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N e w England Labor
and Labor Problems

A Reprint of a Special Section of Eight Articles
from the Monthly Labor Review, March 1957

B u lle tin No. 1212
James P . M itchell, S e cre ta ry

E v a n Clagne, Commissioner


N e w E n g la n d L a b o r
a n d L a b o r P ro b le m s

A Re p rint of a Special Section of Eig h t Articles
from the M onthly Labor Review, March 1957

B u lle tin No. 1212
James P. Mitchell, S e c re ta ry
Ewan Clague,


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25v D. C.
Price 35 cents




An editorial n ote _________________________________________________________________________________________________


C ontributors to the special section____________________________________________________________________________
Profiles of worker fam ily living in B oston , 1 8 7 5 -1 9 5 0 __________________________________________________


Su m m ary of findings________________________________________________________________________________________


R ise in levels of liv in g _____________________________________________________________________________________


M assach u setts w age-earner fam ilies, 187 5 ___________________________________________________________
M assachusetts cotton -textile workers, 1 8 8 8 _________________________________________________________


W a g e earners in M assachusetts, 1 9 0 1 ________________________________________________________________


B o ston wage and salaried workers, 1 91 8 _____________________________________________________________


B oston wage and clerical workers, 1 9 3 4 -3 6 _________________________________________________________


B oston wage and clerical workers, 1 9 5 0 ______________________________________________________________


C on clu sion ________________________________________________________________________________________________


H istorical patterns and recent trends in e m p lo y m e n t___________________________________________________


D eterm in an ts of m arkets for m an u factures_________________________________________________________


In evitable decline in relative p osition ________________________________________________________________


F actory em p loym en t patterns since 1 9 3 9 ____________________________________________________________


T rends in nonm anufacturing e m p lo y m e n t___________________________________________________________


In trastate em p loym en t tren d s________________________________________________________________________




L ab or-m an agem en t relations___________________________________________________________________________________
Industrial transition and labor relations____________________________________________________________


E x te n t of unionization__________________________________________________________________________________


F actors shaping m anagem ent p o lic y _________________________________________________________________


Bargaining and econom ics______________________________________________________________________________
Public and neutral influences__________________________________________________________________________


M an ag em en t training__________________________________________________________________________________


U n ion leadership_________________________________________________________________________________________


C on clu sion ________________________________________________________________________________________________


W a g e s and personal in co m e___________________________________________________________________________________


R egional wage and incom e levels_____________________________________________________________________


W a g e s in soft-goods industries________________________________________________________________________


W ages in m etalw ork in g_________________________________________________________________________________


C o m m u n ity w age levels--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Union wage scales_______________________________________________________________________________________


R elated wage practices_________________________________________________________________________________


C om parative living co sts_______________________________________________________________________________


S u m m a ry _________________________________________________________________________________________________
T h e problem of depressed areas____________________________________________________________________________


Failure to ad apt to ch an ge------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------M agn itu d e of the p ro b lem ____________________________________________________________________________
E ffects upon the co m m u n ity___________________________________________________________________________
State and local com m u n ity remedial efforts________________________________________________________


Proposed federal legislation___________________________________________________________________________


L ab or turnover in textile m ills_________________________________________________________________________________
C om position of the work force-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


T o ta l separations________________________________________________________________________________________


Q uit ra te s_________________________________________________________________________________________________
N ew em p lo yees__________________________________________________________________________________________


Job ap p lican ts___________________________________________________________________________________________
R easons for qu its------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Principal conclusions____________________________________________________________________________________
Collective bargaining and com petitive cost in the shoe in d u stry______________________________________


T h e im portance of labor cost in com p etition _______________________________________________________


U nion-nonunion changes in earnings le v e l___________________________________________________________


Regional earnings levels__________________


T h e grow th of the aircraft in d u stry_______________________________________________________________________
D evelop m en t of N ew E ngland aircraft in d u stry___________________________________________________


E m p lo ym e n t and earnings in aircraft________________________________________________________________


T h e ou tlo o k -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


(H I)

