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.lob p ro sp e c ts
D u tie s
E a rn in g s
VZo rkin s: c o n rfiW ' n s


• BULLETIN No. 895


Cover picture .— M ach in ist

using a micrometer to measure a part being

m achined on an engine lathe.

W orking to close tolerances is an impor­

tant part of a m achinist’s job .


L. B. Schwellenbach, Secretary

Ewan Clague, Commissioner


Bulletin No, 895

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D . C.
Price 20 cents


U nited S tates D epartment of L abor,
B ureau of L abor S tatistics,
T he S ecretary of L abor :

Washing ton, D.

£7., March 27,

I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on the employment outlook
in machine shop occupations. This is one of a series of occupational studies
prepared in the Bureau’s Occupational Outlook Division for use in vocational
counseling of veterans, young people in schools, and others considering the
choice of an occupation. The present study was prepared by Richard H.
Lewis and Caiman R. Winegarden wTith the assistance of Abraham Ringel.
The Bureau wishes to acknowledge the cooperation received from other
Government agencies and from unions, trade associations, trade periodicals,
and companies in the machine shop field.
H on . L. B. S chwellenbach ,

Secretary of Labor.


E wan Clagtje, Commissioner.


Machine shops and machine shop work_________________________________________
Nature of machine shop work_________________________________
Number and kinds of machine shop jobs___________________________________
Where machine shop workers are employed______________________________ _
Working conditions________________________________________________________
What it’s like to work in a machine shop______________________________
Hazards in machine shop work_________________________________________
Other conditions affecting the work____________________________________
Outlook for machine shop employment,__________________________________________
Trends in metalworking industries__________________________________________
Outlook for machine shop workers in nonmetal industries___________________
Effects of technological changes on machine shop employment______________
Future trends in machine shop employment________________________________
Opportunities in individual occupations_________________________________________
All-round machinists_______________________________________________________
Where employed_______________________________________
Employment outlook__________________________________________________
Chances for advancement______________________________________________
Tool and die makers_______________________________________________________
D uties_________________________________________________________________
Where employed______________________________________________________
Employment outlook__________________
Chances for advancement_____________________________________________
Machine tool operators_________________
Where employed______________________________________________________
Employment outlook___________________________________
Chances for advancement______________________________________________
Set-up men________________________________________________________________
Lay-out m en_______________________________________________________________
Getting a machine shop job_____________________________________________________
Opportunities for training in machine shop work___________________________
Other on-the-job training_________
Trade or vocational schools____________________________________________
Choosing a machine shop occupation_______________________________________
How to get more information about machine shop jobs_____________________
Additional Bureau of Labor Statistics information on machine shop work___
Appendix.— Employment in metalworking industries, 1899 to October 1946_____






Machine shop work represents an important
field to a young person interested in the choice of
an occupation. Because of the size of the field—
well over a million workers were employed at the
wartime peak in 1943—opportunities arise for
many men to enter each year. Machine shop jobs
are the largest single group of skilled jobs in man­
ufacturing, and therefore offer many workers the
chance to earn better-than-average wages. Fur­
thermore, machine shops are widespread through­
out the country, and are found in many different
industries, so that openings occur in every State.
The machine shop worker is a key figure in this
age of metal. His work is essential in the manu­
facture of automobiles, railway cars, airplanes,
farm machinery, and a thousand other products.
In addition, he makes and repairs machinery used
to manufacture these products, and even the ma­
chine tools which make all other machines. It is
easy to see the critical importance of machine shop
workers in our economy.
Machining is one of the five principal methods
of shaping metal; the others are casting, forging,
rolling, and stamping. Casting, one of the oldest
methods, consists of pouring molten metal into a
mold and letting it harden into the shape of the
mold. Forging, once done by the old-time black­
smith with his hammer and anvil but now more
commonly done by a forging machine, involves
heating the metal to soften it and then pounding
it into shape. Metal is made into sheets or bars
by rolling or squeezing it between large rolls, as
is done in a steel rolling mill. Sheet metal can be

further formed by stamping it with a die shaped
like the final products.
Machining differs from these other methods in
that it involves cutting, shaving, or grinding a
piece of metal down to the desired shape, or drill­
ing holes in it. To machine hard metals is not
easy; and the process is an expensive one, because
it takes so much time. But the advantage of ma­
chining is that it can be very precise; and where
each thousandth of an inch counts, machining is
the method most commonly used. In the manu­
facture of many metal products, machining begins
where casting, forging, or rolling leaves off: the
piece of metal is first shaped roughly by one of
these methods, and then finished to precise meas­
urements by machining. Metal objects which must
fit together exactly, as in the moving parts of an
engine, must usually be machined.
The place of machining among metalworking
processes is shown by the way an automobile is
made. The body and fenders are stamped out of
rolled sheet metal. The engine, chassis, and trans­
mission system have many parts which are first
cast, such as the cylinder block, or forged , such as
’the axles, and then finished off by machining.
Many other parts of the engine and frame are
machined from rolled steel. Finally, the rolling
mill which makes the steel sheets and bars, the
drop-hammer which forges the axle blanks, the dies
which stamp the fenders and body, the molding
machine used in the foundry where cylinder blocks
are cast—all of these contain parts which have
been machined.


Machine Shops and Machine Shop Work
Nature of M achine Shop W o rk

Machining is done by machine tools, and a ma­
chine shop is simply a workplace in which machine
tools are used. A machine tool is a power-driven
machine which firmly holds both the piece of metal
to be shaped and a cutting instrument, or “tool,”
and brings them together so that the metal is cut,
shaved, ground, or drilled. In some, the tool is
moved and the metal held stationary; in others,
the metal is moved against a stationary tool.
The most common kinds of machine tools include
the engine lathe, turret lathe, grinding machine,
boring mill, drilling machine, milling machine,
screw machine, shaper, and planer. The operation
of lathes is known as “turning.” The piece of
metal being cut is rotated against the cutting tool
General view of a small job machine shop.

held in the machine. Boring mills and drilling
machines are among the machines that make holes
in metal. Grinding machines remove metal with
a power-driven abrasive wheel. Milling machines
shape metal with a saw-toothed cutting tool.
Planers and shapers are used to plane flat surfaces.
A screw machine is a type of lathe.
Some machine shops manufacture metal prod­
ucts and others do maintenance work—making or
repairing metal parts for equipment in use. The
manufacturing shops are of two main types—job
shops and production shops—depending upon the
way their production is organized.
In job shops, the earliest developed, a wide
variety of products may be made, with relatively
few of each kind. Some job shops produce parts
to order for a number of different manufacturers

Before the w ar this plant made dairy and milk plant equipment.

In this wartime scene, the

shop is turning out submarine valves and aircraft parts.

for use in their products. In other cases, the job the frequently changing nature of the work, means
shop is a department of a plant making finished that their workers are often called upon to shift
products, such as certain types of machinery, from one type of machine to another. In some
which either are custom-made or of which a wide cases an individual worker may carry through to
range of models must be produced to meet the completion all the machining operations on one
special needs of the users. For example, a com­ part. For these reasons, the job shop must employ
pany manufacturing pumping equipment may a number of men who are all-round workers—able
have an order from a city for six specially designed to operate all the standard types of machine tools,
pumps in connection with a sewage disposal and having a broad knowledge of machine-shop
project. The machining needed in the making of practices. Maintenance shops are similiar to job
shops in their operation and may employ an even
these pumps would be done in a job shop.
Production shops, on the other hand, make large higher proportion of all-round workers.
shops, because of the large quanti­
quantities of identical parts. Very commonly tiesProduction
produced, are able to use
their output goes into products such as automobiles many workers whoparts
do only simple, repetitive
or household appliances, of which large numbers operations on one machine.
work is planned
of units of the same model are sold. In this way, in such a way as to limit theThe
the machine shop of an automobile parts manufac­ bility required of the operator. and responsi­
turer may be called upon to turn out thousands
production shops employ skilled special­
upon thousands of gears of the same design, or a izedMany
to set up the machine tools (adjust
company making radios will have its machine shop the controls and
set the cutting tools in place
produce a great many of a particular radio part. for proper machining
a desired object), which
A production shop, like a job shop, may be an in­ is the most complicatedof part
of the job. When
dependent concern which sells to other companies a job has been set up for him, the
operator merely
or may be a department of a plant manufacturing
or castings into
metal products.
and check the
There is also an intermediate type of shop, in
which the quantities of identical parts made are
greater than in job shops and smaller than in shops use a number of “special purpose machines,”
strictly production shops. Many plants manufac­ which are designed to perform only one certain
operation and therefore do not need special ad­
turing machine tools have shops of this kind.
These machines are highly automatic
Maintenance shops make or repair parts for
need little skill. As a result
metal equipment and are usually operated in con­
possible in production
nection with the business that uses the equipment.
Thus, a large textile mill or a cigarette factory is $hops, the proportion of skilled workers with
experience is much smaller than in job
likely to have a machine shop which makes re­ wide
and maintenance shops, where versatility and
placement parts for the machinery in the plant. individual
skills are important.
Most maintenance shops are departments of man­
ufacturing firms; but they are also found in every
kind of business that uses metal equipment, as, Number and Kinds of M achine Shop Jobs
for example, in railroad repair shops, electric
Machine shop workers are the largest occupa­
power plants, and large office buildings.
tional group in metalworking and one of the most
Whether a shop is a job, production, or mainte­ important groups in all industry. At the peak of
nance shop has a lot to do with the way its work war employment, in December 1943, about 1,200,000
is carried on and the duties of its employees. Be­ workers were employed in the skilled and semi­
cause of the variety of the work in job shops, most skilled machining occupations. In addition, there
of the machine tool operators must know how to do are many thousands of other workers, such as in­
a number of different types of work. They must spectors, helpers, and laborers, who are also em­
know the working properties of different metals ployed in machine shops. Estimated employment
and how to adjust the machine tools to make parts as of December 1943 for the occupations most di­
of many different shapes and sizes. Moreover, rectly involved in machining operations is shown
job shops are usually small, and this, together with in chart 1.












