predominate. Boston, Massa­
chusetts— the largest New England city— is an
important seaport and a wholesale and retail
distribution center. Although manufacturing
in and around Boston is quite diversified, the
emphasis is on soft goods. Other areas in this
section of New England— Fall River-New Bed­
ford, Providence-Lowell-Haverhill, and Wor­
cester — are textile and shoe manufacturing
centers.
In the western part of industrial New Eng­
land, manufacturing is concentrated on metal
products, metal machinery, and other heavy
goods. This area extends from Springfield,
Massachusetts, southward to New Haven,
Bridgeport, and Waterbury, Connecticut.
New England at one time was the center of
wealth and industry for. the entire Nation. But
many years ago, as new areas in other sections
of the country were developed, this region

ceased to be dominant in population, income,
and industry, and New England’s relative im­
portance has declined gradually. Although the
region has continued to grow all along, newer
industrial areas— particularly in the South and
West — have been growing at a faster rate.
Some years ago a considerable part of the re­
gion’s two most important industries— textiles
and shoes — moved to other sections of the
country, and the gap has been filled only par­
tially. Moreover, this migration may not yet
be completed. However, the region has been
gaining in heavy goods industries while losing
soft goods. The metal manufacturing industry,
for instance, which has made considerable
headway since 1939, has proved to be a very
substantial replacement for the drop in con­
sumer goods industries.
Postwar Construction
In 1947, new construction expenditures in
the New England States amounted to approxi­
mately 702 million dollars. The three indus­
trial States accounted for 85 percent of the
total regional bill— Massachusetts alone for
one-half. New construction in the three rural
States combined was valued at only 104 million
dollars, and the State of Maine accounted for
almost half of this sum. A little over one-third
of the total regional construction bill (or about
$245,000,000) was spent fo r private nonfarm
housing and not much less than a third for
private nonresidential building (office build­
ings, stores, factories, etc.). Approximately
one-fifth of the total consisted of various kinds
of public construction projects.
Construction activity in the New England
States is considerably higher now than before
the war, as measured in expenditures. The
dollar volume of new construction in 1947 was
almost twice that of 1939. However, the 1947
construction volume was only 5.0 percent of
the national total, whereas in 1939 it was 5.8
percent. Every State in New England showed
a relative decrease except Vermont, which re­
turned to its prewar position.
New England’s loss in relative share of con­
struction is to some extent associated with
long-range trends in population and employ­
ment. Any increase or decrease in population
can cause a change in the demand for construc­




tion and, for New England as a whole, the rate
of population increase has been on the decline
for a number of years. In the 20-year period
1920 to 1940, New England’s population
dropped from 7.0 to 6.4 percent of the national
total. Census estimates indicate that in July
1948, civilian population of the region was 10.1
percent above 1940, as compared with a national
increase of 10.6 percent. Two States showed
increases above the national average— Con­
necticut (17.6 percent) and New Hampshire
(11.2 percent).
Inter-State migration and intranstate shifts
in population from rural to urban areas cause
an immediate change in the tempo o f construc­
tion activity. New homes, recreation facilities,
etc., are needed to accommodate the inflow o f
people, and new industrial plant facilities are
usually required. Thus, we have a shift in the
distribution of construction with the industriali­
zation and urbanization of heretofore rural
areas in the South and West. New England,
already highly urban and industrial, does not
have the same need for added living space and
facilities as the new industrial areas, and so
has declined relatively in total new construc­
tion activity.
The Future
Prospects are that construction in New
England will continue at high levels for at least
the next several years. As in the past, construc­
tion will be concentrated in the industrial
States, the bulk of it in Massachusetts— by
far the most populous State. Building will be
most active in the areas which produce metal
products and other durable goods. Connecticut,
in particular, should come in for a larger share
of construction.
In the long-run, soft goods— still the main­
stay of a good many New England towns—
will help to keep business on a relatively even
keel. To illustrate, the demand for soft goods
is fairly steady; people buy food, clothing, and
shoes in bad times as well as good. Conse­
quently, in a boom period, the region is likely
to make less of a spectacular showing than
other sections of the country and by the same
token it is likely to fare better in depression
times.
Another factor affecting the volume of con-

99

Table 11.— E stim a ted expen ditu res f o r n ew construction, 19U7 and 193 9
Total new
construction

Private resi­
dential building

Private nonresidential building

Public
construction

Region and State
1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

136.3
17.6
5.5
7.6
57.4
9.3
38.9

148.2
10.5
8.6
4.6
70.6
14.2
39.7

4.4
.6
.2
.2
1.9
.3
1.3

5.9
.4
.3
.2
2.8
.6
1.6

[Millions of dollars]
New England...............
Maine.........................
New Hampshire......
Vermont....................
Massachusetts.........
Rhode Island............
Connecticut...............

701.5
47.0
33.6
23.4
368.1
59.6
169.8

363.9
22.7
20.6
11.2
169.4
33.4
106.6

244.6
10.9
10.9
5.0
136.8
30.3
50.7

105.8
4.2
4.6
2.3
49.3
10.3
35.1

202.5
9.7
7.2
3.4
114.5
12.6
55.1

57.3
2.7
2.7
1.8
26.6
5.0
18.5

[Percent of U.S. total]
New England...............
Maine.........................
New Hampshire......
Vermont....................
Massachusetts.........
Rhode Island............
Connecticut...............

5.0
.3
.2
.2
2.6
.4
1.2

5.8
.4
.3
.2
2.7
.5
1.7

4.7
.2
.2
.1
2.6
.6
1.0

5.0
.2
.2
.1
2.3
.5
1.7

6.5
.3
.2
.1
3.7
.4
1.8

7.2
.3
.3
.2
3.4
.6
2.4

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Construction Materials, Statistical Supplement, June 1948, tables I, II, and III.

struction is the relative maturity of the New
England region. Although the Nation as a
whole has gone a long way toward economic
maturity, New England, as the oldest region,
is one step ahead of the rest of the country.
In the present “ mature” stage of New England’s
development there are more jobs in trade, ser­
vice, professions, etc., than in manufacturing.

This kind of situation does not call for a par­
ticularly large volume of construction since
there is relatively little need for new industrial
facilities or additional housing to take care of
an influx of new workers. On the other hand,
the high income and high standard of living
that goes with a mature economy tend to create
a sustained market.

M IDDLE ATLANTIC STATES
Summary
Construction seems likely to be active but
to make up a smaller part of the national total
than prior to the war. Diversification of in­
dustry and some degree of concentration of
wealth mean above-average stability.
Background
The Middle Atlantic States— New York,
Pennsylvania, and New Jersey— have the high­
est concentration of wealth and population of
any section of the country. These three States
100




have more people and more jobs than any other
regional group, with the East North Central
States as the only close competitor. The bulk
of the population lives in the region’s 19 metro­
politan districts. The New York City-Northeastern New Jersey, Philadelphia-Camden, and
Pittsburgh areas account for 60 percent of
the population, and the 19 metropolitan dis­
tricts combined account for over 75 percent.
The Middle Atlantic division, as a center of
manufacturing, commerce, and finance, has
long set the pace for the entire Nation. How­
ever, like New England, the division is “ old,”

and for some years its top position in the
Nation’s economic set-up has been less out­
standing than formerly. Around the beginning
of this century its manufacturing activity be­
gan to shrink in proportion to the Nation’s
total. A shift in emphasis to commerce and
finance counteracted manufacturing losses to
some extent, and the division still holds the
largest share of the Nation’s jobs. But from
1930 on, growth in the remainder of the Nation
has exceeded that in this region on all counts
— total employment, income, and population.
The Middle Atlantic division specializes in
commercial and financial services. This is par­
ticularly true of New York City— the Nation’s
number one management and financial center.
Many of the home offices of national corpora­
tions are found in New York, as well as large
banks, insurance companies, advertising agen­
cies, commodity and security exchanges, etc.
Other than that, New York is the most im­
portant distribution and importing center in
the country. New York City is also a design
and management center for construction, with
many architectural and engineering offices, and
with the main offices of most of the very large
contracting firms which operate on a Nation­
wide or international scale.
The principal manufacturing industries in
the Middle Atlantic division are apparel, paper
and printing, metals, chemicals, machinery,
textiles, food, and tobacco. Although manufac­
turing in most localities is diversified, consumer
goods are the most prevalent. New York,
Philadelphia and Rochester produce around
one half of the Nation’s clothing, and the first
two cities handle a good part of the printing
and publishing business. Philadelphia, WilkesBarre, and Paterson are important textile
producers. In the heavy goods line, there is
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, the leading industrial
area in upstate New York, and Pittsburgh, the
world’s leading production center for iron and
steel.
Important activities in other fields are ship­
building (in the Philadelphia-Camden and
Newark areas) and coal mining (anthracite
in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area, extending
from Scranton south to Pottsville, Pa.; soft
coal in western Pennsylvania in the counties
adjacent to Pittsburgh), and petroleum re­
fining. There are many additional types of




manufacturing not mentioned separately, some
of them employing more workers than the
major industries in some of the other regions.
Postwar Construction
The 1947 volume of new construction in the
Middle Atlantic States amounted to a little
over 2.2 billion dollars, with New York State
accounting for about 45 percent of the total.
By type of construction, the largest component
in the construction bill was the 722 million
dollars worth of private (nonfarm) residen­
tial building. About 581 million dollars was
spent for private nonresidential building, and
close to 583 million dollars for publicly financed
construction.
The division’s construction activity in 1947
was only 65 percent above prewar, compared
with a gain of 122 percent for the United States
as a whole. As the division stands now, it has
a 15.8 percent share in the Nation’s construc­
tion, in comparison with 21.2 percent in 1939.
Construction has been particularly slack in
New York, where the 1947 volume was only
20 percent above prewar. The State’s share of
total construction fell from almost 13 percent
in 1939 to 7 percent in 1947. The other two
States had larger portions of the national total
than in 1939.
A decrease in the Middle Atlantic’s share
of the Nation’s construction was in evidence
before the war, as a part of the general trend
affecting all phases of the division’s economy.
But the boost given to industrial development
in the South and West during the war ex­
aggerated this trend. True, there was con­
siderable wartime industrial expansion in each
of the Middle Atlantic States, but most of the
war activity was in or around established in­
dustrial centers. Consequently, existing indus­
trial plants and local labor took care of addi­
tional requirements to a greater deigree than
in most other parts of the country. The net
result was that the need for additional homes
and additional industrial facilities was propor­
tionately lower here than in sections where
industrial development was accelerated by the
war.
The Future