N ew England Labor and Labor Problems


e w


n g l an d

• • •

,as the late Bernard D e Yoto admiringly put it, “is the

first American section to be finished, to achieve stability in the
conditions of its life. It is the first old civilization, the first perma­
nent civilization in America.” Hence all Americans, as a matter of
tradition, possess a sympathetic interest in the area that cradled our
national development. T h e problems which beset the area today
are thus doubly worthy of attention.
T h e labor, industrial relations, and general economic problems of
N e w England are complex, and in some ways they differ from those
prevailing in other areas of the country. N o group of eight articles
can cover all significant aspects of such problems. W h a t has been
attempted here is a selective analysis of certain tendencies deemed
to be of importance, interest, and aid in understanding what is
taking place in N e w England. T h e reader should not look for more.
T h e problems of N e w England are and have been a subject for study
b y both local and national commissions, and it is to the reports of
these inquiries that the reader should turn if he desires detailed
statistical layouts and packaged recommendations.
T h e situations at which seven of these articles point touch on
the problem areas and industries, the broadening base of manufac­
turing and the increasing influence of n e w industries, the real lack
of homogeneity within the region in respect to wage levels and labor
market characteristics, the mature and generally conservative prac­
tice of labor relations and collective bargaining. T h e eighth article,
concerned principally with Boston, portrays the changing level of
living of the wage earner and his family over the course of threequarters of a century.
Generally speaking, the authors have assumed a critical but
optimistic attitude toward the particular problems they are dis­
cussing, and they recognize also that the problems are plainly but
inextricably intermeshed. N e w England is in a state of thorough­
going change in its economic base and in the relationship of one
State to another. A n economy once dominated b y textiles is n o w
experiencing the ascendance of aircraft engine and electrical equip­
men t manufactures. But the latter are not pushing ahead directly
in the path of the receding textiles. T h e movements frequently
affect different localities. Consequently, there are the serious labor
(IV )




An Editorial Note

force dislocations and social problems privy to distressed areas.
Such a state of pressures and resistances disturbs wage relationships,
variegates wage levels, and tends to m a k e both labor and ma n a g e ­
men t cautious and conservative in some of their collective bargaining
Despite the travail which some N e w England industries, c o m ­
munities, and workers are experiencing, most of the authors feel
that the future holds stability and growth in store, in part because
of the character and tradition of the N e w England people. Perhaps
what is lacking in the series, although it is hinted at in several of the
articles, especially in the review of living and spending habits, is a
separate treatment of the special ethos of the N e w Englander. In
1888, the first U. S. Commissioner of Labor, in reporting on the
status of the Boston working girl, m a y have caught a glimpse of
what is meant b y this: “Music, literature, art, lectures, are all
within reach, and the working girls of Boston avail themselves of
such privileges to a great extent.
A buttonhole maker gave as
her reason for not living in the suburbs, where living was cheaper,
that she would then be debarred from lectures, concerts,
oratorios . . . Suspender makers . . . belong to Browning clubs,
and discuss the tariff and similar vital issues. W o r k is regarded
as honorable, and the barriers which exist between people of leisure
and wage earners m a y in some cases be overcome.”
It is worthwhile to note, in closing, that the first experiment by
the Monthly Labor Review in publishing a group of articles on a
given subject or locality was ventured in July 1946 on the subject
Reconversion in N e w England. A n editorial note introducing those
five articles somewhat cautiously warned the reader that they were
“s u m m a r y in scope and are not intended to give a comprehensive
survey of general labor conditions in the region.” A s a matter of
fact, n o w that more than a decade has passed there probably is no
risk in revealing the editorial secret that availability of the articles
for that issue was completely unplanned, even if fortuitous. Ever
since, there has been a residue of guilty feeling that something better
was due N e w England. It is with confidence that the following
articles are offered as a m o d i c u m of redemption.
— L. R. K.


Contributors to the Special Section
T h e Bureau of Labor Statistics is profoundly grateful to the
authors of the eight articles in this issue of the Monthly Labor
Review which m a k e u p the special section entitled “N e w England
Labor and Labor Problems.” Each author is a specialist on
the particular subject of his article and also a working resident
of N e w England. T h e patience of all authors has been strained
during the m a n y months this project has been under way, but their
diligence has been unflagging; it certainly has been fruitful. N o
effort has been m a d e to limit or otherwise influence the point of view
of the authors to conform with any official policy with respect to
the general subject matter.