Of these workers, tool and die makers are the
most skilled. Tool makers build the cutting tools
which are used in machine tools, the jigs and fix­
tures which hold the work while machining opera­
tions are performed, gages for measuring the work,
and various special attachments. Die makers
build the dies used in forging, stamping, die cast­
ing, and plastics molding.
The basic machine shop job is that of the all­
round machinist. Machinists are employed mainly
where workers are needed who are qualified to per­
form any of the operations in a machine shop
rather than to work on only one type of machine.
Thus, jobs for machinists are found mainly in
jobbing and maintenance shops, relatively few
being found in production shops.
The specialized operators of machine tools make
up the bulk of the workers in machine shops.
These workers may be either relatively skilled men
who can handle a variety of work on one type of
machine, including the making of adjustments on
the machine, or they may be less-skilled operators
whose duties are confined principally to placing the
workpiece in the machine and watching its
Two other specialized jobs found in many ma­
chine shops, particularly production shops, are
those of set-up men and lay-out men. Set-up men
adjust and prepare the machine tools for operation
by less-skilled employees. Lay-out men mark
guide lines on metal so that operators can know
where to machine and how much material to
W here M achine Shop W orkers A re

Because of their importance in making metal
products, machine shop workers are employed
principally in the metalworking industries.
Nearly every industry, however, employs some
machine shop workers in maintenance work. In
1940, a fairly typical peacetime year, about 70
percent of all the workers in the machine shop
occupations had jobs in metal industries like
machinery, automobiles, and iron and steel. From
chart 2 it can be seen that in 1940 the largest
single group of these workers, within the metal­
working industries, was in plants manufacturing
machinery and similar products, which employed
about 27 percent of the total. Second in
729956°— 47 ------- 2

importance was the group of industries making
iron and steel and iron and steel products (such
as plumbing and heating equipment, castings, and
hardware), accounting for 15 percent. The auto­
mobile industry, with 12 percent, and electrical
machinery plants, with 7 percent, were the next
largest employers of machine shop workers.
Most of the remaining machine shop workers
were found in the maintenance shops of a large
number of nonmetalworking industries, includ­
ing, for example, railroads, public utilities, and
plants making such products as cotton textiles,
paper, cigarettes, chemicals, and food. Even
though the number of machine shop workers in
most nonmetal industries is small, these indus­
tries, taken together, are important as a source
of employment for machine shop workers since
they provided almost a third of the jobs for them
in 1940. Moreover, in many cases the machine
shop jobs rate among the better job opportunities
in the plant and its locality, as, for example, in
many textile mills in southern towns.
The wartime demand for munitions resulted in
a great expansion of employment in metalwork­
ing industries. The number of machine shop
workers doubled, and the proportion of total ma­
chine shop workers who were employed in these
industries increased from 70 percent in March
1940 to over 80 percent in December 1943. Chart
2 shows that the largest relative gain in employ­
ment of machine shop workers occurred in aircraft
plants. There was also a sharp increase in the
automobile industry, which during the war pro­
duced a large quantity of aircraft engines, tanks,
and other munitions, as well as trucks for military
use. The number of machine shop jobs in the
machinery and electrical machinery industries
more than doubled, most of this rise occurring in
plants converted to war production. The iron
and steel industry group also increased substan­
tially its employment of machine shop workers,
largely in newly built ordnance plants and in
plants converted to ordnance manufacture.
The ending of the war has tended to restore the
prewar status of the industries in terms of their
relative importance as sources of jobs for machine
shop workers. The production of aircraft, ships,
and ordnance has fallen to a fraction of the war­
time output, while employment gains have been
made by many of the nonmetal industries whose
activities were restricted during the war.







-----------------------1-------------------- 1-------------------1—













Percent of machinists and tool and die makers employed in each region and State, March 1940 1

Region and State

United States

Percent of

100. 0

New England
New Hampshire
Rhode Island

12. 6

Middle Atlantic
New York
New Jersey

25. 9
10. 7
5. 5
9. 7

East North Central
Indiana _

37. 2
10. 1
3. 8
9. 1
10. 6
3. 6

West North Central
Iowa. .
North Dakota
South Dakota
N ebraska

4. 7
1. 0
1. 2
1. 6

South Atlantic
District of Columbia

6. 9
1. 7


6. 1
1. 3
3. 8

Percent of

Region and State

South Atlantic— Continued
Virginia West Virginia
North Carolina
South Carolina
East South Central



1. 4


2. 6

West South Central

2. 7
1. 7

New Mexico

1. 2


6. 2
4. 9

1 Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, Population, Volume III, The Labor Force, Reports by States, Parts 2 to 5 . Based on the number of males
reporting themselves employed as machinists, die makers, or tool makers. Excludes those employed on public emergency work.


Because so many machine shops are in metal­
working industries, the bulk of them are found in
the northeastern and middle western sections of
the country, where these industries are concen­
trated. Some machine shop employment, how­
ever, is scattered throughout the country in rail­
road repair shops and the maintenance shops of
other industries. There are machine shop jobs in
every State. From the table on p. 7 one can get
an idea of where the job opportunities are located.
W orking Conditions
What It’s Like To Work in a Machine Shop

Machine shop work cannot be described by paint­
ing a simple picture of a typical machine shop.
If you think about the many industries that have
machine shops and the different types of machine
shops, you can see that one machine shop can be
very different from the next, depending upon its
size, whether it is a job shop, maintenance shop,
or production shop, and what kinds of products it
Shops can range from the large modern shop
with long rows of machine tools busily chewing
into metal, to the small maintenance shop occupy­
ing a little corner of the factory floor in which a
few standard machine tools have been placed. In
general, the work surroundings compare favor­
ably with those in other types of metalworking
Most machine shops are relatively clean and
free from dust, compared with many steel mills
and iron foundries. However, some machine
shops are dirty and hot, because they are near the
heat-treating or casting departments of a plant.
There is usually considerable noise in a large shop.
Most machine shops are well-ventilated, and good
lighting is provided to aid in achieving the accu­
racy which is so important in machining opera­
tions. Large establishments, particularly pro­
duction shops, often have overhead cranes or other
materials-conveying devices.
Great physical strength is not required for
machine shop work. The workers, however, usu­
ally must stand at their jobs most of the day,
and be able to move about freely. Since continu­
ous attention is required when the machine is in
operation, the work may often be rather tedious,

especially on simple and repetitive machining jobs.
Where the work is varied and complex, and the
standards of accuracy high, the worker can con­
sider himself a real craftsman and experience the
satisfaction that this feeling gives to the con­
scientious and capable person. Because the_ work
is not physically strenuous, many women are em­
ployed as machine tool operators. However, most
of them are employed in some of the less-skilled
machining operations, practically none being
found among the tool and die makers and all­
round machinists and relatively few among the
skilled machine tool operators.
Hazards in Machine Shop Work

The danger of serious accident in machine shops
is relatively small. Workers are sometimes in­
jured by flying chips of metal or by the sharp
points of cutting tools. In cleaning away metal
chips or shavings from the machine it is possible
for the worker to be hurt if he is not careful.
However, ordinary safety precautions are usually
sufficient to keep the machine tool operator from
harm. The industries in which machine shop
workers are employed generally have average or
better-than-average safety records, in comparison
with manufacturing industries in general.
Other Conditions Affecting the Work

The great majority of machine shop workers are
members of unions. There are a number of labor
organizations in this field, some of the more im­
portant of which are the International Association
of Machinists (independent), the United Electri-'
cal, Radio and Machine Workers of America
(CIO), the United Automobile, Aircraft, and
Agricultural Implement Workers of America
(CIO), and the Mechanics Educational Society of
America (independent).
The extent to which seasonal lay-offs can affect
the employment of machine shop workers is
largely dependent upon the type of industry.
Maintenance workers usually tend, however, to
have relatively steady employment no matter
which industry they are in. The automobile in­
dustry is an example of one that has usually had
marked variation in activity at different times of
the year. In addition to affecting workers in the

automobile industry itself, these changes also influence the regularity of the employment in many

tool and die jobbing shops which supply special
dies and jigs to automobile plants.