New industrial areas elsewhere are holding
on to their recent gains, and it looks as though
101

Table 12.— E stim a ted expen ditu res fo r next) construction, 1 9 U7 and 1989
Total new
construction
Region and State
1947

1
|

1939

Private resi­
dential building
1947

1939

Private nonresidential building

Public
construction

1947

1939

1947

1939

580.5
222.4
159.5
198.6

183.0
113.0
25.4
44.6

582.5
336.4
65.8
180.3

509.3
318.5
70.7
120.1

[Millions of dollars]
Middle Atlantic...........
New York..................
New Jersey..............
Pennsylvania...........

2205.0
978.1
457.9
769.0

1338.9
813.9
184.8
340.2

721.9
292.2
191.0
238.7

519.0
320.1
70.2
128.7

[Percent of U.S. Total]
Middle Atlantic...........
New York..................
New Jersey...............
Pennsylvania............

15.8
7.0
3.3
5.5

21.2
12.9
2.9
5.4

13.7
5.6
3.6
4.5

24.5
15.1
3.3
6.1

18.5
7.1
5.1
6.3

23.3
14.4
3.2
5.7

18.9
10.9
2.1
5.8

20.3
12.7
2.8
4.8

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Construction Materials, Statistical Supplement, June 1948, tables I, II, and III.

a considerable part of the wartime shift in the
distribution of construction will be permanent.
Beyond that, the prewar situation of slower
growth than in less urban and less industrial­
ized parts of the country seems to be continu­
ing. Population is increasing less rapidly than
for the country as a whole, in large measure,
at least, because so much of the population is
urban.

ups and downs with a little better balance
than most of the other divisions. For one thing,
the division’s high standard of living makes
for a comparatively steady market. Then, too,
each of the Middle Atlantic States and most of
the important localities within these States5
have a large variety of industries. Consequently,
losses in one industry are likely to be offset by
gains in another.

In spite of the gains made by other sections
during the war, the Middle Atlantic is still one
of the largest construction markets. It ranks
third among the regions in the volume of con­
struction. Two of the Middle Atlantic States—
New York and Pennsylvania— are near the top
of the list, in third and fourth positions, re­
spectively.

Of a more direct bearing upon the outlook
for construction in the division, are the un­
usually large expenditures for publicly financed
construction. The Middle Atlantic States, in­
fluenced mainly by New York State and New
York City, have a larger volume of public nonresidential buildings (educational and recrea­
tional facilities, hospitals, etc.) than any other
division. Construction expenditures of public
utility companies are also considerably above
average, since this type of construction is most
complicated and expensive in thickly populated
areas.

So far as the immediate outlook is concerned,
construction activity in the Middle Atlantic
States should continue at its present level for
at least the next several years. What happens
after that, of course, depends largely upon
economic conditions in general. But the Middle
Atlantic States should be able to take economic

102




5 Two notable exceptions are Pittsburgh, with its emphasis on
steel, and the anthracite coal area around Scranton.

GREAT LAKES STATES

(E A S T NORTH CENTRAL ST A T E S)

Summary
Construction prospects are good— better
than those of the more mature parts of the
older regions and more stable than those of
currently growing regions in the South and
West. Within the region, stability will be
greatest in diversified areas and poorest in
the specialized durable goods areas.
Background
The Great Lakes States— Illinois, Indiana,
Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin— constitute one
of the most highly industrialized regions in the
country. The hub of the Nation’s heavy goods
industry, the five-State area has more manu­
facturing jobs than any other region and fol­
lows closely behind the Middle Atlantic States
in total employment. However, intraregional
differences in economic make-up are marked.
Wisconsin and Indiana, for instance, are big
farm producers, whereas Michigan and Ohio
are strong on heavy goods manufacturing. In
Illinois, industry is most diversified, with ex­
tensive financing and wholesaling activity as
well as manufacturing and farming.
But intraregional differences are best illus­
trated by crossing State boundaries. There is
notable concentration of the region’s popula­
tion and industry in two extended areas along
the lakes. One of these runs along the lower end
of Lake Michigan from Milwaukee, south to
Chicago, and then eastward in northern
Indiana. The other is a part of a semi-continuous, concentrated area, which begins at Detroit
on Lake St. Clair, continues south to Toledo
on Lake Erie, eastward along the lake beyond
Cleveland, and then extends past the regional
boundary to Erie and Buffalo-Niagara Falls
in the Middle Atlantic States. Smaller inter­
vening cities in this strip include Monroe,
Sandusky, Lorain, and Ashtabula. There are
other important centers,, such as Indianapolis,
Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati, and many
smaller industrial centers. While the remainder
of the region is predominantly agricultural, in
Ohio particularly and to a lesser degree else­
where, relatively small industrial cities are
very numerous.




The principal manufacturing industries in
the region are motor vehicles and parts, iron
and steel, machinery, food processing, paper
and printing, chemicals, and rubber. Chicago
— the leading city— is an important transpor­
tation and trade center. Moreover, the Chicago
area— including nearby industrial cities— is a
big producer of iron and steel, machinery, proc­
essed foods, apparel, and various other prod­
ucts. Detroit is the automotive capital of the
world. It is the focus of a motor vehicle area
including a number of other cities— Toledo,
Flint, Pontiac, Lansing, Jackson, Saginaw,
and many smaller places. The Cleveland metro­
politan area is one of the country’s biggest
steel producers. In addition to the three largest,
there are 26 other metropolitan districts in
the Great Lakes region. Although the accent
on heavy goods is pronounced, industry is
fairly well diversified in most of these locali­
ties.
Postwar Construction
In the postwar year 1947, total new con­
struction in the Great Lakes States amounted
to a little more than 2.7 billion dollars, or 19.4
percent of the national construction bill. The
Great Lakes share of the Nation’s construction
was the highest of any regional group. The
leading State in the dollar volume of construc­
tion was Illinois ($753,000,000), with Ohio
running a close second. The third State, Michi­
gan, had 639 million dollars worth of construc­
tion, while Indiana and Wisconsin each had
less than half that much.
Private nonfarm building was valued at
1,726 million dollars, or close to 65 percent of
total new construction in the region. Private
residential building accounted for over 1,055
million dollars, and nonresidential building for
more than 670 million dollars. Expenditures
for public construction of all kinds totaled about
480 million dollars.
As the Great Lakes region stands now, it
is in about the same position with respect to
total construction as it was before the war.
Unlike New England and the Middle Atlantic
States, the Great Lakes States were only
slightly affected by the wartime shift in con-

103

Table 13.— E stim a ted expen ditu res f o r n ew construction, 1 9 U7 and 193 9
Total new
construction

Private resi­
dential building

Private nonresi­
dential building

Public
construction

Region and State
1947

1947

1939

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

670.4
170.3
85.4
197.7
144.5
72.5

160.7
42.1
19.8
48.3
35.8
14.7

480.2
120.5
49.9
149.4
110.3
50.1

429.1
116.1
53.2
129.2
78.2
52.4

21.4
5.4
2.7
6.3
4.6
2.3

20.5
5.4
2.5
6.2
4.6
1.9

15.6
3.9
1.6
4.8
3.6
1.6

17.1
4.6
2.1
5.2
3.1
2.1

[Millions of dollars]
Great Lakes (East
North Central)....................
Ohio......................................
Indiana.................................
Illinois..................................
Michigan..............................
Wisconsin.............................

2706.4
727.9
309.6
753.3
639.3
276.3

1231.8
330.0
143.6
354.0
270.1
134.1

1055.2
279.9
102.3
272.4
301.3
99.3

424.8
125.4
38.7
102.3
118.0
40.4

[Percent ,of U. S. Total]
Great Lakes (East
North Central)....... .............
Ohio......................................
Indiana.................................
Illinois..................................
Michigan..............................
Wisconsin.............................

19.4
5.2
2.2
5.4
4.6
2.0

19.5
5.2
2.3
5.6
4.3
2.1

20.1
5.3
1.9
5.2
5.7
1.9

20.1
5.9
1.8
4.8
5.6
1.9

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Construction Materials, Statistical Supplement, June 1948, tables I, II, and III.

struction activity to the South and West. Al­
though the Great Lakes States had very little
in the way of military and naval construction,
the region exceeded all others in the number
and value of war plants installed. The increas­
ing population and urbanization, which went
along with wartime industrial expansion, cre­
ated a greater demand for construction in this
region than for the country as a whole. Be­
tween 1939 and 1946, the region’s share of the
Nation’s construction increased from 19.5 per­
cent to 21 percent. However, a drop in nonresidential private construction in 1947 resulted
in a decline in the region’s relative position,
bringing it back to its prewar status.
The Future
The short-run outlook for construction in the
Great Lakes States is most favorable. Heavy
goods industry—the Great Lakes specialty—
fluctuates sharply with ups and downs in the
business cycle, and, consequently, the region
receives a comparatively big boost in periods
of prosperity. In 1947, the dollar volume of
construction in the region was only 120 per­

104




cent above prewar, just about equal to the
national increase. But the 1947 construction
volume would have been much higher except
for certain postwar difficulties that affected
this region more than others.
Its relative position seems likely to improve,
especially in the private nonresidential con­
struction field. In any event construction ac­
tivity will be maintained at a high level in
proportion to that of the entire country for at
least the next several years.
Of course, another depression, like that of
the thirties, would be particularly bad for the
construction activity in the Great Lakes States.
But, barring this eventuality, the long-run out­
look is fairly good. In fact, this geographic
division should retain its position of leadership
in the Nation’s construction activity for some
years to come. While the region is not exactly
a growing one, there is as yet no real indica­
tion of a decline in proportion to the rest of the
country, such as experienced by the Middle
Atlantic and New England States. Fractional
relative losses in key manufacturing lines oc­
curred during the war, but they were too small
to be considered a sympton of weakness.