L eonard

A r n o l d , author


w an

L abor

C lague,

T urnover


Commissioner oj Labor Statistics

T extile

M ills,

is the

D irector


Research of the N orthern T extile Association.
E . R . L i v e r n a s h , author of Collective Bargaining and C om petitive C ost in the Shoe
In du stry, is an Associate Professor of Business A dm inistration at the G raduate
School of Business A dm inistration, H arvard U niversity.
W e n d e l l D . M a c d o n a l d , author of Profiles of W orker F am ily L iving in B oston, 1 8 7 5 1950, is the Director of the N ew E ngland Regional Office, Bureau of L abor Statistics,
U . S. D ep artm en t of Labor.
W il l i a m H . M i e r n y k , author of T h e Problem of Depressed Areas, is the D irector of the
Bureau of Business and Econom ic Research, N ortheastern U niversity.
P a u l V . M u l k e r n , author of W ages and Personal Incom e, is the W age A n alyst of the
N e w E ngland R egional Office, Bureau of L abor Statistics, U . S. D ep artm en t of L abor.
A . H o w a r d M y e r s , author of L ab or-M a n ag em en t Relations, is the D irector of the L abor
R elations In stitu te, N ortheastern U niversity.
E d w a r d T . O ’ D o n n e l l , author of Historical Patterns and Recent T rends in E m p lo ym e n t,
is the M anpow er and E m p lo ym e n t A n alyst of the N ew E ngland Regional Office,
Bureau of L abor Statistics, U . S. D ep artm en t of Labor.
D a v id P i n s k y , author of T h e G row th of the Aircraft Indu stry, is the Director of Research

and Inform ation, Connecticut L abor D ep artm ent.


Profiles o f W o r k e r

F a m i l y L i v i n g in B o s t o n ,


Seventy-five years of steadily growing income, credit, and technology
have greatly changed patterns of expenditures of worker families
in Boston.
W end ell D. M acdonald

was only 35.4 percent. This was a positive sign
of rising living standards according to the Engelian
hypothesis.2 The percentage of expenditure al­
located to “sundries,” or miscellaneous, advanced
from only 6.2 percent to 35.6 percent over the
three-quarters of a century. This kind of trend
is regarded as a sign of material improvement by
consumption analysts. The increase in number
of workers owning their own homes has been
marked. In 1875, only 1 percent of those sur­
veyed were homeowners and, by 1901, the ratio
was 15 percent for Massachusetts families studied.
Among Boston families surveyed, the ratio of
homeowners to total families increased from 9
percent in 1918 to 27.4 percent in 1950.
Worker-family money income in current dollars
was 5 times as high in 1950 as in 1875, while real
income in 1950 dollars increased by only 79 per­
cent over the same span of time. The 79-percent
gain in real annual earnings occurred mostly
between World War I and 1950.

h e
e c o n o m ic
p r o f il e
of the Boston wage
earner and his family in 1950 was vastly altered
from that of his 1875 counterpart. Seventy-five
years of sweeping transition in the manner of
day-to-day existence, guided by technological,
educational, and institutional advances, had
heightened and brightened, at least in a material
sense, the manner of living of workers in the
Nation’s oldest urban area.
Students of the mores of Boston and Bay State
worker families have access to the findings in six
comprehensive studies of worker-family income,
savings, and expenditures. Studies made by
Federal or State agencies provide data on the
ways in which Boston or Massachusetts wageearner families exchanged their funds, and in re­
cent years their credit also, for goods and services
in 1875, 1888, 1901, 1918, 1934-36, and 1950.1
In addition to considering the shifts in the
manner of family living between various points of
time over the past 75 years, this article also
explores the special consumption characteristics
in 1950 of the Boston area in comparison with
those of 10 other large city areas— Baltimore,
Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, N e w York,
Philadelphia-Camden, Pittsburgh, San FranciscoOakland, St. Louis, and the northern N e w Jersey