Outlook for Machine Shop Employment

The number of jobs for machine shop workers
in the future depends upon the production trends
of the industries in which they are employed and
also upon the effects of technological changes.
Trends in Metalworking Industries

Since metalworking industries employ by far
the bulk of the machine shop workers it is to these
industries that we must look for the chief indica­
tion of what is likely to happen to machine shop
employment. Metalworking industries have many
machine shop workers in maintenance jobs, but
the greater number are in production jobs. The
number of jobs for these workers is affected di­
rectly by the demand for the industries’ products.
Prospects are favorable for a high level of
activity over the next several years in the metal­
working industries. Although somewhat below
the wartime production peaks, the volume of out­
put expected will be considerably above the totals
in the years immediately preceding the war. De­
spite the fact that progress in restoring civilian
production has been somewhat retarded by ma­
terials shortages and labor disputes, employment
has thus far been maintained fairly well.
Many of the most important metalworking
industries currently have particularly strong de­
mands for their products. The accumulated de­
mand for automobiles should mean that this
industry, one of the largest employers of machine
shop workers, will have a high volume of produc­
tion for several years. The manufacturers of ma­
chinery, both electrical and nonelectrical, have a
large volume of orders from companies which are
expanding their productive capacity or replac­
ing existing equipment with more efficient ma­
chinery. As construction activity continues to
gain there will be heavy demands for many types
of metal products used in construction. Plumb­
ing and heating equipment is just one important
example. The needs for many types of consumer
goods such as electrical appliances, refrigerators,
radios, and vacuum cleaners will help to keep
metalworking activity at a high point over the

next several years, unless a sudden drop in general
business activity occurs.
Favorable employment conditions in these indus­
tries for the next several years should help to pro­
vide opportunities to get into the machine shop
field, but in considering the desirability of enter­
ing this field, the long-run prospects for the em­
ploying industries are more significant. This is
particularly true because many of the occupations
require as much as a 3- to 5-year learning period.
The conditions prevailing after the end of this
training period are more important in deciding
whether to begin machine shop training than are
the conditions at the time of entrance into training.
The long-run trends of activity in metalworking
industries are related more to the basic nature of
the demands for metal goods than to the tempo­
rary accumulation of demand, which is the impor­
tant factor in the immediate future.
Metal goods are more durable than most other
types of goods. This means that they can be used
longer and that purchase of new goods to replace
the old can often be postponed. A large proportion
of metal products is machinery and other indus­
trial equipment. When the business outlook ap­
pears favorable, manufacturers often buy addi­
tional equipment; when things look bad they may
even hold off buying needed replacements. Be­
cause metal goods are durable and much of the
demand for them is so strongly influenced by gen­
eral business conditions, there have often been
great variations from year to year in the quantity
The trend of metal products output, although
marked by extreme ups and downs, has been gen­
erally upward for many decades. Between 1899
and 1914 there was a substantial increase in ac­
tivity in metalworking industries, as shown by
employment trends in chart 3. During World
War I there was a great jump in employment in
these industries, with the big gain in shipbuilding
the most important factor. After the drop in
the depressed postwar year of 1921, employment
in the group, stimulated partly by the strong de­
mands for automobiles and other consumer goods,
rose again until it approached 3 million in 1929.

The extremely sharp fluctuations in the trend
in metalworking activity between prosperous and
depressed periods are shown in chart 3 by the sub­
stantial dip in employment that occurred between
the high level of 1929 and the bottom of the depres ­
sion in 1932 and 1933. By 1937, employment in
these industries had risen until it slightly exceeded
the 1929 mark. The trend was again sharply
downward in 1938, but by 1940 the long-run up­
ward movement was resumed.
The Second World War, bringing its almost
insatiable demands for production, affected all
parts of the American economy, but nowhere was
its influence greater than on the metalworking
industries. The military machine needed vast
quantities of metal munitions—ammunition,
aircraft, ships, tanks, and transport vehicles. The
result, as chart 3 shows, was that employment in
the metalworking industries more than doubled
from 1940 to 1943.
The first big jump came in 1941, when the de­
fense program was getting into full swing, but
the rise continued at an undiminished rate in
1942 and 1943 as entry into the war brought the
country into a full-scale armament program.
Increases in employment occurred in all of the

metalworking industry groups, but the greatest
gains were made by the producers of ships and
aircraft. These two industries employed a total
of 155,000 production workers in January 1940;
by December 1943 well over 2 million were needed
to staff the aircraft plants and shipyards.
The last months of 1943 marked the high point
of the war as far as employment in the metal in­
dustries was concerned. Some of the first cut­
backs in munitions production, combined with the
effects of drafting workers into the armed forces,
caused a gradual decline in employment in these
industries during 1944 and the first 6 months of
1945. With the end of hostilities in Germany and
Japan, employment took a sharp dip in the fall
of 1945. Since then, employment in the metal
industries tended, except for the period of major
strikes in early 1946, to increase slowly but steadily
through the first 10 month of 1946 even though
employment in aircraft and shipbuilding con­
tinued to decline.
The picture we thus have of the long-run trends
in the metalworking industries is one of generally
steady growth between 1899 and 1929; depressed
conditions during much of the thirties, but with
a high measure of recovery toward the end of that








decade; a phenomenal expansion during World
War II; and some postwar reduction that still
leaves employment considerably above what it
was in the prewar years.
In looking at the future of metalworking it
seems likely that with continued growth of popu­
lation and national income, and development of
new products, a long-range upward trend in the
volume of output is in prospect. Metal products
will continue to be an important part of total
industrial production, and there is nothing to in­
dicate that the upward trend in metalworking ac­
tivity has reached its limits. New uses for metal
are constantly being found, and the mechaniza­
tion of industry (which requires metal equipment)
is continuing. Some of the substitutes for metal
products, such as plastics, compete effectively with
metal only for certain uses. It must be remem­
bered, however, that, as shown in chart 3, the
metal industries have been severely affected by
business depressions.
O utlook for M achine Shop W orkers
in Nonmetal Industries

Although only a relatively few machine shop
workers are employed in any single nonmetal ac­
tivity, such as textile manufacturing, oil refining,
woodworking, or trade and service, taken as a
whole these fields provide a substantial number of
machining jobs. Since the machine shop workers
in these industries are engaged in maintenance
work, repairing and replacing parts of machines
and other equipment, the number employed in a
particular industry does not necessarily vary di­
rectly with its output. Machine shop workers are
usually only a very small part of the total em­
ployment in a nonmetalworking industry. In
general, employment of maintenance workers in
an industry tends to remain fairly constant over
short periods but moves upward or downward with
substantial changes in the volume of production.
In most industries, a certain number of mainte­
nance workers is needed even when production
falls to very low levels.
There are some nonmetal industries whose needs
for machine shop workers are closely related to
the volume of production. An example of this is
plastics fabricating, which uses machine shop

workers to make the molds in which many plastic
products are formed.
Prospects are good for a rise in machine shop
jobs in nonmetal industries in the next several
years. Many of these industries are increasing
their output to take care of the strong demands for
their products, as the consuming public, with em­
ployment and pay-rolls at high levels, rushes to the
stores to buy food, clothing, shoes, and other nonmetal goods. In addition, many industries were
unable to keep enough machine shop workers dur­
ing the war and will try to hire more to have the
number needed for efficient operation.
An important point affecting the long-run re­
quirements for machine shop workers in these in­
dustries is that increased mechanization of plants,
although tending to reduce the needs for other
employees, creates more jobs for maintenance
workers. The nonmetal industries also tend to be
more stable in their rate of production, and main­
tenance has a fixed importance in their operation.
This means that these industries will continue to
offer regular employment to a large number of
machine shop workers.
Effecfs of Technological Changes on
M achine Shop Employment

It is characteristic of industrial operations that
there is a continual striving to find ways of in­
creasing efficiency and thereby reducing produc­
tion costs. This effort leads to better ways of
organizing production and to the introduction of
new machines which are faster, larger, and more
automatic in their operation. Thus the tendency
in all manufacturing operations is to cut the
amount of labor time needed to produce a given
These improvements, while reducing the em­
ployment required for a certain volume of output,
do not necessarily result in a lowering of total em­
ployment needs. Very often by reducing costs
and, in turn, prices, it has been possible to reach a
wider market of potential consumers, and thus
increase production more than enough to offset the
reductions in labor requirements. In this way,
although many products take fewer man-hours per
unit to produce than they did years ago, many
more people are now employed in their manu­