Within the region, conditions are more stable
in some sections than in others. In Illinois (es­
pecially around Chicago), where industry is
varied and slow-moving property income high,
the construction market is fairly steady. On

the other hand, in Ohio and Michigan, with
their heavy or durable goods centers, such as
Cleveland and Detroit, construction is more im­
mediately susceptible to general economic ac­
tivity.

W EST NORTH CENTRAL STATES
Summary
Little change in construction activity seems
likely from that of recent prosperous periods.
This region, even to some degree its leading
metropolitan centers, is much more dependent
on farm prosperity than is the country as a
whole.
Background
The West North Central States— Minnesota,
Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota,
Nebraska, and Kansas— are the biggest farm
producers in the country. Their total farm in­
come exceeds that of any other region; and
they lead in the production of various farm
commodities, including livestock, poultry and
poultry products, corn, wheat, oats, barley,
and rye.
Throughout the entire region, farming is
the principal way of life. There are more people
engaged in agriculture than in any other ac­
tivity. All the States are more agricultural and
less industrial than the national average. About
31 percent of the 1940 population lived in met­
ropolitan districts.® However, the individual
States vary in the extent to which they con­
form to the over-all regional pattern. Popula­
tion and industry tend to be concentrated in
the eastern part of the region. The Dakotas
do not have a single metropolitan district, and
in both Kansas and Nebraska the metropolitan
districts are located near the eastern border.
The three easternmost States— Missouri, Min­
nesota, and Iowa— are fairly well industrial­
ized in comparison with the rest of the region.
Combined, they account for about 80 percent
of the region’s factory jobs.
Manufacturing is closely allied with agri­
culture. Food processing was by far the biggest
6
Within the region are 12 complete metropolitan districts and the
Iowa portion o f the Davenport-Rock Island-Moline district.




prewar industry, and, since the beginning of
the war, industrial growth has followed the
prewar pattern. Numerous small poultry-dress­
ing plants, milk evaporation and dehydration
plants, creameries, and canneries have been
established since the end of the war. There
was no real war production boom in the region.
Except for ordnance and explosive plants scat­
tered here and there, the bulk of the war ac­
tivity was confined to a few areas such as
Wichita and Kansas City (aircraft) and St.
Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul (aircraft, iron
and steel).
The majority of the cities in the region are
trading centers for surrounding farm country
and distribution centers for larger areas. In
most places, any manufacturing is largely food
processing. But this is not true of the three
largest metropolitan districts— St. Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Kansas City. In a num­
ber of smaller cities there is active manufactur­
ing outside of the food industry but much less
than is commonly found in cities of similar
size in the northeastern section of the country.
Postwar Construction
In 1947, new construction in the West North
Central States was valued at a little over 1.2
billion dollars. Missouri, with a construction
volume of approximately 278 million dollars,
was the leading State, while Minnesota and
Iowa followed closely in second and third posi­
tions, respectively. Construction expenditures
were smaller in the more rural States to the
west. Kansas and Nebraska had 207 million
and 122 million dollars worth of construction,
respectively. The two Dakotas combined had
not much over 120 million dollars worth.
Almost half of the total regional construction
bill consisted of nonfarm private building.
About 326 million dollars of this went for homes

105

buildings, and other publicly financed construc­
tion made up about one-fourth of the total.
Farm and public utility construction accounted
for the remainder.

and other residential building, and 235 million
dollars for nonresidential buildings (factories,
stores, offices, churches, etc.). Highway and
sewer construction, hospital and educational

Table 14.— Estimated expenditures for new construction, 19U7 and 1939
Private resi­
dential building

Total new
construction

Private nonresi­
dential building

Public
construction

Region and State
1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

[Millions of dollars]
West North Central.................
Minnesota...............................
Iowa.........................................
Missouri.................................
North Dakota........................
South Dakota.........................
Nebraska................................
Kansas....................................

1245.6
263.3
254.1
278.0
56.8
64.2
122.3
206.9

543.2
134.4
112.7
133.3
18.7
22.7
55.8
65.6

326.1
104.2
50.3
73.9
9.3
12.2
31.0
45.2

125.6
38.7
23.7
37.0
2.3
2.5
10.4
11.0

235.0
41.3
67.5
72.3
5.6
4.0
15.2
29.1

52.9
12.0
12.7
15.7
1.2
1.3
3.9
6.1

298.4
56.2
49.2
53.5
18.3
25.2
37.7
58.3

229.3
58.0
42.3
55.1
9.3
13.7
25.6
25.3

7.5
1.3
2.2
2.3
.2
.1
.5
.9

6.7
1.5
1.6
2.0
.2
.2
.5
.8

9.6
1.8
1.6
1.7
.6
.8
1.2
1.9

9.1
2.3
1.7
2.2
.4
.5

[Percent of U. S. total]
West North Central.................
Minnesota...............................
Iowa.........................................
Missouri.................................
North Dakota........................
South Dakota.........................
Nebraska................................
Kansas....................................

8.9
1.9
1.8
2.0
.4
.5
.9
1.5

8.6
2.1
1.8
2.1
.3
.4
.9

1.0

6.2
2.0

1.0
1.4
.2
.2
.6
.9

5.9
1.8
1.1
1.8
.1
.1
.5
.5

1.0
1.0

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Construction Materials, Statistical Supplement, June 1948, tables I, II, and III.

Since the beginning of the war, the West
North Central region has gained but slightly
with respect to construction. The 1947 volume
of new construction amounted to 8.9 percent
of the national total as compared with 8.6 in
1939. Three of the States (North Dokata,
South Dakota, and Nebraska), suffered popu­
lation losses from 1940 to 1948— 12.8, 3.6, and
1.3 percent, respectively. Gains made in Kansas
and in the three easternmost States brought
the regional average up to an increase of 3.2
percent, but there was not a single State where
the rate of population increase was as high as
the national average.
Although population in the region is still in­
creasing at a slower rate than in the Nation
as a whole, census -estimates for July 1948
show that significant gains have been made
in the postwar period. Up to the end of the war,

106




the West North Central States had been losing
population through migration for over a de­
cade. During the drought of the middle 1930’s,
thousands of farm workers migrated from the
dust-bowl States to California and other Pacific
States. After the war began, there was further
migration from West North Central farms to
war production centers in other parts of the
country, but with the coming of peace this
trend was reversed. Men began to return to the
farm as they were released from military ser­
vice or as their war jobs came to an end. High
farm prices and the end of the drought were
encouraging factors.
In the interval from 1939 to 1947, any gain
or loss among the various States in their share
of total construction activity was small, except
for Kansas, where there was an increase from
1.0 to 1.5 percent. Here, commercial and manu­

facturing activities, together with a postwar
rise in food processing, created sufficient em­
ployment opportunities to draw some of the
State’s farm population to its cities. A few
big aircraft factories in Wichita and Kansas
City were converted to the manufacture of
light metal products and other consumer goods.
Although peacetime employment in these plants
is much below the wartime level, it is still con­
siderably in excess of prewar. Kansas has also
benefited from its central geographic location
which makes its airports ideal transfer points
for airline traffic. Its airports are used as
operating offices and maintenance centers for
military and commercial aviation.
The Future
Construction activity in the West North
Central States should continue at the present
high level for at least the next several years.
It is not likely, however, that any new peak
will be reached. There is nothing to indicate
that the outlook for construction in the region
is any better or any worse than the outlook
for construction in the Nation as a whole. In
fact, in the prewar to postwar shakeup in the
distribution of construction, the position of
the West North Central States changed but
little. The region’s dollar volume of construc­
tion rose 129 percent from 1939 to 1947 as
compared with a national increase of 122 per­
cent.
High farm prices have done the most to bring
the region back to its prewar relative position
in the construction industry. Other than the
boost it has given to the over-all regional
economy, high farm income has made it pos­

sible for the huge farm construction backlog
which accumulated from the early thirties to
the end of the war to be translated into active
demand. Full em ploym ent, high wages, exports
under the Marshall Plan, price support for
the principal farm products, all point toward a
continuation of fairly high farm prices for some
time to come. The long-term outlook for agri­
cultural products is unpredictable, but certainly
any major reduction in farm purchasing power
would be a severe blow to construction activity
in the region.
In any event, it is not likely that the West
North Central States will increase their share
of the Nation’s construction. Since around
1890, the rate of population growth has lagged
behind that fo r the Nation as a whole. Popula­
tion grew at a rapid rate during the early years
of settlement, but, during the past 50 years or
thereabouts, the region has remained heavily
rural while other areas have become industrial­
ized. It is also likely that farm mechanization,
already greater here than in any other part
of the country, will continue to reduce farm
labor requirements, and that there will be some
further migration of surplus farm population
to other regions. This will mean a higher per
capita income for those remaining on the farm,
however, and hence will tend to encourage an
active farm construction program of new
buildings, modernization, and improvement.
Construction will tend to be concentrated
in the more populous parts of the region—
namely, Missouri, Minnesota, and Iowa, and
eastern Kansas and Nebraska. Locally, con­
struction will be most active in the largest and
most highly industrialized areas, such as St.
Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Kansas City.