1 The approach in all six studies was roughly similar in concept, method­
ology, and presentation, save that in more recent surveys increased consumer
credit has injected complications and added to the need for information about
changes in family assets and liabilities. Broad comparisons relating to
differences in family income and spending between selected years from 1875
to 1950, separated by rather long intervals, are assumed to be reasonably
valid. Definitions, coverage, and concepts are not precisely alike in each
study, but there is sufficient comparability among the six surveys to warrant
meaningful, although somewhat guarded, conclusions.
Sources of the data are: 1875—Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor,
Sixth Annual Report, March 1875, Pt. IV, Condition of Workingmen’s
Families, Boston, Wright and Potter, 1875 (pp. 191-450); 1888—U. S. Com­
missioner of Labor, Seventh Annual Report, 1891, Vol. II, Cost of Production:
The Textiles—Pt. Ill, Cost of Living, 1892; 1901—U. S. Commissioner of
Labor, Eighteenth Annual Report, 1903, Cost of Living and Retail Prices
of Food, 1904; 1918—Cost of Living in the United States, BLS Bull. 357,
1924; 1934-86—Money Disbursements of Wage Earners and Clerical Workers
in the North Atlantic Region, 1934-36, BLS Bull. 637, Vol. II, Eleven Cities,
1939; 1950—Family Income, Expenditures, and Savings in 1950, BLS Bull.
1097, Revised, 1953.
2Ernst Engel (1821-96), chief statistician of the Prussian Bureau of
Statistics, held that the percentage of family expenditures used to buy food
provided “an accurate and truthful measure of the well-being of a people.”
See Die Lebenskosten in Belgien. (In Bulletin of International Statistics,
Rome, 1895 Vol.. IX, pp. 62-124.)

Summary of Findings

Boston worker families had extensively im­
proved their material plane of living by 1950 as
compared with any of the earlier years studied.
The proportion of total expenditure accounted for
by food declined almost steadily from 1875, when
food amounted to 56.5 percent, to 1950, when it



Child labor accounted for one-fourth of workerfamily income 75 years ago, but gradually dis­
appeared, and by the mid-20th century was
virtually nonexistent. On the other hand, the
importance of the wife’s earnings to the family
budget has increased in the 20th century.
The plane-of-living advance made possible by
gains in real income since World War I has been
greatly assisted by the expansion of consumer
credit. A gradual retreat from frugality has
occurred over three-quarters of a century.
The Boston worker family in 1950 had a lower
income than worker families in 9 of 11 large
cities of the Nation studied in that year. The

mode of living of Boston families in 1950 was not
basically different in terms of consumption habits
than in other large cities, except for a few signif­
icant items of spending. The Boston worker
family spent the least, the figures show, among the
11 large cities for alcohol, but expended the most
for shelter and tobacco. The Boston worker
family also had the largest outlay for reading
material, but was among the lowest for auto
transportation. For food consumption, at home
and in restaurants, these families spent close to
the median among the Nation’s large cities. In
expenditure for clothing, Boston ranked eighth
among the 11 cities.

Proportion of Expenditures for Specified Commodity Groups, by Wage-Earner Families in Boston
Area and Massachusetts, Selected Periods, 1875-1950




M isc e lla n e o u s

C lothing

Fuel, and Lig h t

H o u sin g

Food (in c lu d in g
tobacco and a lc o h o l)





1 9 3 4 -3 6


Note: Because of rounding, figures do not add to 100.
Source: Data for 1875- Massachusetts Bureauof Statistics of Labor.
Other Years • U. S. Department of Labor. Bureauof Labor Statistics

There was little evidence that consumption
patterns were much affected by national origin
except with regard to a few specific items in the
case of first-generation American families or where
religious customs dictated food preferences. The
foreign-born heads of families were 69 percent of
the group surveyed in 1875, 76 percent in 1888,
and 57 percent by 1901. In the 1934-36 survey
group, the ratio was 39 percent. B y 1950, it
was only 19 percent.
Rise in Levels of Living