Technological changes cannot, however, be ig­
nored in considering the prospects for employment
in any particular industry or occupation. This is
because they affect the amount of employment
which will result from a given volume of produc­
tion in the future. In the case of machining
processes, there have been many recent technical
changes which may have an important effect on
the number of jobs there will be for machine shop
workers. During the war, under the necessity of
increasing rapidly the output of metal products,
the development of new machines and techniques
was intensified and hastened. Many of these devel­
opments should carry over into the future with
even greater force.
The greatest reductions in labor costs usually
come through the introduction of new types of
machinery. In the machine shop field, increasing
use has been made of highly automatic, special
purpose machines. These machines are designed
to perform one particular operation, and are used
when large quantities of parts are needed. In
addition to providing for high speed and efficient
operation they usually eliminate much of the
skill needed by the operator.
Another important technical development
which is greatly influencing the number of man­
hours needed in machining processes is the grow­
ing use of high-speed carbide cutting tools. Be­
cause these cutting tools are harder, it is possible
to machine metal with them at much higher speeds
than formerly were possible. Consequently the
rate at which machine tools dig into metal has been
increased in many cases as much as from 3 to 5
times. This has resulted in substantial reduction
of the time required to machine many parts.
Many of the older machine tools are unable to
operate effectively at the high speed made possible
by the development of these new cutting tools, but
new machine tools, which are heavier and stronger
than the older ones, will make it possible to utilize
more fully the new higher speeds.
Among the other changes in machine tools which
may affect the time required for many machining
operations or the skills required of the operator
are the use of electronic controls and hydraulic
Greater use may be made in the future of pro­
filing attachments. When these are used the
movement of the cutting tool is guided by a rod
which as it moves along follows the shape of a

model of the desired object. On these machines
intricate objects can be shaped by partially skilled
operators, and one operator can control a number
of machines simultaneously.
In addition to changes in machinery, changes in
the organization of machine shop processes can
also influence the number of workers and the types
of workers required. One important innovation
has been to use set-up men to adjust machine tools,
turning over the rest of the operation to semi­
skilled operators. In other ways, jobs have been
subdivided so that the difficult parts can be done by
skilled operators, while the more routine steps can
be performed by less-skilled operators. Another
method by which machining time can be reduced
is to begin the machining operation on pieces of
metal that are already close to the dimensions of
the part being made. This can be done by working
from a casting or forging of the part, rather than
from a rough bar or block of metal. Technologi­
cal advances in casting and forging, making these
processes more precise or economical, would en­
courage their use in some cases where rolled shapes
have previously been used. In addition, when
castings or forgings are made with greater pre­
cision, the amount of machining required to turn
out the finished part is reduced.
Still another way that technological changes can
affect machine shop employment needs is through
the substitution of other processes in fabricating
operations which have usually been done by
machining. This can come about through the
greater use of stampings, die castings, or plastic
parts in place of machined parts. There is also
some possibility that powder metallurgy, by
which metal products are pressed into shape from
powdered metal, may become more important.
Since machining is an expensive process, industries
can be expected to continue the attempt to obtain
precision parts by the use of other methods.
Future Trends in M achine Shop

Taking into account the production prospects
of the industries which employ machine shop work­
ers and the probable effects of continuing techno­
logical changes it would appear that the number
of machine shop jobs should be maintained at or
slightly above the present high levels for several
years. Looking further into the future the indi­

cations are for an employment trend below both the
high points of the war period and the levels that
should prevail in 1947, but employment should
remain considerably higher than the prewar levels.
Eventually, the general long-run upward move­
ment of metalworking activity should be resumed,
and this would tend to raise machine shop em­
ployment. Because the machine shop field is so
closely related to metalworking, however, employ­
ment in machine shops is likely to be especially
hard hit by severe business depressions.
The incentives to reduce the costs of producing
a unit of product will be no less strong in the
future than in the past. Current and prospective
technological changes will bring about further
relative reductions in the number of man-hours
required for machining. Not only will the amount
of labor required to machine a given part be less,

but the present tendency to utilize a larger pro­
portion of less-skilled operators instead of skilled
all-round workers will continue with even greater
The generally favorable trend of employment in
machine shops means that qualified new workers
should be able to enter the field without much
difficulty in the next several years and be assured
of continuing employment. Before deciding
whether to go into machine shop work, it is neces­
sary to get a complete picture of the opportunities
in this field in order to have an idea of the relative
prospects of the individual occupations. For this
reason the outlook for each of the significant oc­
cupations in machine shops is presented in detail
in the following sections of this report, along with
a discussion of duties, qualifications, training,
earnings, and other information on the occupation.

Opportunities in Individual Occupations
All-Round Machinists

The job of all-round machinist requires a knowl­
edge of all the machine shop skills necessary to
make and repair metal parts for all kinds of ma­
chinery and metal equipment. Historically, this
craft is the basic and original machine shop occu­
pation; as division of labor progressed in some
types of shops, workers began to specialize in one
or another of the tasks of the all-round machinist,
and the other machine shop occupations developed.
At the peak of wartime employment, in De­
cember 1943, about 170,000 men were working as
all-round machinists. There were, in addition,
thousands of men with training as all-round
machinists but employed in other machine shop
occupations, such as set-up man, lay-out man, and
machine tool operator.

Variety is the main feature of the all-round
machinist’s work. His training enables him to
plan and carry through all operations needed in
turning out a machined product and to switch
readily from one kind of product to another. He
knows how to work from blueprints and written
specifications, can select the proper tools and ma­
terials required for each job, and can plan the
proper sequence of cutting and finishing opera­

tions. When necessary, he lays out the work by
marking the surface of the metal to show where
machining is needed and to indicate the shape
and depth of the cuts. In laying out work he uses
a number of marking tools and measuring instru­
ments, including the scriber, center punch, surface
gage, protractor, and calipers.
In general, he is able to set up and operate such
standard machine tools as lathes, planers, milling
machines, grinders, shapers, boring mills, and
drilling machines. In setting up machine tools for
operation, the machinist must be expert in a num­
ber of details relating to both the machines and
the cutting tools. He selects the proper cutting
tools necessary for each cut he is to make, fastens
the cutting tools and the work in proper relation
to each other, and sets controls which determine
the sequence of cutting tools if there are more than
one, the speed at which the tool or work moves, and
the depth of the cut with each motion. When the
machine is ready to be operated, he makes a sam­
ple cut and checks the accuracy of the set-up with
such precision measuring devices as gages and mi­
crometers. After machining, he may finish his
work by hand, using files and scrapers, and may
assemble the parts by welding. His knowledge of
shop practice, of the working properties of such
metals as steel, cast iron, aluminum, and brass, and
of what the various machine tools do makes it

possible for him to turn a block of metal into an
intricate, precise part.

The machinist trade can be learned in two ways.
According to most authorities, a formal appren­
ticeship, usually covering 4 years, is the best way
to learn the job. On the other hand, many have
qualified without an apprenticeship, picking up
the machinist trade over a number of years of
varied shop experience and home study. How­
ever, this takes a longer time than apprenticeship
and the training may be incomplete.
An apprentice must be mechanically inclined
Machinist using a boring mill to machine a hole in a gear box.

and be temperamentally suited to very careful and
exact work; otherwise he will be handicapped in
his training. Another important aptitude neces­
sary to become a machinist is an ability to visualize
the finished product from a rough drawing or blue­
print. A high school or trade school education is
desirable preparation for machinist training, and
some employers require such preparation.
Where Employed

The majority of all-round machinist jobs are in
maintenance shops in plants which use machinery
in the manufacture of their products, such as tex­
tile mills, automobile factories, oil refineries, and

The boring mill is one of a number of machine tools which an all-round

machinist can operate.
D e p a r t m e n t o f L a b o r Ph o t o .

printing plants. Many of these all-round jobs are
also found in manufacturing shops (including
job and production shops) which make machinery
and metal parts, such as machine tools, tractors,
and railroad equipment. In general, work in job
and maintenance shops is more diversified and
requires greater all-round skill.
In production shops such as those found in the
automobile and electrical appliance industries,
there are large numbers of men trained as all­
round machinists but not usually employed as
such; these men specialize in a single machine shop
function, such as lay-out, set-up, or operation of
one type of machine tool. As a result, they may
in time partly lose the other skills which they had
acquired in becoming machinists. However, they
are still much more versatile than those without
machinist training, and if necessary, they can
readily relearn that which was lost through lack
of practice.
Employment Outlook

The number of all-round machinist jobs during
the next few years should equal, or even exceed,
the wartime peak, because of the increased need
for machinists in maintenance shops, where the
bulk of these jobs are found. Many nonmetal­
working industries were affected by wartime cur­
tailment of production or by labor shortages
and consequently did not employ as many machin­
ists in their maintenance shops as might otherwise
have been expected. Since some of the largest of
these industries, such as textiles, have very favor­
able postwar prospects, they should be taking on
machinists for several years. In manufacturing
shops as a whole, there will be somewhat fewer
all-round machinist jobs than during the war.
However, these shops will need additional men
with machinist qualifications to work as skilled,
specialized machine tool operators and as set-up
men. They will also hire all-round men to pro­
vide for their future needs for supervisory
Openings for apprentice machinists should be
numerous during the next 2 or 3 years although
many have already begun training. It must be re­
membered, however, that in the metalworking in­
dustries many of these apprentices, after they com­
plete their training, will be placed in specialized
jobs where they will work on only one type of