SOUTH ATLANTIC STATES
Summary
For the region as a whole, the prospects for
increased construction activity are good. Ex­
ceptions are Maryland and Delaware, where
future population growth is likely to be rela­
tively slow. Sound growth is likely in those
States where expanding industry has not yet
exceeded agriculture in employment— Virginia,
West Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. In




Florida, active construction is likely during
periods of prosperity. For the District of
Columbia, long-range prospects are good, with
above-average stability in any depression.
Background
The South Atlantic is a loosely knit region,
running along the Atlantic seaboard from
Delaware and Maryland all the way down to

107

Florida, and stretching inland to include West
Virginia and the District of Columbia. Intraregional differences are very pronounced, es­
pecially between the northern and southern
parts of the region. Delaware and Maryland
have much in common with the Middle Atlantic
group of States (New York, New Jersey, and
Pennsylvania). Manufacturing is the major
activity; population density is high in com­
parison with the rest of the region. A large
part of West Virginia, in the northwestern
section of the region, is sparsely populated,
mountainous territory. The leading industry is
mining, manufacturing is second, and agricul­
ture is third. Government and trade and ser­
vice employment provide the bulk of the jobs
in the District of Columbia.
With the exception of Florida, the States
south of the District of Columbia are fairly
homogenous. North Carolina, South Carolina,
Georgia, and Virginia are a part of what is
commonly known as the southeast. Although
industrial development in recent years has been
rapid, this group of States is still primarily
agricultural. Cotton and tobacco are the agricul­
tural specialties. The trend is toward diversifi­
cation, but much of the farmland in this area
is still devoted to these crops. In manufactur­
ing, too, the emphasis is on a few types of
products, such as textiles, lumber, furniture,
and foods. Paper making has been an up and
coming industry ever since the thirties when
processes were developed for making news­
print and other grades of white paper from
southern pine. During the war there was largescale expansion in shipbuilding, aircraft, and
ordnance, but there was little permanent gain
in these lines. Advances were made, however,
in chemical manufacture — particularly in
chemicals made from wood pulp and cotton
linters. Moreover, textile, wood, food, and other
prewar industries employ many more people
now than before the war.
The last State— Florida— has a character all
of its own. It is the least industrialized of all
the South Atlantic States, with 12 percent of
its working population in manufacturing jobs
in 1940. Florida is an important agricultural
State. Its subtropical climate makes possible
an almost year-round growing season. Fruits
and vegetables, the principal crops, are shipped
north in large quantities. But the State’s large

108




resort business creates more jobs than any
other activity. In 1940, for instance, there were
as many people in personal service jobs as in
agriculture. Florida’s popularity as a resort
area has made it one of the fastest-growing
States in the Union.
In the States south of the District of Colum­
bia, much of the manufacturing activity is
scattered in small towns and cities. There are
numerous textile towns, furniture towns, etc.,
with the local economy centered on one in­
dustrial establishment. While this situation is
rather precarious for the town, it is consistent
with industrialization and its effect on con­
struction. Larger cities such as Atlanta, Rich­
mond, Charleston, and Jacksonville have a
variety of manufacturing establishments, but
they are primarily trading and distribution
centers. Shipbuilding, ship repair, and port
activities are important in the Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News area and in Charleston
(S. C.), Savannah, Jacksonville; and other
harbor cities.
Unlike the situation in the States to the south,
manufacturing in Delaware and Maryland is
concentrated in two large industrial centers—
Wilmington and Baltimore.
Wilmington is best known as the location
of administrative offices and research units of
several large chemical firms. Actual produc­
tion of chemicals is minor, but research and
administrative activities call for a large num­
ber of professional men, technicians, and whitecollar workers. Other leading industries in and
near Wilmington are leather tanning, textiles,
food products, iron and steel products, and
shipbuilding. There was wartime expansion
in shipbuilding, ordnance, metal and machin­
ery, and other industries. Despite large-scale
layoffs after VJ-day, manufacturing employ­
ment is still well above prewar.
Baltimore has a well-balanced economy, with
industry, commerce and finance all playing im­
portant roles. Among the foremost manufactur­
ing industries are iron and steel, shipbuilding,
chemicals, machinery, clothing, food processing,
and aircraft. Wartime expansion was very
great, but for the most part it was confined to
aircraft and shipbuilding. Although manu­
facturing employment is well in excess of pre­
war, sharp cuts in aircraft and shipbuilding

have brought it down to a level considerably
below the wartime peak.
In West Virginia, manufacturing is concen­
trated along the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers, in
such indutrial cities as Wheeling, Huntington,
Parkersburg, and Charleston. Leading branches
of manufacture are iron and steel; stone, clay,
and glass; and chemicals and allied products.
Because of its vast power resources— coal,
natural gas, water power— and its excellent
river transportation, West Virginia has a great
potential for industrial development. The war
brought about a large expansion of manu­
facturing facilities, particularly in chemicals.
Plant additions were also made for the pro­
duction of steel, synthetic rubber, explosives,
and various other goods. When the war ended,
manufacturing employment declined sharply,
but at the present time all branches of manu­
facturing are above prewar, with chemicals
taking the lead.
Postwar Construction
In 1947, total new construction activity in
the South Atlantic States amounted to over
1.8 billion dollars, or 13.3 percent of the
national bill. By far the most active construc­
tion State was Florida, with over 457 million
dollars worth of new construction. Among the
other States in the region, the dollar volume
ranged from slightly over 26 million dollars in
Delaware to nearly 293 million dollars in Vir­
ginia. The District of Columbia had approxi­
mately 78 million dollars worth of new con­
struction, not including adjoining suburban
areas in Maryland and Virginia.
Privately financed nonfarm building made
up over 60 percent of the regional bill, resi­
dential building alone nearly 43 percent. Public
construction— including public nonresidential
buildings, publicly financed housing, military
and naval installations, highways, conserva­
tion and development projects, etc.— accounted
for only 22 percent of total new construction.
The dollar volume of total new construction
in the region was 126 percent higher in 1947
than in 1939— compared with 122 percent for
the Nation as a whole. Within the region,
Florida was the only State to make any signifi­
cant gain. Florida showed a 23 percent in­
crease in civilian population from 1940 to 1948.




This, in conjunction with a postwar boom in
the tourist business, acted as a stimulus to
building activity, and Florida’s share of the
Nation’s construction rose from 2.1 percent
in 1939 to over 3.3 percent in 1947.
Four other States— Georgia, North Carolina,
South Carolina, and West Virginia— made small
increases in their portions of national con­
struction activity. Although these States lost
population to other areas during the war,7 a
farm-to-city movement increased their poten­
tial for residential building, and postwar in­
vestment in new industrial facilities further
encouraged urbanization.
No gains were made in the rest of the region.
The District of Columbia’s part of the Nation’s
construction fell from 1.3 percent in 1939 to
0.6 percent in 1947, Virginia’s from 2.5 to 2.1
percent, and Delaware’s from 0.3 to 0.2 per­
cent; Maryland’s part was unchanged at 1.6
percent.
The District of Columbia is not comparable
to any of the States because geographically it
is identical with the city of Washington, ex­
clusive of all surrounding suburbs. From the
early thirties to the end of the war, population
growth for the Washington metropolitan area
greatly exceeded that for the country as a
whole, and this growth was most rapid in the
Virginia and Maryland suburbs outside of the
central city. During most of this period, con­
struction (mainly Government buildings and
private housing) was much above the national
rate. This was reflected in the rate for the
District, with marked influence on the con­
struction rate for Virginia and less influence
on the rate for Maryland. Contraction of Fed­
eral employment following the end of the war
and a very low level of Federal construction
in the Washington area depressed construction
in the District of Columbia while it was being
stimulated elsewhere. They likewise depressed
construction in the adjoining parts of Virginia
sufficiently for a downward influence on the
State rate and had a similar but smaller effect
on Maryland. More recently, private construc­
tion in the Washington area has expanded.
Delaware drew a large number of migrants
during the war, but by 1948 civilian popula7 Civilian population gain from 1940-48 was 0.2 percent in Georgia,
0.7 percent in West Virginia, 3.9 percent in South Carolina, and 3.1
percent in North Carolina, as compared with a national increase
o f 10.6 percent, indicating out-migration.

109

Table 15.— Estimated expenditures for new construction, 19U7 and 1939
Private resi­
dential building

Total new
construction

Public
construction

Private nonresidential building

Region and State
1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

369.1
9.0
51.0
18.4
47.5
31.0
61.0
33.1
53.6
64.5

108.5
3.7
13.4
20.9
16.0
8.4
15.7
6.9
12.5
11.0

404.2
4.6
62.0
18.1
65.3
32.8
61.3
42.8
49.1
68.2

313.3
5.5
41.3
24.8
68.4
22.3
46.8
21.1
40.4
42.7

11.8
.3
1.6
.6
1.5

13.8
.5
1.7
2.7
2.0
1.1
2.0
.9
1.6
1.4

[Millions of dollars]
South Atlantic.........................
Delaware..............................
Maryland..............................
District of Columbia..........
Virginia................................
West Virginia......................
North Carolina....................
South Carolina....................
Georgia.................................
Florida..................................