The mode of living of worker families in Boston,
as elsewhere in the Nation, exhibited an astounding
transformation between 1875 and 1950. Material
standards improved so markedly over this sweep
of time that the shift was almost one of kind rather
than degree. Economic forces, inventive genius,
social reforms, and the aspirations of people of
varied backgrounds traced an entirely new
economic profile. Burgeoning technological in­
ventiveness sparked a rise in industrial produc­
tivity which made possible higher earnings, shorter
workweeks, and more leisure for workers and
minimized the need for children’s labor to augment
the family’s income. The talent of Americans for
innovation produced and marketed the new
varieties of goods and services— canned goods,
frozen foods, refrigerators, radios, automobiles,
televisions, diaper services, baby foods— which
have not only set the tone but practically dictated
the mode of modern living.
Broadened social consciousness led to pressure
for improved housing conditions and factory
regulation, through civic action and legislation. A
growing awareness of the need for improved
sanitation and preventive medical care brought
about a healthier, stronger people in the Bay
State. Traditionally a leader in programs for
social and economic progress, Massachusetts was

* See Seventy Years of Service—The Story of BLS: A Special Section,
Monthly Labor Review, January 1955.
* As long ago as 1853, E. DucpGtiaux, at the International Statistical Con­
gress, classified family spending into groupings that even today are valid and
form the framework of most consumer expenditure studies. One of the twoway Ducp6tiaux classifications has been rejected and his division of elastic
expenditure into two groups, “good” and “bad,” is no longer followed by
modern statisticians. See Edouard DucpStiaux, Budgets (sconomiques des
classes ouvridres en Belgique, subsistences, salaires, population. Brussels,
M. Hayez, imprimateur de la Commission centrale de statistique, 1855
(PP. 6-8).
* The U. S. Bureau of the Census, in the 1950 Census of Population, reported
that 18.1 percent of all married women in the Boston metropolitan area were
in the labor force.
421586—57----- 2

among the earliest States to legislate in regard to
education, sanitation, working conditions of women
and children, and industrial safety.
The contributions of the labor movement in
urging reforms and sponsoring legislation to
improve living conditions and education should
not be overlooked. Progressive and enlightened
employers have similarly contributed to the great
change, often as pioneers. The role of the fact­
finder was equally valuable in investigating and
publicizing the true condition of the worker and
his manner of living.3
The pattern of Boston family living, if tech­
niques of investigation were adequate, might be
measured not only by material consumption but
by nonmaterial criteria as well. H o w to measure
nonmaterial values remains, of course, an unsolved
problem. The lyceum and the local literary
society have for the most part disappeared from
community life. Although the symphony orches­
tra and other concert music retain their popularity,
and museums and lectures continue to attract
Bostonians, such amusements as the horse and
dog races, the drive-in movies, and television win
large attendance totals. These latter expendi­
tures would be of the luxurious and improvident
type in the Ducpetiaux classification.4
It is gratifying that the children are no longer
forced into employment at an early age to enable
the Boston family to make ends meet or to raise
family living standards. On the other hand, the
working wife or mother spends her time gainfully
employed outside the house and away from the
children for the length of the work day and week,
frequently in order that the components of the
new higher standard of living may be purchased.5
The rise in consumer credit accounted for a siz­
able proportion of the greater spending of Boston
families by the year 1950. Current family income
was no longer divided in the traditional and ortho­
dox fashion between current consumption and
savings. The savings considerations have been
somewhat dampened and income at the halfway
mark of the 20th century was more likely to be
earmarked for past consumption than for savings.
Whatever the reasons— the increase in social se­
curity, buying in anticipation of wartime short­
ages, the rise of private pension and health funds,
a stout faith in the future, the siren call of the
“commercial,” or some shift in workers’ value
scales— parsimony appeared to be in full retreat.