Employers will be taking on apprentices be­
cause they realize that many new men must be
trained if even the present number of machinists
is to be maintained. Owing to the depressed
condition of industry before the war and the diffi­
culties in training apprentices in wartime, rela­
tively few entered the trade over a period of
many years. Now there are many all-round ma­
chinists closely approaching the age when death or
retirement will take them from their jobs. To pro­
vide for their replacement, it is conservatively esti­
mated, over 40,000 new machinists must be trained
during the next decade.
Apart from job prospects for the immediate
future, there are longer-run employment trends to
be considered. In manufacturing shops the num­
ber of jobs requiring all-round machinists to fill
them may be expected to show a slight, gradual
decline after the next several years. Continuing
technical changes will reduce the skill needed in
many machining operations, permitting the sub­
stitution of less-trained men for machinists. Ma­
chinist training will continue, however, to offer
considerable advantage to men going into these
shops. Machinists are generally preferred for the
specialized machine tool operator jobs, which often
pay as well or better than all-round jobs. They
also will have many chances to get jobs setting up
machines for groups of semiskilled operators.
Moreover, all-round machine shop workers must
continue to be hired in order to supply the neces­
sary supervisory staffs—the lead men and fore­
men—which are extremely important in the mod­
ern mass-production shops where there is a large
proportion of workers with a narrow range of
In maintenance shops, the number of all-round
machinist jobs should remain fairly steady, and
may even show some growth over a period of many
years. The increasing mechanization of indus­
try will expand the need for men to keep produc­
tion equipment in good working order, and this
may mean more jobs for maintenance machinists.

Although the pay of all-round machinists com­
pares favorably with that of other machine shop
workers, it is often lower than the earnings of
highly skilled machine tool operators, many of
whom work on an incentive basis. In January

The promotional opportunities for all-round
machinists are good. Many advance to foreman
of a section in the shop, or to other supervisory
jobs. With additional training some develop into
tool and die makers. Highly skilled and experi­
enced machinists sometimes have the chance to
start small machine shops of their own.

tures, and other accessories which hold the work,
while it is being machined. They also make the
gages and other measuring devices needed for
precision work. Die makers construct the dies
which are used in such metal-forming operations
as forging, stamping, and pressing, and they also
make the metal molds used in die-casting metal
and molding plastics. Tool and die makers must
have the broad knowledge of the all-round ma­
chinist, including blueprint reading, laying out
work, setting up and operating machine tools, us­
ing precision measuring instruments, understand­
ing the working properties of common metals and
alloys, and making shop computations. In addi­
tion, they must be able to work to closer tolerances
than those usually required of machinists and must
do a greater amount of precise hand work. These
requirements, plus specialization on tools and dies,
distinguish tool and die makers from all-round

Tool and Die M akers


1945, average straight time hourly earnings of
production machinists in some of the major metal­
working industries were as follows: Machine tools,
$1.13; tool and die jobbing shops* $1.22; other ma­
chinery (except electrical machinery) industries,
$1.19. Maintenance machinists earned about the
same, or slightly more. Since that date, there have
been substantial wage increases in many industries
employing machinists. For example, in early
1946, hourly rates in some of the largest automobile
companies were raised 18 or 18% cents.
Chances for Advancement

Tool and die makers are essentially highly
trained machinists who specialize on tool or die
work. Theirs is the most skilled job in machine
shops and is also one of the larger skilled fields
in metalworking—about 90,000 were employed at
the wartime peak in December 1943.

The function of tool makers is to make the cut­
ting tools used on machine tools, and the jigs, fixApprentice tool and die maker using a shaper to form a die part.
Tool and die makers know how to operate all standard machine


To learn this work requires rounded and varied
machine shop experience, usually obtained through
formal apprenticeship or the equivalent in other
types of on-the-job training. A tool and die ap­
prentice ordinarily covers 4 or 5 years, including
mainly shop training in various parts of the job.
In addition, during the apprenticeship, courses
such as shop arithmetic and blueprint reading are
usually given in vocational schools. After ap­
prenticeship, a number of years of experience as
a journeyman is often considered necessary to
qualify for the more difficult tool and die work.
Since tool and die making is the most exacting
type of machine shop job, persons planning to en­
ter the trade should have a great deal of mechanical
ability and a liking for painstaking work.
Where Employed

Although tool and die makers are employed in
many different metalworking industries, a large
proportion of the jobs are concentrated in a rela­
tively few industries. Of these, the automobile
industry is the most important. Also very im­
portant, both because of the number employed
and because of the high level of skill required of
the workers, are tool and die jobbing shops. These

shops, which usually are small, make tools, dies,
jigs, and fixtures, and other machine tool acces­
sories for other companies on individual order;
the tool and die makers in these shops must be
able to take on almost any kind of job. Many
tool and die makers are employed in other machin­
ery industries, including those making electrical,
machinery. During the war the aircraft indus­
try hired many tool and die makers. Among the
nonmetalworking industries that use these work­
ers is the fabricated plastic products industry,
which employs die makers to make the molds in
which plastic products are formed.
Employment Outlook

The biggest factor in the job outlook for tool
and die makers, in view of the fact that the auto­
mobile industry is the most important single em­
ployer of these workers, is the expected large vol­
ume of automobile production. High output of
automobiles will also tend to maintain employment
in tool and die jobbing shops, many of which serve
the automobile industry and which are another
major source of jobs in this occupation. In many
other peacetime industries—such as the refrigera­
tor, electrical appliance, and agricultural machin­
ery industries—production prospects are good,
and this will contribute to the demand for tool
and die makers. Moreover, the tooling up for the
new products which numerous firms are planning
to manufacture will provide tool and die maker
jobs, since new dies, jigs, fixtures, and gages will
be required.
In spite of the upward trend of employment
in many industries using tool and die makers, the
actual number of jobs in the occupation may be
no higher than the wartime total. The reason for
this is the dropping off of aircraft and ordnance
production, which during the war provided jobs
to many tool and die makers. Nevertheless, op­
portunities in tool and die making should be good,
because there has been little increase in the supply
of fully qualified tool and die makers in recent
years and because replacement needs have been
growing in importance.
During the war the number of tool and die
makers increased, but not as rapidly as some other
metalworking jobs, partly because it was not pos­
sible to train qualified tool and die makers in the
short time available. As a substitute, much tool

and die work was broken down into simpler jobs
which less-experienced workers could do under the
supervision of tool and die makers. At the same
time, working hours were greatly increased. How­
ever, although these were useful wartime expedi­
ents, most employers do not consider them satis­
factory for peacetime and strongly prefer using
fully qualified men, working a standard week. As
a result, there is a demand for trained tool and die
makers in many plants. Although many appren­
tices have been taken on since the end of the war,
openings should continue to be fairly numerous for
several years.
Replacement needs are an important factor, be­
cause many tool and die makers are approaching
ages at which they are increasingly likely to drop
out of the labor force because of death or retire­
ment. During the next 10 years, such drop-outs
may create upward of 20,000 openings for new
After several years, the accumulated demand for
automobiles, electrical appliances, and similar
consumer goods will have been met and the em­
ployment of tool and die makers will probably
drop slightly from its high postwar level. How­
ever, large numbers of these workers will still be
needed, not only to repair and replace the tools
and dies normally used by industry, but also to
retool plants for new models and new prod­
ucts. Moreover, although improved metalworking
equipment will tend gradually to cut down the
number of machine shop jobs, tool and die makers,
because of their role in making the tools and dies
needed to produce and use this equipment, will be
less affected than other machine shop workers. It
is also unlikely that technical advances will very
much reduce the skill needed in this occupation.
Finally, the trends toward greater use of die cast­
ing, stamping, and plastics molding will tend to
increase die maker employment in connection with
these processes. These factors, as well as con­
tinuing replacement demand, make it reasonably
certain that those who enter the trade during the
next several years will find good employment op­
portunities for many years to come.
Even in the event of a general business depres­
sion, with machine shop employment temporarily
falling to a low level, experienced tool and die
makers, because of their all-round skills, would
have fairly good chances to get lower-rated ma17

chine shop jobs. Thus, from the point of job
security, they may have a considerable advantage
over other machine shop workers.

Tool and die makers are the highest-paid ma­
chine shop workers. In January 1945 their aver­
age straight time hourly earnings were $1.55 in
tool and die jobbing shops, where skill require­
ments tend to be highest but where employment
often varies greatly from season to season. In
the machine tool industry during the same period,
they averaged $1.35 an hour. Tool and die makers
employed in plants making other types of ma­
chinery were earning $1.29 an hour, straight time.
Wages in these industries have been increased since
the date mentioned.
The earnings of tool and die makers vary widely
among areas. For example, those employed in tool
and die jobbing shops in the Detroit area were
averaging approximately $1.75 an hour in Janu­
ary 1945.
Chances for Advancement

Tool and die makers often rise to better jobs.
Many have advanced to shop superintendent or
other responsible supervisory work, or to such
positions as tool designer. Another avenue of op­
portunity is the opening of small tool and die
jobbing shops.
Shipyard worker using a drilling machine to make holes in a steel

The work is typical of some of the less-skilled machine tool

operating jobs.
o w l PH O TO B Y H O L L E M .