1,853.2
26.0
225.1
78.1
292.7
148.9
267.7
126.8
230.8
'457.1

818.9
18.1
102.7
84.2
155.3
63.1
114.5
51.4
97.3
132.3

788.7
7.3
84.8
28.1
129.3
38.6
109.2
33.2
78.6
279.6

303.9
7.0
39.1
34.0
53.9
18.8
35.9
16.5
29.2
69.5

,

[Percent of U. S. total]
South Atlantic.........................
Delaware...............................
Maryland..............................
District of Columbia..........
Virginia................................
West Virginia......................
North Carolina....................
South Carolina....................
Georgia.................................
Florida..................................

13.3
.2
1.6
.6
2.1
1.1
1.9
.9
1.7
3.3

13.0
.3
1.6
1.3
2.5

1.0
1.8
.8
1.5
2.1

15.0
.1
1.6
.5
2.5
.7
2.1
.6
1.5
5.3

14.4
.3
1.8
1.6
2.5
.9
1.7
.8
1.4
3.3

1.0
1.9
1.1
1.7
2.1

13.1
.1
2.0
.6
2.1
1.1
2.0
1.4 .
1.6
2.2

12.5
.2
1.7

1.0
2.7
.9
1.9
.8
1.6
1.7

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Construction Materials, Statistical Supplement, June 1948, tables I, II, and III.

tion was only 11.6 percent greater than 1940.
Practically the entire wartime gain was due
to shipbuilding activity in and around Wil­
mington. After VJ-day, shipbuilding employ­
ment fell rapidly, and war migrants began to
leave the State.
The Future
Construction activity in the South Atlantic
States should continue at a high level for at
least the next several years, with probably some
increase in the physical volume for the region
as a whole. As long as prosperity continues,
Florida will maintain its position as the region’s
most active construction State. Good business
conditions have been a boon to the State’s
tourist trade, and this factor alone is enough
to keep the construction volume high. Miami,
the center of the largest winter resort area, is
one of the most active building areas in the
110




country. In 1947, this city ranked sixth in the
value of residential building permits issued
and eighth in the value of permits for all types
of building construction, although it was fortyeighth in rank, according to 1940 population.
If a depression should come along, construction
activity in Florida— particularly in resort
areas— would be more severely affected than
almost anywhere else in the country. However,
Florida should not be as hard hit by a future
depression as it was by the last one. The cur­
rent building boom is based on established
popularity as a resort area, whereas the boom
of the twenties was dependent primarily on
speculative land values which started to col­
lapse a few years before the beginning of the
general depression.
The other States south of the District of
Columbia should add to their share of the
Nation’s construction. The urbanization that
followed industrial expansion in these pre­

dominantly rural States has given rise to a
considerable demand for houses and other build­
ings to accommodate the increased urban popu­
lation. Gains made in per capita income since
before the war will boost construction indirectly
through their effect on the over-all economy.
West Virginia is another State that has
raised its potential for construction activity
by industrialization and urbanization. How­
ever, in Maryland and Delaware, where manu­
facturing is concentrated in established manu­
facturing centers, industrial expansion did not
have the same stimulating effect upon build­
ing activity. It is unlikely that either of these
States will improve its relative standing to any
marked extent.
Construction activity in and near the District
of Columbia depends on Government employ­
ment and on the Federal construction program.
The long-range outlook is probably for a fairly
high rate of activity. In the event of a depres­
sion, the area would be in a comparatively
favorable position because of steady Govern­
ment payrolls, and construction would prob­
ably be stimulated by replacement of temporary
and obsolete Federal buildings.
Over the long run, the outlook for increased
construction activity is very favorable in those
States which are developing industrially, al­
though still primarily dependent upon agricul­
ture or extractive industries. Georgia, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West

Virginia fall into this category. All have made
big industrial gains in recent years, and, in
the years to come, they will probably continue
to add to the number and variety of their manu­
facturing establishments. With farm mechani­
zation becoming more widespread all the time,
cities will continue to gain population from
surrounding farm areas. Also a more efficient
and diversified agricultural system will lead
to higher per capita income for a smaller farm
population. All this will have a stimulating
effect on construction activity, more than com­
pensating for any out-migration that might
take place.
Florida has been growing at a much faster
rate than the national average for every decade
since 1830. It is likely that the State will con­
tinue to draw migrants from other areas, even
though population gains may not be as large
as in the past. Consequently, except for set­
backs caused by fluctuations in general eco­
nomic activity, construction should be more
active in Florida than in the country as a whole.
Economically, Delaware and Maryland have
reached a stage of comparative maturity. Since
neither of these States is likely to experience
any relative gain in population, income, or em­
ployment, it seems likely that the future will
mean a smaller share of total construction
activity.
The outlook in the District of Columbia is
for a good, steady volume of construction, with
some increase if governmental services expand.

EAST SOUTH CENTRAL STATES
Summary
This region, now developing toward economic
maturity, should attain a larger share of the
national construction total. Industrial growth
and urbanization mean increased construction
potentialities in Tennessee and Alabama, and
to a smaller degree in Kentucky.
Background
The East South Central States (Alabama,
Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi) are all
primarily rural, farm States. Cotton is the big
money crop throughout the region, except in




Kentucky where tobacco is the agricultural
specialty. More and more, however, the East
South Central States are getting away from
the one-crop system. In Kentucky, corn, hay,
wheat, and other grains are grown in abun­
dance, and dairy, poultry, and truck farming
are on the increase. Tennessee still grows a lot
of cotton, but considerable headway has been
made toward all-around farming. In Alabama,
too, for a number of years cotton growing has
been less dominant. Corn has become an im­
portant crop, as have hay, oats, peanuts and
fruits of various kinds. The fourth State,
Mississippi, has kept to the one-crop system
111

more tenaciously than the others and is still
predominantly a cotton-growing State.
Despite the fact that the East South Central
States remain primarily agricultural, they have
made rapid industrial development in recent
years. Cheap hydroelectric power and the prox­
imity to raw materials, such as lumber and
cotton, have been the principal incentives for
the location of new industries in the region.
Cheap river transportation, expanding local
markets, and the prospect of recruiting an ade­
quate labor supply from the surplus farm popu­
lation, are other inducements. Naturally, the
greatest gains are being made in industries
which need the region’s cheap power and its
raw materials. Textile, lumber, and food
products industries are already firmly estab­
lished. More recent gains have been made in
manufacture based on wood — paper, wood
pulp, building board, and rayon — for which
the quick-growing southern timber can now be
used. The chemical industry branched out dur­
ing the war and continued to expand in the
postwar period.
Tennessee and Alabama have taken the lead
in industrial development and account for about
70 percent of the region’s manufacturing jobs.
Both States were given an especially big boost
by the war. Alabama had the greatest expan­
sion of war industry facilities, yet Tennessee
came out of the war and reconversion periods
a little better off in terms of manufacturing
employment. Ammunition manufacturing and
shipbuilding constituted a good part of war
production in Alabama and, of course, both of
these activities dropped after the end of active
hostilities. Recent growth in Tennessee was
more along peacetime lines. New industrial
projects for chemicals, rayon, and paper have
been initiated in Tennessee since the end of
the war.
Among the cities in the region, the largest,
in order of size, are Louisville, Kentucky; Bir­
mingham, Alabama; Memphis and Nashville,
Tennessee. Birmingham, an iron and steel cen­
ter, is the most highly industrialized city in the
group, with the bulk of the labor force engaged
in manufacturing. The other cities are pri­
marily trading centers and agricultural mar­
kets. Each has a variety of manufacturing
112




industries, but manufacturing employment is
secondary to trade and service.8
Postwar Construction
Expenditures for new construction in the
East South Central States amounted to a little
over 717 million dollars in 1947, or slightly
more than 5 percent o f the national total.
Tennessee had approximately 232 million dol­
lars worth, Alabama 187 million dollars, Ken­
tucky 178 million dollars, and Mississippi 120
million dollars. Private building construction
(excluding farm and utility construction) ac­
counted for about half of the regional bill. Over
191 million dollars was spent for residential
building and 153 million dollars for factories,
stores, offices, and other nonresidential build­
ing. Publicly financed construction (public
buildings, highways, military and naval con­
struction, etc.), plus farm and public utility
construction, made up the other half of the
regional total.
During the period from 1939 to 1947, the
region’s share of total construction activity
fell off to some degree. The regional total was
116 percent above prewar in 1947, compared
with a national increase of 122 percent. Sub­
stantial gains in private building were offset
by a drop in the region’s relative share of pub­
lic construction, bringing about an over-all
decrease. Mississippi had a particularly low
volume of public construction in comparison
with prewar, and it was this State that experi­
enced the greatest relative loss in total con­
struction activity. Tennessee fared better than
any of the other States. Public construction
was more active there. More important is the
fact that private nonresidential building was
several times that for 1939, although below
the level of 1946 when industrial building in
the State was greatly expanded by a few un­
usually large projects.
The construction picture for the region does
not follow any consistent pattern. Kentucky
and Mississippi lost population between 1940
and 1948, and both of these States showed a
decrease in their relative shares o f construc­
tion activity. Because of a postwar decline in
manufacturing activity— followed by a popu­
lation exodus— Alabama also had fewer resi8 Source: USES, Labor Market Information, Area Series.

Table 16.— Estimated expenditures for new construction, 191*7 and 1989
Private nonresi­
dential building

Private resi­
dential building

Total new
construction

Public
construction

Region and State
1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

lMillions of dollars]
East South Central................
Kentucky...............................
Tennessee.............................
Alabama...............................
Mississippi............................