Massachusetts Wage-Earner Families, 1875

The profile of the wage-earner family 75 years
ago6 was completely different from the 1950
counterpart. A study of wage-earner families in
Massachusetts in 1875, completed by the Massa­
chusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor, recorded
that the average size was 5.1 persons, in contrast
with 3.5 for Boston in 1950. (See table 1.) The
annual income of the earlier year families
amounted to $763, or $2,180 in 1950 dollars.7 Of
this, $738 was spent for current consumption.
The consumption pattern of that era was
greatly at variance with the 1950’s. Not unex­
pectedly, and in accordance with Engel’s law of
consumption, a much larger percentage of ex­
penditure was made for food in 1875 by these
lower income families— 56.5 percent, compared
with 35.4 percent in 1950. Table 2 and the chart
indicate strikingly the decreasing proportion of
family expenditures allocated to food purchases
over the period of the six studies, with each survey
disclosing a smaller percentage than the previous
one, except that the 1918 survey indicated an
increase from 1901. This latter relationship,
however, m a y be attributed to the exceedingly
high price level for foodstuffs in the World War I
Another traditional measure of material well­
being is the proportion of family expenditures for
the miscellaneous or “sundries” group,8 i. e.,
everything except food, housing, fuel and light,
and clothing. There has been a steady advance
in the proportion spent for this catchall group—
from 6.2 percent in 1875 to 35.6 percent in 1950.
Not only did total volume of sundry purchases
expand, but the number and varieties of goods and
services in the mid-20th century market basket
were wholly unlike those in the first Massachusetts
A notion of the way in which families lived in
1875 in the Bay State is indicated by the presence
or absence of expenditures for certain prestige
possessions among the families sampled. For
example, 11 percent of these families owned
pianos or organs, 34 percent were the owners of
sewing machines, and 52 percent had one or more
rooms carpeted. The carpeting was important
not only for decorative purposes but also for
insulation during cold winters. Twenty-six per­
cent owned pews in churches.

Another important yardstick of family well­
being is the relative importance of meat versus
vegetables in their diet. Le Play, who greatly
influenced Carroll D. Wright, the director of the
first of these Massachusetts expenditure studies,
has said that “economic progress could be meas­
ured by changes in the proportion of food expendi­
ture, especially the relation between animal and
vegetable foods.” 9 Consequently, an attempt
was made to obtain this relationship by classifying
each family by the number of times meat was
eaten each day. The tally was as follows: Of 397
families, 83 had meat once a day, 223 twice a day,
88 three times a day, and only 3 ate no meat.10
The actual menus of families for three meals a
day were collected in this survey and described in
detail. Although meat dishes were quite com­
mon, there was a monotonous similarity, not only
from day to day, but from family to family, in the
workers’ diet. The usual supper menu was
bread, butter, gingerbread, and tea. Not unex­
pectedly in Boston, baked beans appeared on
most family tables each Saturday night, even as
today, and the traditional meal of baked beans
warmed over for Sunday breakfast was prevalent
even in 1875. The ethnic composition of these
families apparently had little impact on food
consumption, as families ate what was available,
not what they would choose because of tradition or
custom in the old country.

• For 1875, the figures presented in this article are the results of personal
investigations by agents of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor
in the “ condition, social and pecuniary,” of 397 families of workingmen in
15 cities and 21 towns of Massachusetts, which were representative of “ places
where considerable business was carried on and wage-laborers congregated.”
The heads of families considered were “ wage-laborers, men of family, and with
comparatively few exceptions, having children dependent upon them for
support. . . . As regarded occupations, those prominent in or peculiar to
certain towns, were designated as proper for investigation” : i. e., “. . . mill
operatives at the seats of textile manufacture; those engaged in building trades
in large or growing towns; leather-finishers and shoemakers, in those places
devoted to the manufacture or utilization of leather; metalworkers in the
foundry districts; out-door laborers where public improvements were in
progress, or the moving of merchandise carried on to a great extent; and
finally, shop trades in those towns having prominent or peculiar industries.”
7Adjusted by means of data in index of estimated cost of living in U. S.,
1820-1913, compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and con­
verted to a 1947-49 base by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which was linked
to the BLS Consumer Price Index for years subsequent to 1913. (Mimeo­
graphed table available upon request to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
8These ratios emphasized by both Engel and Le Play have limited use,
according to Carle C. Zimmerman, in his Consumption and Standards of
Living (New York, D. Van Nostrand Co., 1936, p. 286). “Those who use
advancement expenditures as an index of well-being imply that the more
complex and prosperous peoples and societies are happier and have a greater
fund of psychological well-being than the simpler peoples and societies.”
• F. Le Play, Ferblantier, couvreur et vitrier d’Aix-les-Bains. (In Les
ouvriers des deux mondes. Paris, La Soci6te internationale des 6tudes
pratiques d’Sconomic sociale, 1859, Vol. 2, pp. 9-62.)
18In this tally, the combination of eggs at breakfast and fish at supper, or
vice versa, was counted as meat for one meal.