M achine Tool Operators

By far the greatest number of machine shop
workers are employed as machine tool operators.
Their employment at the wartime peak reached
an estimated 910,000, or more than 75 percent of
the total in machine shop occupations. Unlike
the all-round machinists with whom they are often
confused, machine tool operators usually work on
a single type of machine tool, such as a lathe, mill­
ing machine, planer, or shaper, and most of them
cannot carry a job through all its different stages.

Machine tool operating jobs may be divided into
two main classes, according to the skill required.
The skilled machine tool operator does widely
varying kinds of machining. Working from
blueprints or lay-outs, he sets up his machine for
each machining operation, adjusts the feed and
speed controls, and measures the finished work to
see if it meets specifications. He knows how to
sharpen cutting tools when they become dull and
understands the machining qualities of various
metals. In brief, his work is very much like that
of the all-round machinist, except that it is limited
to a single type of machine tool.
The majority of machine tool operators are much
less skilled than the machine tool specialists de­
scribed above and do work which is repetitive,
rather than varied. A typical job of one of these
workers consists mainly of placing rough metal
stock into an automatic machine tool, watching the
machining operation for signs of trouble, and
measuring the finished work with specially pre­
pared gages which simplify measurement. He
may make minor adjustments to keep the machine
tool in operation, but must usually look to moreskilled men for any major adjustments that may
be needed. For each machining operation, a
skilled machine tool specialist, set-up man, or ma­
chinist installs the cutting tools and sets the
controls, and after a trial cut turns over the actual
running of the machine tool to the operator.
Some operators have slightly more responsible jobs
in that their work is less repetitive and greater
accuracy is required of them.
Machine tool operators, skilled and semiskilled
alike, are designated according to the kind of ma­

chine tool which they operate—for example, en­
gine lathe operator, turret lathe operator, drilling
machine operator, grinding machine operator,
milling machine operator. There are many other
kinds of machine tool specialists, each of whom
knows his particular machine tool.
As shown in chart 1, the various machine tool
occupations differ greatly in the number of work­
ers employed. Among the more important of
these occupations are lathe operators, grinding
machine operators, drilling machine operators,
milling machine operators, and screw machine op­
erators. The operation of other types of machine
tools—such as boring mills, shapers, planers, and
gear cutters—constitutes a smaller field of em­
ployment. There are also differences in the pro­
portion of skilled jobs, as against semiskilled,
found in connection with the various kinds of ma­
chines. For example, a relatively large number of
engine lathe operators are classed as skilled. In
contrast, relatively few grinding machine opera­
tors are so designated.

Although skilled machine tool specialists are
employed in all types of machine shops, most of
them work in production shops. The proportion
of these specialists varies greatly among produc­
tion shops, however, depending on the extent of
job break-down and the kind of machining done.
They form a smaller percentage of the workers
in job and maintenance shops, where an all­
round knowledge of machine shop practice is
generally preferred. Nevertheless, a substantial
number of skilled operators are employed in these
shops, working under the guidance of all-round
The employment of semiskilled machine tool
operators is confined mainly to production shops
and is concentrated particularly in such mass pro­
duction industries as automobiles and radios. Be­
cause of their limited training, few can be used in
either job or maintenance shops. In production
shops, under close supervision, they can efficiently
do routine work and free more-skilled men for the
complex work.


Employment Outlook

As one would expect, the training of the two
main classes of machine tool operators differs
greatly. The skilled machine tool specialist is
trained on the job, although formal apprentice­
ships are not provided in this occupation. It is
usual to begin as a learner in a machine shop and
to spend from iy 2 to 3 years on a particular
machine tool. In addition to machine work, train­
ing may include instruction in blueprint reading,
shop arithmetic, and similar subjects. Many em­
ployers take only high school or technical school
graduates as learners. Although the training of
the specialist is shorter and much less varied than
that of the all-round machinist, the trained special­
ist is able to operate a single type of machine tool
as well as any machinist. Unlike the machinist,
of course, he has experience on only one type of
machine. However, many men who completed
machinist apprenticeships are employed as skilled
machine tool operators.
On the other hand it is much quicker to learn to
be a semiskilled machine tool operator. Although
a high school or trade school education is con­
sidered desirable, it is not essential. In general,
on-the-job training of not more than 6 months
is sufficient to qualify for this kind of work.

Where Employed

In the next few years, job prospects for skilled
machine tool specialists are likely to be good.
The number trained in this work during the war
is not large compared to the needs of the ex­
panding peacetime industries, such as automobiles
and electrical appliances. Possible shortages of
all-round machinists may also tend to create open­
ings for skilled specialists. In addition, some em­
ployers will continue to train specialists in pref­
erence to training all-round men, because it costs
less. As a result of these factors, there should be
opportunities for beginners to learn the work.
Over a longer period, the growth of specializa­
tion in machine shop work, a development greatly
speeded by the war, will surely continue. This
trend may offset technical advances which other­
wise would reduce the need for skilled operators.
The employment outlook for the semiskilled
operator is less favorable. Peacetime employ­
ment of these workers will be high, but it is hardly
expected to approach the level of the war years,
when large numbers were hired by metalworking
industries and hurriedly trained. Many of these
wartime workers were women who have since re­
turned to their kitchens and teen-agers who have
gone back to school. However, in most areas there

are likely to be more experienced workers than
jobs of this type and, therefore, few openings for
Those who do get jobs as semiskilled operators
have fairly good prospects fo;r continued employ­
ment in the future. The gradual simplification
of machine tool work through greater use of auto­
matic machines may widen their field of employ­
ment. On the other hand, technical advances
which increase the efficiency of machine tools will
tend to hold down the total number of jobs in this

Many machine tool operators, especially the
less-skilled operators, are paid on an incentive
basis and hence often earn as much as machine
shop workers of greater skill. In January 1945,
average straight time hourly earnings of men
working as first class (A) operators in the ma­
chinery industries (excluding tool and die shops
and plants making electrical machinery or ma­
chine tools) were as follows, by type of machine
tool: Engine lathe and milling machine, $1.16;
grinding machine, $1.20; and turret lathe, $1.17.
Second class (B) operators of these machines aver­
aged from 4 to 13 cents an hour less. Third class
(C) operators earned, on the average, from 9 to 15
cents an hour less than second class.
Chances for Advancement

Skilled machine tool specialists may be pro­
moted to such jobs as set-up man or supervisor
(on machines on which they have specialized).
If they can get experience on several different
kinds of machine tools, they also can develop into
all-round machinists. Semiskilled operators gen­
erally have little chance for advancement since
they are employed mainly in production shops,
where the work is very repetitive and where there
are few opportunities to develop additional skills.
Set-up Men

The set-up man is a skilled specialist employed
in machine shops which carry on large-volume
production. His job is to install cutting tools and
adjust the controls of machine tools so that they
can be run by semiskilled operators. This is one
of the smaller machine shop occupations—about
20,000 were employed as set-up men at the war­
time peak in December 1943.
The usual practice is to assign a set-up man to a

number of machine tools, which are often of one
type, such as the turret lathe. The set-up man
works from blueprints, written specifications, or
job lay-outs in order to set the cutting tools in place
and to adjust, for each machining operation, the
guides, speed and feed controls, working tables,
and other parts of machine tools. After setting
up and adjusting a machine, he makes a trial run
to see if it is working properly, and then turns
it over to the regular operator. During the ma­
chining operation he makes all important adjust­
ments needed for accurate production.
In order to become a set-up man, it is usually
necessary to qualify first as an all-round ma­
chinist or as a skilled machine tool specialist, since
the job requires a good background in machine
shop practice as well as a thorough knowledge of
the operation of at least one type of machine tool.
In many cases, a man obtains the needed experi­
ence through working in job shops and then gets
a set-up job in a production shop.
The employment outlook for set-up men is fa­
vorable for the next few years, because of the
expected high production of metal products and
because of the shortage of operators qualified to
set up their own machines. Over a longer period,
the trend toward specialization in machine shop
work will tend to provide continued employment.
Earnings in this occupation compare favorably
with those of all-round machinists. In January
1945 average straight-time hourly earnings of
set-up men in some of the important industries em­
ploying them were as follows: Machine tools,
$1.34; tool and die jobbing shops, $1.13; other
machinery industries, $1.17.
L a y - O u t Men

The lay-out man is a highly skilled specialist
whose job is to make guide marks on metal before
it is machined to indicate to the machine operators
the kind of machining needed. This is not a large
occupation; at the peak of wartime employment
there were only about 10,000 jobs of this type.
Working from blueprints or written specifica­
tions, the lay-out man marks guide lines, reference
points, and other instructions to operators on
rough castings, forgings, or metal stock. He uses
a wide assortment of instruments, including the
scriber, with which he marks lines on the surface
of the metal; the center punch, used to indicate
the centers on the ends of metal pieces to be ma­
chined or drilled; the keyseat or box rule, used

for drawing lines and laying off distances on
curved surfaces; dividers, for transferring and
comparing distances; L- or T-squares for deter­
mining right angles; and calipers and micrometers
for accurate measurement.
Not only must the lay-out man work with ex­
treme accuracy, but he has also to be familiar with
the operations and uses of each of the standard
machine tools. In general, it takes from 6 to 10
years to develop this skill, including the machinist
apprenticeship or equivalent training needed to
learn the fundamentals of machine shop practice.
A high-school education, including courses in
geometry, trigonometry, and mechanical drawing
is often required; additional preparation in a trade
or technical school is considered desirable.
Like other specialized machine shop workers,
lay-out men are employed mainly in production
shops. Some are also found in job and mainte­
nance shops, particularly in the former.
Employment opportunities for lay-out men are
likely to be very good for a long time to come.
The trend toward employing skilled lay-out men
in conjunction with semiskilled machine tool op­
erators in production shops is expected to continue,
particularly in view of a possible shortage of ma­
chine shop workers able to make their own


Laying out a flange.