717.3
177.7
232.2
186.9
120.5

332.0
89.3
90.5
81.0
71.2

191.1
39.7
59.2
60.6
31.6

66.0
19.3
20.9
16.3
9.5

153.2
35.7
53.9
46.4
17.2

30.2
9.7
9.3
8.9
2.3

217.4
54.6
74.7
49.3
38.8

187.5
45.0
48.5
45.4
48.6

4.9
1.1
1.7
1.5
.6

3.8
1.2
1.2
1.1
.3

7.1
1.8
2.4
1.6
1.3

7.5
1.8
1.9
1.8
1.9

[Percent of U. S. total]
East South Central................
Kentucky.............................. .
Tennessee..............................
Alabama...............................
Mississippi............................

5.1
1.3
1.7
1.3
.9

5.3
1.4
1.4
1.3
1.1

3.6
.8
1.1
1.2
.6

3.1
.9

1.0
.8
.6

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Construction Materials, Statistical Supplement, June 1948, tables I, II, and III.

dents in 1947 than before the war. However,
out-migration seems to have been checked once
the reconversion period was over. Census esti­
mates indicate that in July 1948, population in
Alabama was a fraction of a percent above
1940. The State’s share of construction activity
in 1947 was approximately equal to prewar.
Tennessee, which acquired new industries
after the war, showed significant population
gains in 1947 and 1948 over 1940, although
the increase was at a slower rate than for the
Nation as a whole. It was the only State in
the region to add to its share of total new
construction from 1939 (1.4 percent) to 1947
(1.7 percent).
The Future
The outlook for construction in the East
South Central States is very good for at least
the next several years. In comparison with the
Nation as a whole the region should at least
maintain its position if not improve it. This
would call for a considerable increase over the
present physical volume of construction, but
there is plenty of room for expansion. Public
construction expenditures in some parts of the
region are currently low, and, moreover, there
is a sizable backlog of demand for homes,




schools, recreation and other facilities in newly
created industrial centers.
The outlook is most favorable in Tennessee.
Although the postwar boom in industrial plant
expansion seems to have tapered off (as evi­
denced by the slump in nonresidential con­
struction in 1947), the war and postwar rise
in urbanization has increased potentialities for
residential building activity. Construction
prospects in Alabama for the next few years
are also good. Substantial gains were made in
1947 over 1946 in both residential and nonresi­
dential construction, indicating that the transi­
tion from war to peacetime economy is well on
its way toward completion. The outlook is es­
pecially good in and around the Birmingham
area. With the great demand for steel, the
Birmingham mills should be kept busy for
some time to come. Lately enacted f .o.b. pricing
has widened the market for Birmingham steel
to include most of the South. In Mississippi—
the most heavily rural State in the region— a
trend toward a relative decline in construction
may continue as surplus tenant farmers emi­
grate to more industrialized areas in other
States. Kentucky is a more populous and indus­
trialized State than Mississippi, but its war
and postwar record do not show strong likeli­
hood of increased construction activity for the

113

State as a whole. The Louisville area, on the
other hand, should be more active.
The long-range construction outlook depends
upon such factors as the prices of the region’s
farm products, the development of a more effi­
cient agricultural system, and the extent of
further industrialization. Farm prices are, of
course, unpredictable. But in other respects
there are definite probabilities of a brighter
future. In the first place, it seems certain that

farm mechanization will increase, resulting in
a smaller farm population— particularly fewer
tenant farmers— but with the higher average
family incomes for those remaining. It also
seems likely that new industries will continue
to move into the region to take advantage of
cheap power and abundant raw materials. The
recent partial adjustment in freight rates on
goods shipped out o f the South to northern
areas reduced a long-standing obstruction to
southern industrial growth.

W E ST SOUTH CENTRAL STATES
Summary
This is one of the most active construction
regions in the country, mainly because of one
State— Texas. The outlook is for continuing
industrial development, and hence the pros­
pects for increased construction activity are
much better here than in older and more indus­
trially mature regions.
Background
The four West South Central States— Ar­
kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas—
cover a vast but sparsely populated area, with
30 persons per square mile in 1940, as com­
pared with an average of 44 for the Nation as
a whole. Texas, by far the largest State, ac­
counts for three-fifths of the land area and
about one-half of the population. In spite of its
wide open spaces, the Lone Star State was the
most urban State in the region in 1940. Because
of subsequent population changes, it seems
likely that about half of the State’s population,
if not more, now lives in urban places. Of the
sixteen metropolitan districts in the region,
eleven are located in Texas.
Although the West South Central States are
becoming more industrialized all the time, they
are still mainly producers of raw materials.
The region is rich in natural resources, such as
petroleum, natural gas, salt, sulphur, and baux­
ite (aluminum ore). It is also one of the Na­
tion’s biggest farm producers. Cotton, wheat,
grain sorghum, rice, citrus fruits, vegetables,
and livestock are among the products that come
from southwestern farms and ranches.

114




For many years cotton held first place in
the region’s economic set-up. But, in the thir­
ties, increased attention was given to other
agricultural activities, and the raising of live­
stock and feed for livestock reached new im­
portance. By this time, petroleum extraction
and refining had become important industries.
Texas now supplies more oil than any other
State in the country. Dallas, Tulsa, Oklahoma
City, Houston, and some of the smaller south­
western cities benefited tremendously from the
oil bonanza. Not only did petroleum itself bring
spectacular fortunes but other products proved
profitable as well. Natural gas, for instance,
greatly increased the region’s resources, and
products of petroleum refining were an attrac­
tion for the synthetic chemical industry.
Although this is still far from being a great
manufacturing region, its industrial develop­
ment has been rapid in recent years. It got off
to a slow start at the beginning of the prewar
defense program. Most of the early industrial
expansion took place in established centers o f
production on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
But after this country entered the war, the
West South Central States came in for a very
large share of war industry. The abundance
of raw materials and the comparative safety
of its geographic location made the region an
ideal place for the establishment of war plants.
In the inland areas there were aircraft and
synthetic rubber factories and bauxite and
ordnance plants. And the deep-water ports—
New Orleans, Houston, and Galveston— were
busy with shipbuilding and ship repair. Natur­
ally, at war’s end many of these activities

to 11.3 percent of the national bill was second
only to that of the Pacific States. However,
Texas was chiefly responsible for the regional
gain. From 1939 to 1947, Texas rose from sixth
to second place in State ranking of construction
activity.
The spectacular construction gain made by
the West South Central States and Texas in
particular was caused to a large degree by an
intraregional movement from farm to city. A
large-scale farm exodus had begun some years
before the war, as cotton production declined
and southwestern farms became more mech­
anized. In those days most of the displaced
tenant farmers migrated to other parts of the
country. But once the war began, the surplus
farm labor moved to the region’s cities where
they were quickly absorbed by newly expand­
ing industries. The swelling city population
created a serious need for additional houses
and also for community facilities, both com­
mercial and noncommercial— stores, schools,
churches, recreational buildings, etc. Thus, a
very favorable construction situation devel­
oped, even though from 1940 to 1948 the re­
gion’s population increased at a slower rate
than that of the Nation. In fact, one of the
States, Arkansas, experienced an actual decline
in population and at the same time added to its
share o f construction.

slowed down or came to an abrupt halt. But the
region emerged from the reconversion period
much better off than before the war. Private
enterprise has taken over many of the Govern­
ment-financed plants. Some of the aircraft fac­
tories built during the war are still running
on a fairly active schedule. Important peace­
time industries (such as apparel, centered in
Dallas) are providing more jobs than ever
before.
Postwar Construction
In 1947, new construction in the West South
Central States was valued at over a billion and
a, half dollars. Texas accounted for almost twothirds of the total— more than 1 billion dollars
worth. Next was Oklahoma, with new con­
struction valued at 262 million dollars, whereas
Louisiana and Arkansas had 188 million and
152 million dollars, respectively. Nonfarm
private building made up about three-fifths of
the regional construction bill; residential build­
ing alone, almost 40 percent. The remainder
consisted of farm and public utility building,
plus the various public construction projects.
The West South Central States were one of
the two regions to increase their share o f the
Nation’s construction substantially over the
period 1939 to 1947. Their advance from 8.5

Table 17.— Estimated, expenditures for new construction, 19U7 and 1939
Total new
construction

Private resi­
dential building

Private nonresidential building

Public
construction

Region and State
1947

1989

1947

1939

1939

1947

1939

318.5 .
20.1
40.9
25.3
232.2

62.1
6.3
9.9
4.6
41.3

314.7
33.5
43.7
63.0
174.5

225.0
19.9
59.8
27.4
117.9

10.2
.6
1.3
.8
7.4

7.9
.8
1.3
.6
5.3

10.2
1.1
1.4
2.0
5.7

9.0
.8
2.4
1.1
4.7

1947

[Millions of dollars]
West South Central............... 1585.6
151.5
Arkansas..............................
188.4
Louisiana..............................
Oklahoma.............................
226.2
Texas................................... ,. 1019.5

538.7
45.0
104.6
71.8
317.3

616.9
51.7
60.9
75.6
428.7

150.7
7.6
24.3
22.6
96.2

[Percent of U. S. total]
West South Central................
Arkansas..............................
Louisiana..............................
Oklahoma.............................
Texas.....................................

11.3
1.1
1.3
1.6
7.3

8.5
.7
1.7
1.1
5.0

11.7

1.0
1.2
1.4
8.2

7.2
.4
1.2
1.1
4.6

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Construction Materials, Statistical Supplement, June 1948, tables I, II, and III.