This job requires blueprint reading, a broad

knowledge of machine shop work, and the skillful use of marking
and measuring instruments.


Getting a Machine Shop Job
Opportunities for Training in Machine
Shop W o rk

The necessary training for machine shop jobs
can be obtained in several different ways. The
method used depends on which particular occupa­
tion is the goal and on the kind of training avail­
able in the community.

working along with, and under the guidance of,
experienced craftsmen. In a formal apprentice­
ship, a written agreement is made between an em­
ployer and an apprentice providing that the
apprentice receive thorough training in the trade
and setting forth the conditions of the appren­
Typical agreements specify a term of appren­
ticeship for machinists of not less than 8,000 hours


The main route to skilled jobs in machine shops
is apprenticeship, in which a young man is hired
with the purpose of teaching him a trade through

Apprentice machinist sharpening a milling cutter on a grinder.
Learning to sharpen cutting tools is one pari of the varied training
given apprentices.



of employment—usually extending over 4 years—
and of 10,000 hours, or 5 years, for tool and die
makers. The first 1,000 hours of employment are
usually a try-out period during which the agree­
ment may be canceled at the request of either party.
The standards of apprenticeship are usually set
up by representatives of employers and employees
who are familiar with the minimum training that
is necessary in the occupation. In setting up a
training schedule, consideration is given to the
type of work being done in the shop in which the
apprentice is employed and the facilities available
for training. A typical work program for ma­
chinist apprentices involves up to 2,000 hours of
work on lathes, and up to 1,000 hours on each of
such machine tools as the grinder, boring mill, and
milling machine. It also includes lay-out work,
assembly, heat treating, and welding. Tool and
die apprenticeships are similar, but in addition
require considerable work on dies or cutting tools.
Apprenticeship agreements also provide for
about 12 hours a month of classroom instruction in
related technical subjects, such as mechanical
drawing, shop mathematics, and properties of
metals. This instruction may be given within the
plant where the apprentice works or in a local
trade school.
Although the usual term of apprenticeship is
4 or 5 years, the period can be shortened under cer­
tain conditions. Men working in lower-grade
machine shop occupations, such as that of machin­
ist helper, can sometimes transfer to an apprentice
classification and have their experience credited
toward completion of the apprenticeship. Vet­
erans may be able to get similar credit for machine
shop experience in the armed forces. In some
cases, trade school courses also may be used in this
In selecting young men for apprenticeships, em­
ployers take account of their records in school,
their physical condition, and their moral character.
Graduation from high school is often required,
and courses in high school mathematics, physics,
and machine shop work are considered desirable
preparation. Usually the minimum age for ap­
prentice jobs is 16, and the maximum, 23. How­
ever, this maximum age limit does not gen­
erally apply to veterans. Sons of machinists or
tool and die makers frequently receive preference
for apprentice openings.
Earnings of apprentices usually start at from

one-fourth to one-half the journeyman rate. In
the course of training, their wages are periodically
increased, provided progress in learning the trade
is considered satisfactory. Veterans in training
under the GI Bill of Bights receive, in addition
to their apprentice pay, a monthly allowance from
the Government of up to $65, if they have no de­
pendents, or up to $90 if they have dependents.
Combined pay and allowances, however, may not
exceed the journeyman rate and may not be more
than $200 a month for men with dependents or
$175 a month for men without dependents. The
allowance may continue for as long as 4 years.
Disabled veterans can get similar assistance under
the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.
Upon successfully completing his training, the
apprentice is rated as a journeyman and is usually
given a certificate showing this. In many cases,
his employer presents him with a set of hand tools
or with a cash bonus of as much as $200.
Since not all apprenticeships provide adequate
training, it may be helpful for a young man con­
sidering such a job to find out if the shop making
the offer has registered its program with the ap­
propriate agency in the State or with the Appren­
tice Training Service of the U. S. Department
of Labor. Apart from formal apprenticeships,
proper training as a machinist or tool and die
maker may be obtained through the programs for
all-round learners provided by some companies.
Other On-the-Job Training

On-the-job instruction, other than apprentice­
ship, is used to train machine tool operators. In
this type of training, the purpose is to produce
specialists on particular machines, rather than
all-round workers. Usually no formal agreement
is made between the employer and the learner, as
the trainee is usually called.
A learner is assigned to a single type of machine
tool, say an engine lathe or milling machine. At
first he works under the close supervision of an
experienced operator or of a machinist, beginning
with very simple tasks and gradually taking on a
little more responsibility. If the learner is to be
a semiskilled operator, his training period is
usually over within 6 months. If, on the other
hand, he is headed for the job of skilled specialist,
training continues for an additional year or two
and includes such subjects as laying out work and
setting up a machine tool.

over, although the earnings of experienced opera­
tors are not far below those of more-skilled
machine shop workers, their promotional oppor­
tunities are much more limited, and their chances
of being among the first to be laid off when business
is declining are greater. On the other hand, op­
erators after a few months on the job generally
earn more than first- or second-year apprentices.
There is also the possibility, in some cases, of a
man beginning as an operator and taking an ap­
prenticeship at a later date. Finally, it should be
remembered that, although there are disadvan­
tages to this occupation compared with other ma­
chine shop jobs, the necessary investment of time
and effort in learning the work is relatively small.
Trade or Vocational Schools
Thus, a machine tool operator who left machine
There are many trade schools, public and pri­ shops for another line of work would lose less than
vate, which offer a 1- or 2-year course in machine would a highly trained man.
shop work. These courses cannot qualify men as
Trainee jobs leading to the occupation of skilled
machinists, tool and diemakers, or machine tool machine tool specialist generally provide much
operators. However, many employers, in filling better opportunities. There should be many open­
apprentice or trainee jobs, give preference to ings, in the period immediately ahead, for inex­
graduates of a good trade school. In some cases, perienced men to begin specialist training.
those who have completed a trade school course Trainees’ earnings are often higher than those of
may be allowed to go through apprenticeship or apprentices and the learning period is shorter.
other on-the-job training in less than the usual Experienced specialists often receive about as much
time. Before enrolling in one of these schools, the pay as all-round machinists, and in some cases
prospective student should find out if the courses more. They have fairly good chances for promo­
are considered satisfactory by employers and tion, although their opportunities are more limited
unions in his town and if the school is properly than those of journeymen, and favorable prospects
accredited. (See: How to Get More Information for continued employment in the future.
About Machine Shop Jobs, p. 25.)
In general, a machinist or tool and die maker
apprenticeship is the most desirable course. As we
have seen, getting equivalent training any other
Choosing a M achine Shop Occupation
way is difficult. It is true that apprentices’ pay
As we have seen, a man who wants to get into is relatively low at the start (except for veterans
machine shop work may be able to choose among receiving allowances under the GI bill) and that
several different routes into the field. Of course, journeymen often earn no more than less-skilled
there are a number of factors, such as individual men. In the long run, however, those who com­
aptitudes, which have to be taken into account in plete an apprenticeship are likely to fare better
deciding what kind of job a person should seek. than other machine shop workers. For one thing,
In addition, the availabilty of each type of work a wider range of jobs is open to them. A journey­
in a particular commmunity has to be considered. man machinist, for example, can not only work as
These problems cannot be solved here, but what an all-round machinist but can also qualify as a
can be done is to compare the various possibilities set-up man or skilled operator on any standard
with respect to employment prospects, earnings, machine tool. Because of this ability to do differ­
ent kinds of work, journeymen have the best
opportunities for promotion, and job security.
In many ways, the job of learning to be a semi­ chances to get and to keep jobs. They also can
skilled machine tool operator has the least to offer. transfer more readily than less-skilled men from
For one thing, there are likely to be few openings one plant to another. Moreover, there is the fact
for trainees during the next several years. More­ that most supervisory jobs in machine shops are
Learners generally get higher wages than firstyear apprentices. Veterans in learner jobs may
qualify for monthly allowances from the Govern­
Persons without previous machine shop experi­
ence may be hired directly as learners, or lowergrade machine shop workers may be upgraded to
this work. Men whose lack of education or whose
age disqualifies them for apprenticeship can often
get into machine shop work through learner jobs,
particularly those for semiskilled operators. The
requirements for trainees in the skilled machine
tool specialist’s wrork often closely approach those
for apprentices.


filled by promoting experienced journeymen.
During the next few years, there should be many
openings for apprentices.
There is one other way of going into the machine
shop field which has not been previously consid­
ered here. This has to do with the opportunities
for engineering school graduates. Many employ­
ers take on these college trained men, give them a
year or two of experience in machine shop jobs,
and then, if the men show promise, assign them to
engineering, sales, or supervisory positions. It is
believed by many in the field that this combination
of engineering education and practical shop ex­
perience gives a man the best chance to rise to an
executive job in metalworking industry.
To sum up, it would seem that the best advice to
a young man planning to go into machine shop
work is that he seek the highest level of skill which
his abilities permit and available openings allow.
How To G et More Information A bout
M achine Shop Jobs

There are many sources of information about
machine shop jobs and training. Young men
interested in apprenticeships or trainee openings
may consult the nearest local office of their State
employment service. They may also write to or
visit the local headquarters of unions having
machine shop workers among their members. Vet­
erans may get information, especially about Gov­
ernment financial aid, at the nearest office of the
Veterans’ Administration or Veterans’ Informa­
tion Center. Information about trade school
courses can be obtained from local public school
systems or the State superintendent of public in­
struction. Questions regarding the standing of
private trade schools may also be sent to the Na­
tional Council of Technical Schools, 839 Seven­
teenth Street NW., Washington 6, D. C., or to the
American Vocational Association, 1010 Vermont
Avenue NW., Washington 5, D. C. The addresses
of machine shops in one’s community can be found
in the classified section of the local telephone book,

under such headings as “machine shops,” “die
makers,” “machinery,” “railroad companies,” and
“automobile manufacturing companies.”
Additional Bureau of Labor Statistics
Information on M achine Shop W o rk
Employment and pay-rolls .—The Employment
Statistics Division of the Bureau of Labor Statis­
tics provides monthly estimates of employment,
hours, earnings, and labor turn-over for each of a
large number of individual industries, including
the various metalworking industries which em­
ploy the bulk of machine shop workers. This in­
formation is published in the Monthly Labor Re­
view 1 and in free mimeographed releases each
Occupational wage rates .—Detailed informa­
tion on wage rates in machine shop occupations
in many industries is contained in publications of
the Bureau’s Wage Analysis Branch. Also in­
cluded are data on such related subjects as union­
ization, incentive pay, bonuses, and vacations.
Recent studies include Wage Structure of the Ma­
chinery Industries, January 1945; Wage Struc­
ture of the Machine Tool Industry, January 1945;
and Wage Structure of the Machine Tool Acces­
sories Industry, January 1945. Mimeographed
copies of these studies will be furnished free upon
For January 1945, there are also local sum­
maries covering each city of 100,000 population or
more. Information of this type for October 1946
or January 1947 will be available in the near
Industrial hazards.—Statistics on work injuries
in each of a large number of industries, including
many metalworking industries, are collected by
the Bureau’s Industrial Hazards Division and ap­
pear in the Monthly Labor Review and in free
mimeographed releases.

1 The Monthly Labor Review is for sale by the Superintendent
of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25,
D. C. Price : 30^‘ per copy, $3.50 per year.


A p p e n d ix
Employment in metalworking industries,l 1899 to October 1946 2
Production worker
(in thousands)

Production worker
(in thousands )

1, 173
1, 364
1, 656
1, 789
3, 023
1, 850
2, 464
2, 560
2, 664
2, 493
2, 565
2, 856
2, 370
1, 849
1, 455
1, 565

1934______________________________________________ 2, 034
1935______________________________________________ 2,233
1936______________________________________________ 2, 547
1937______________________________________________ 2,980
1938______________________________________________ 2,203
1939______________________________________________ 2, 569
1940______________________________________________ 3,076
1941____________________________ __________________4,258
1942______________________________________________ 5,686
1943______________________________________________ 7,466
1944______________________________________________ 7, 306
January______________________________________ 6, 972
February_____________________________________ 6, 953
March________________________________________6, 852
April_________________________________________ 6, 684
M ay__________________________________________ 6,464
June__________________________________________ 6, 196
July__________________________________________5, 881
August_______________________________________ 5, 608
September____________________________________4, 113
October______________________________________ 4, 049
November____________________________________ 4, 062
December____________________________________ 3, 942
January______________________________________ 3, 997
February_____________________________________ 3, 185
March________________________________________3, 737
April_________________________________________ 4, 173
M ay__________________________________________4, 264
June__________________________________________4, 349
July__________________________________________4, 460
August_______________________________________ 4, 581
September____________________________________4, 667
October______________________________________ 4, 681

1 Metalworking industries included are iron and steel and their products;
electrical machinery; machinery, except electrical; transportation equipment,
except automobiles; automobiles; and nonferrous metals and their products.
2 Sources: Published employment series of the Bureau of Labor Statistics
were used for the period, 1929 to October 1946. Preliminary employment
estimates for 1923 to 1928 were derived from unpublished Bureau data, and

are not entirely comparable with the estimates for later years. The series
covering 1899 to 1921 are based on Employment in Manufacturing, 1899-1939,
by Solomon Fabricant (National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., 1942).
Fabricant’s data were adjusted to the 1929 level of the Bureau of Labor
Statistics series.
3 Data are not available.

1899_ _
1900_ _
1901_ _
1902_ _
1903. _
1904_ _
1905_ _
1906. _
1907_ _
1908_ _
1909_ _
1910_ _
1911_ _
1912_ _
1913_ _
1914_ _
1915_ _
1916_ _
1917_ _
1918_ _
1919- 1920_ _
1921_ _
1922_ _
1923. _
1924_ _
1925_ _
1926- _
1927_ _
1928_ _
1929_ _
1930_ _
1931_ _
1932_ _
1933. _


Occupational O utlook Publications of the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Studies of employment trends and opportunities in the various occupations and profes­
sions are made by the Occupational Outlook Service of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Reports are prepared for use in the vocational guidance of veterans, young people in
schools, and others considering the choice of an occupation. Schools concerned with vocational
training and employers and trade-unions interested in on-the-job training have also found
the reports helpful in planning programs in line with prospective employment opportunities.
Occupational Outlook reports are issued as bulletins of the Bureau of Labor Statistics;
sometimes they are also published in the Monthly Labor Review (subscription price per year
$3.50; single copy, 30 cents). Both the Monthly Labor Review and the bulletins may be
purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, Washington 25, D. C.
Two types of reports are issued:
Occupational Outlook Bulletins describe the long-run outlook for employment in each
occupation and give information on earnings, working conditions, and the training required.
Special Bulletins are issued from time to time on such subjects as the general employment
outlook, trends in the various States, and occupational mobility.


Occupational Outlook Bulletins

Employment Opportunities for Diesel-Engine Mechanics.
Bulletin No. 813 (1945), price 5 cents. (Monthly Labor Review, February 1945.)
Employment Opportunities in Aviation Occupations, Part I.—Postwar Employment Outlook.
Bulletin No. 837-1 (1945), price 10 cents. (Monthly Labor Review, April and June 1945.)
Employment Opportunities in Aviation Occupations, Part II.—Duties, Qualifications, Earnings,
and Working Conditions.
Bulletin No. 837-2 (1946), price 20 cents. (Monthly Labor Review, August 1946.)
Employment Outlook for Automobile Mechanics.
Bulletin No. 842 (1945), price 10 cents. (Monthly Labor Review, February 1946.)
Employment Opportunities for Welders.
Bulletin No. 844 (1945), price 10 cents. (Monthly Labor Review, September 1945.)
Postwar Outlook for Physicians.
Bulletin No. 863 (1946), price 10 cents. (Monthly Labor Review, December 1945.)
Employment Outlook in Foundry Occupations.
Bulletin No. 880 (1946), price 15 cents. (Monthly Labor Review, December 1945 and
April 1946.)
Postwar Employment Prospects for Women in the Hosiery Industry.
Bulletin No. 835 (1945), price 5 cents. (Monthly Labor Review, May 1945.)
Employment Outlook for Business Machine Servicemen.
Bulletin No. 892 (1947), price 15 cents.
Employment Outlook in Printing Occupations.
Bulletin No. 902 (1947). (In press.)
Special Bulletins

Occupational Data for Counselors, A Handbook of Census Information Selected for Use in
Bulletin No. 817 (1945), price 10 cents. (Prepared jointly with the Occupational In­
formation and Guidance Service, U. S. Office of Education.)
Factors Affecting Earnings in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
Bulletin No. 881 (1946), price 10 cents. (Monthly Labor Review, June 1946.)
State and Regional Variations in Prospective Labor Supply.
Bulletin No. 893 (1947). (In press.)