115

Construction activity increased most in
Texas, primarily for two reasons. First, the
State had a greater wartime industrial expan­
sion than any of the other States. Second, it
was here that the farm-to-city movement was
strongest. Louisiana was the only State to
show a relative construction decline; but this
was principally because public expenditures in
the State had not picked up by the postwar
year 1947 to anywhere near their prewar rela­
tive position.
The Future
The outlook for construction in the West
South Central States is one o f continuing
growth in the long run as well as in the more
immediate future. Of course, even with re­
cent gains, the region’s construction market is
comparatively small. It ranks fifth among the
nine regions in the country. However, prospects
for an increase over the present construction
level are much more favorable here than in the
older and more settled regions.
Construction in the West South Central
States— as elsewhere— should be very active
for at least the next several years. Moreover,

this region’s record should be better than the
national average. In 1947, construction in the
West South Central States was 194 percent
above prewar, as compared with a 122 percent
national gain, and the region may further outdo
the Nation in the future. It is likely that its
1947 construction volume will be surpassed
when postwar readjustments are completed.
Within the region, Texas will continue to ac­
count for the bulk of the construction activity.
The State has done better than the other three
on almost all counts — industrial expansion,
population, and income gain, etc. Its favorable
climate and highly developed agriculture are
also in its favor.
The most active construction areas in the
region are Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth—
both centers of oil activity as well as various
other industries. Other principal cities are
San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and New
Orleans. Of course, quite a bit o f the residential
construction in this predominantly rural re­
gion will be scattered around the numerous
small cities and villages. Construction in Texas
will tend to be concentrated in urban centers
to a greater extent than in the other States.

M OUNTAIN STATES
Summary
The immediate and long-range outlook for
construction employment is good, although the
dollar value of construction expenditures will
be low because of the sparse population. For
most journeymen within these States, conser­
vation and development projects are more im­
portant for their stimulation to the region’s
economy (with resulting construction) than
for the construction employment immediately
afforded.
Background
The eight Mountain States (Montana, Idaho,
Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona,
Utah, and Nevada) cover almost 858,000 square
miles of land area— well over one-fourth of the
United States total and approximately 350,000
square miles more than the next largest geo­
graphic division. The climate is arid and much

116




of the land is mountainous, so that the popu­
lation is small. Even though regional growth
has well exceeded the national average for
every decade, save one, since 1850, the popula­
tion was only a little over 4 million in 1940—
slightly more than 3 percent of the national
total. Only one State, Colorado, had over a
million people; no other was as large as
550,000, and two were below 500,000. The 1940
population represented a density of not quite
5 persons per square mile as compared with a
national average of 44. There were about 11
persons per square mile in Colorado, 6 to 7
in Idaho and Utah, and less than 5 in all the
other States.
In 1940, almost 43 percent of the inhabitants
of the Mountain States lived in towns and
cities of 2,500 or more0 but there were few
,
9
This percentage (o f urbanization) is below those of New England
and the Middle Atlantic, East North Central, West North Central,
and Pacific States but above those o f the South Atlantic, East South
Central, and West South Central States.

large cities. Only four in 1940 had a population
o f 50,000 or over — Denver, Colorado (322,000) ; Salt Lake City, Utah (150,000); Phoe­
nix, Arizona (65,000); and Pueblo, Colorado
(52,000). Seven others were in the range from
25,000 up to 50,000. Two States in the region
(Wyoming and Nevada) had no cities as large
as 25,000.
Manufacturing plays a relatively small part
in this sparsely populated region. Most, but
not all, o f the industrial development that has
taken place is related to processing o f basic
materials— food, lumber, coal, oil, nonferrous
metals (smelting operations), iron ore (steel
manufacturing). In the beginning, the key to
the region’s growth was its mineral wealth.
Gold, silver, copper, coal, and other minerals
are still extracted in large quantities, but min­
ing is now second to agriculture. Although the
climate is very dry throughout most of the
region, much of the land is fertile and, under
irrigation, produces an abundance of grains,
fruits, vegetables, and other crops. Grazing
lands are extensive and in some sections live­
stock raising is on a par with crop farming.
Another source of regional wealth is petroleum,
which has come into prominence within recent
years. The climate and scenic beauty of some
parts of the region have given rise to a very
lucrative tourist business. In these areas, tour­
ist expenditures for accommodations and serv­
ices o f various kinds are very high in ordinary
times.
The war had less permanent effect on the
regional economic pattern here, than on the
Pacific coast or some parts of the South, even
though some of the Mountain States came in
for a good share of war production activity.
There was considerable wartime expansion of
industrial facilities, such as aircraft, nonfer­
rous metal, steel, and chemical plants, and some
o f these plants are being used for the produc­
tion of peacetime goods. But to a considerable
degree the boost was temporary. Except for a
few large installations, such as the steel plants
in Utah, there is not much evidence of increased
industrial capacity suited to peacetime needs.
Postwar Construction
In 1947, the dollar volume of total new con­
struction activity in this region amounted to
approximately 574 million dollars, or 4.1 per­




cent of the national bill. Colorado, the leading
State, had a little over 139 million dollars worth
of construction; Arizona was second with 101
million dollars, and New Mexico third with 69
million dollars. Among the five remaining
States, new construction expenditures ranged
from 36 million dollars in Nevada to a little
over 66 million dollars in Utah.
About 65 percent of the regional construc­
tion bill went for privately financed construc­
tion. About 158 million dollars of this was
spent for residential building, 87 million dol­
lars for factories, stores, offices, and the like,
and the rest for farm and public utility con­
struction. Public construction expenditures
accounted for a much smaller percentage of
the total than they normally do. In 1947, only
slightly more than 34 percent of the new con­
struction put in place was publicly financed, as
compared with about 57 percent in 1939.
From 1939 to 1947 the Mountain States’
share of the Nation’s construction went down
from 4.6 percent to 4.1 percent, but this is not
an indication of a permanent loss. Relative
gains were made in private residential and
nonresidential building, but publicly financed
construction was low in comparison with pre­
war. The region’s share of national expendi­
tures for conservation and development fell
from 21 percent in 1939 to 18 percent in 1947.
Such projects are much more extensive in the
Mountain States than in other parts of the
country, except for the Pacific States; and,
because of the small population, their effect
on total construction activity is much greater
in this region than elsewhere.
The Future
The immediate outlook for construction in
the Mountain States is very favorable; 1948
will probably turn out to be a much better con­
struction year for the region than 1947. Ex­
penditures for conservation and development
projects began to pick up considerably in 1947,
as compared with the previous year, and fur­
ther gains should be made in this type of
construction. A booming tourist business is
acting as a fillip to the whole regional economy,
as well as a direct stimulus to construction ac­
tivity; and, because of population increase, the
demand for residential building is good. As
elsewhere, the volume of construction activity

117

Table 18.— Estimated expenditures for new construction, 19U7 and 19S9
Total new
construction

Private resi­
dential building

Private nonresidential building

1947

1947

Total public
construction

Region and State
1947

1939

1939

Conservation
and
development

1939

1947

1939

18.2
2.2
1.2
1.8
4.4
1.8
2.6
2.4
1.8

196.2
24.0
19.0
22.5
44.0
22.1
39.2
15.1
10.3

165.7
33.7
9.8
14.8
36.7
17.7
28.3
14.9
9.8

70.1
10.6
9.0
9.3
16.3
4.0
15.8
2.6
2.5

65.1
19.6
1.3
6.4
8.4
7.6
13.9
3.2
4.7

2.3
.3
.2
.2
.6
.2
.3
.3
.2

6.3
.8
.6
.7
1.4
.7
1.3
.5
.3

6.6
1.3
.4
.6
1.5
.7
1.1
.6
.4

17.7
2.7
2.3
2.3
4.1

21.0
6.3
.4
2.1
2.7
2.5
4.5

1947

1939

[Millions of dollars]
Mountain..................................
Montana...............................
Idaho .....................................
Wyoming..............................
Colorado...............................
New Mexico.........................
Arizona.................................
Utah......................................
Nevada ..................................

574.3
64.0
59.0
40.6
139.0
68.7
100.9
66.4
35.7

289.3
48.0
23.4
27.9
66.1
32.1
41.6
33.1
17.1

157.9
10.3
14.8
5.9
42.2
19.6
21.8
26.4
16.9

54.0
4.9
4.9
3.6
14.6
5.1
7.0
9.9
4.0

86.5
9.2
8.4
2.3
21.2
10.2
18.0
12.4
4.8

[Percent of U. S. total]
Mountain..................................
Montana...............................
Idaho.... ................................
Wyoming............................ .
Colorado...............................
New Mexico.........................
Arizona.................................
U tah......................................
Nevada .................................

4.1
.5
.4
.3

4.6
.8
.4
.4

1.0

1.0

.5
.7
.5
.3

.5
.7
.5
.3

3.0
.2
.3
.1
.8
.4
.4
.5
.3

2.6
.2
.2
.2
.7
.2
.3
.5
.2

2.7
.3
.3
.1
,7
.3
.6
4
.2

1.0
4.0
.7
.6

1.0
1.5

Source: U. S. Department o f Commerce, Construction and Construction Materials, Statistical* Supplement, June 1948, tables I, II, and III-

is heavily dependent upon national prosperity.
In the event of a depression and the slump in
demand for heavy goods which inevitably goes
with it, the region’s mining industry and its
expanded steel industry would be especially
hard hit.
Although the dollar volume of construction
in the Mountain States is relatively small and
will be for some time to come, the long-range
outlook is one of continued expansion. The re­
gion is the nearest approach to a frontier in
this country and is still in a primary state of
industrial development. The basic industries
are agriculture and the extractive industries—
mining of metal and coal, lumbering, and oil
drilling. Further development of oil and coal
resources may be expected. Manufacturing be­
yond the primary processing of raw materials
is not extensive, and most of the more highly
manufactured goods consumed in the region
are made elsewhere. Consequently, in the years
to come, the Mountain States should increase
their share of the Nation’s population, income,

118




employment, and construction, in contrast to
the highly industrialized States which have
already reached full maturity and begun to
decline in relative importance.
In the long run, conservation and develop­
ment projects will give an indirect boost to con­
struction through their effect on the over-all
regional economy. Extensive irrigation, power,
and flood control projects are now under way
and others are certain to follow, although the
timing for these latter is unpredictable more
than a short time in the future. As these
projects come about, economic life of all sorts
will be stimulated: more land will be made
available for farming; more manufacturing
will come into the region; population and con­
struction activity will increase. It should be
noted, however, that conservation and develop­
ment projects are less significant than their
size might indicate, from the standpoint of
direct employment of people living near them
or even within the region. Since such jobs are

usually in sparsely populated localities, a work
camp is customary and most o f the workers
must come from elsewhere. The labor force on
such a project commonly includes a high per­
centage of unattached persons from distant
parts of the country. Journeymen living beyond

commuting distance of the project and having
family responsibilities ordinarily prefer to
work on small jobs near their homes. Their
employment prospect may be improved, how­
ever, by migration of other local journeymen
to the project.

PACIFIC STATES
Summary
Prospects for the volume of construction
employment in the near future are excellent
and, on a long-range basis, are much better
than for the Nation as a whole. Until the in­
migrants of recent years are fairly well assimi­
lated, construction employment will be depend­
ent on a high general level o f prosperity to a
considerably greater degree in this region than
elsewhere.
Background
The three Pacific States— California, Wash­
ington, and Oregon— constitute a closely inte­
grated region, with a favorable climate, many
resources, and a highly developed agricultural
economy. For many years population in the
West Coast States (particularly California)
has been growing at a much faster rate than
in the Nation as a whole. The region’ s wellirrigated farms, expanding oil production, its
lumber and its young industries have attracted
a continuous stream of migrants. In-migration
was especially heavy during the drought of the
middle thirties when thousands moved in from
“ Dust Bowl” areas between the Mississippi and
the Rockies. From 1930 to 1940 there was a
regional population increase of 19 percent. But
a greater wave of migration took place during
and following the war. Population grew by
leaps and bounds as newcomers came into the
region to work in its aircraft plants, ship­
yards and other war industries, and in its
army camps and naval bases; the influx has
continued to the present. It is estimated that
in July 1948 civilian population in the Pacific
States was 44.4 percent above 1940, compared
with a national increase of 10.6 percent. No
other regional group even approached this
record. The increases were over 40 percent for
each State— 44.3 for California, 49.3 for Ore­




gon, and 41.6 for Washington.
California accounts for about one-half of the
region’s land area, over 70 percent o f its popu­
lation, and approximately the same proportion
of its factory jobs. Its population in 1940
represented a density of 44 persons per square
mile, compared with a concentration o f 30
persons per square mile in Washington and 11
in Oregon. However, regional differences are
more accurately presented when State boun­
daries are ignored. The bulk of California’s
population and industry are concentrated in
the southern and central parts, extending from
the Mexican border north as far as San Fran­
cisco Bay and Sacramento. This section in­
cludes the Imperial Valley and other noted
fruit-growing
and
truck-farming
areas.
Northern California, Washington, and Oregon
are much alike. Although there are good fruit
growing, farming, and grazing tracts in some
sections, a large part of this country is covered
with thick forests. This is the Nation’s source
of several important kinds of lumber (Douglas
fir, western pine, redwood, and others) and of
softwood plywood. It is also the leading source
of some kinds of sea food.
The bulk of the wartime migration was to
the region’s four leading metropolitan districts,
each of which was an important war produc­
tion center. The Los Angeles metropolitan area,
the largest, had a population of over 3 million
in 1940, the San Francisco-Oakland area had
about a million and a half, and Seattle, Wash­
ington, and Portland, Oregon, had a little over
400,000 people each. Undoubtedly these are
much larger now. Although there were whole­
sale lay-offs in aircraft and shipbuilding, the
transition to a peacetime economy was fairly
smooth. Instead of the expected large-scale
exodus of workers, further in-migration took
place after the war was over.

119

Although factory employment and total em­
ployment in the region are below the wartime
peak, they are nevertheless considerably above
prewar. Peacetime industries are offering more
jobs than before, and many of the war plants
are being used for the production of consumer
goods. Trade and service establishments— an
important segment of the region’s economy—
were particularly short-handed during the war
and began hiring as soon as workers were re­
leased from war industries. Also, when the war
ended, the tourist trade began to get back on
its feet, and private homebuilders got back to
business in a big way. Food production, lumber
and oil production, major peacetime industries
which expanded during the war, continued to
find ready markets. Among the war-created
plants, iron and steel, nonferrous metal, ma­
chine tool and electrical equipment factories
have been converted to the manufacture of
peacetime products. Aluminum manufacturing
continues to be active, and the metal industry
in general seems t© have been permanently
stimulated by the war. Not only is there more
manufacturing than before the war but there
has also been an increase in the volume of
manufacturing for Nation-wide markets and of
assembling or manufacturing for the western
markets in branch plants of national firms.
Women’s clothing manufactured in and near
Los Angeles is now distributed throughout the

country. Doors and other stock millwork items
from the northwestern part of the region are
important older manufactures for the national
market.
Postwar Construction
In 1947, expenditures for all types of new
construction in the Pacific States amounted to
almost 2.4 billion dollars. The region was sec­
ond only to the East North Central States in
total dollar volume o f new construction; and
California, with over 1.8 billion dollars, ranked
first among all States. The other Pacific States,
Washington and Oregon, had 358 million and
196 million dollars, respectively.
The region led all others in the value of non­
farm residential building. Almost half of the
total regional bill (or about 1.2 billion dollars)
went for this type of building. A little over 515
million dollars was spent for nonresidential
buildings (factories, stores, offices, etc.). In
nonresidential building, the Pacific States, as
a group, were outranked by both the East
North Central and Middle Atlantic States; but
California led all other States individually.
Over the period from 1939 to 1947, the Pa­
cific States made greater construction gains
than any other region. The three States com­
bined increased their portion of construction
activity from 13.5 to 17.1 percent of the na-

Table 19.— Estimated, expenditures fo r new construction, 19U7 and 1989
Private nonresi­
dential building

Private resi­
dential building

Total new
construction

Public
construction

Region and State
1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

1947

1939

515.3
50.7
49.0
415.6

11 2.1

454.1
119.3
43.4
291.4

291.6
71.4
32.0
188.2

lMillions of dollars]
Pacific........................... ...........
Washington............. ...........
Oregon...................... ...........
California................. ...........

2388.1
358.0
195.7
1834.4

850.3
12 1.0

62.0
667.3

1157.9
125.0
79.0
953.9

364.2
24.9
14.4
324.9

11.4
6.8

93.9

[Percent of U. S. total]
Pacific.................................
Washington.............. .....
Oregon.................................
California....................

17

i

2 6

13.5
1.9

14

1.0

13 1

10 .6

2 2 .0

17.2

16.0

2.4
1.5
18.1

1.2

1.6

.7
15.4

1.5
12.9

14.3
1.5
.9
12 .0

14.7
3.9
1.4
9.4

11.7
2.9
1.3
7.5

Source: U. S. Department of Commerce, Construction and Construction Materials, Statistical Supplement, June 1948, tables I, II, and

120




in.

tional total. The region was one of the two
that came out of the war and the initial impact
of reconversion with a significant advance in
the relative volume of construction. All other
regions, except the West South Central States,
either lost in relative standing or at most made
slight gains. Among the Pacific States, Califor­
nia increased its share of the country’s total
construction from 10.6 percent in 1939 to 13.1
percent in 1947, the largest relative gain regis­
tered by any State. Washington and Oregon
likewise substantially increased their portions
of the national total.
The exceedingly high construction rate re­
flects the huge accumulated demand for addi­
tional houses, stores, and community facilities
created by a decade of in-migration. The hous­
ing shortage has been especially acute in and
around the major West Coast cities. Los Ange­
les is the most active construction area in the
United States. To illustrate, in 1947, Los An­
geles led all cities in the country in the value
of building permits issued. The city was at the
top in residential construction, stores and other
mercantile buildings, office and bank buildings,
and public buildings.
The Future
As long as prosperity continues, the building
industry will be more active in the Pacific
States than anywhere else in the country. Be­
cause of expanding population, it is there that
building needs (residential building in parti­
cular) are most acute. The accumulated back­
log is large enough to keep the volume of
building high for some time to come. But the




translation of this need into active demand
(and hence the continuation of the building
boom) is heavily dependent upon national
prosperity.
Over the long run, it is likely that construc­
tion in the Pacific Coast States will continue to
operate at a higher level than in the Nation as a
whole. Still a comparatively young, growing
region, the Pacific States are becoming more
industrialized. The war hastened this proc­
ess and brought a permanent advance in the
region’s economy. However, despite favorable
long-range prospects, construction will prob­
ably be more susceptible to business ups and
downs in this part of the country than else­
where. Formerly, the West Coast seemed to
have had some immunity against depression—
especially short-lived recessions. The slowmoving property income of the wealthy and
the fixed income o f retired people acted as a
cushion against fluctuations in business activ­
ity. But— principally because of gains made in
factory employment since the beginning o f the
war— these stabilizing influences are less sig­
nificant than in the past. Moreover, wages will
become an increasingly important part of re­
gional income as industrial development con­
tinues. The large wartime influx of population
is another unstabilizing influence. As a result
of large-scale in-migration, a much greater
proportion of the working population is now
dependent upon a full-employment, high-wage
economy. This is probably more true in a
region with so many recent migrants than in
older industrialized parts of the country where
the industrial population has more firmly estab­
lished personal ties.
# U . 8. G O V E R N M E N T P R IN T IN G O F F I C E : 1949— 840165

121


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102