T a ble 1.— Average

fa m ily size, annual income, and current
expenditures for goods and services by worker fam ilies sur­
veyed in the Boston area and M assachusetts, 1875-1950

Year and survey group families

Annual in­ Current ex­
come after penditures
for goods and
services 1
size Cur­ 1950 Cur­ 1950
rent dol­ rent dol­
dol­ lars dol­ lars

1875: Wage-earner families..
1888: Cotton-textile worker
families________ ______
1901: Wage-earner families..


1918: Wage- and salariedworker families_________
1934-36: Wage- and clericalworker families_________
1950: Wage- and clericalworker families_________


Boston area


$763 $2,180
704 2,193
818 2,406

$738 $2,109
661 2,059
731 2,150

5.3 1,477 2,363 1,438
4.0 1, 571 2,766 1, 570
3.5 3,900 3, 900 4, 301

3, 301
2, 764
4, 301

1In this table, the 1875 through 1918 figures count insurance premiums, and
the 1875 through 1934-36 figures count gifts and contributions, as current
expenditures for goods and services. Conversely, the 1934-36 and 1950
figures exclude outlays for insurance premiums and the 1950 figure also ex­
cludes gifts and contributions. This should be borne in mind when compar­
ing the figures in this table.
S ource: See text footnote 1.
Typically, the families of 75 years ago bought
2 tons of coal per year for $19 and 3 cords of wood
for $24 for heating and cooking purposes, and
purchased kerosene for lighting at an annual cost
which ranged from $3.60 to $6 per year. A few
families, however, depended upon their children
to gather firewood on the streets.
The penchant for self-improvement was exem­
plified by the fact that 264 of 397 families bought
books and papers. Their traits as joiners are
shown by the 135 families who allocated funds
for membership in fraternal societies. M a n y of
these organizations had beneficial features often
carrying an insurance privilege. Significantly,
only one family in this survey reported a direct
outlay for life insurance premiums, whereas the
Boston worker-family averaged $169 for insurance
premiums in 1950.
The most significant findings of this 1875 study,
however, are those dealing with the sources of
11Some understatement of income, the treating of personal insurance not
as savings but as an expenditure, and the unusual amount spent on time
payments for consumer durables during 1950, in anticipation of expected
shortages and price rises because of the Korean conflict, make it virtually
impossible to gage with preciseness the amount by which these Boston
families went into debt.
12In 1888, data were obtained from 400 Massachusetts families in which
the head of the family was employed in the cotton-textile industry. The
figures used in this article are for all families surveyed and not for the “normal
families” (families selected according to specified criteria), for which compara­
tive data are also presented in the original report.

worker-family income. For example, about 35
percent of heads of worker families were able by
their individual earnings to supply family needs,
while 64 percent relied upon the earnings of wives
and children, particularly the latter. Commonly,
boys at 12 and girls at 15 were forced by necessity
into labor in large numbers. These young people
supplied 25 percent of family income, while the
father accounted for 75 percent, and the wife
for only 0.1 percent. (See table 3.) The children
accounted for one-fourth to one-third of total
earnings, children under 15 accounting for oneeighth to one-sixth. Without the assistance of
children, a majority of families would have been
in poverty or debt. With the aid of these younger
workers, however, one-half of the families saved
money, only one-tenth went into debt, and the
rest broke even.
In retrospect, it seems miraculous that the
average annual income of $763 (or $2,180 in 1950
dollars) reported by these Massachusetts worker
families exceeded their reported expenditures by
$25, or 3 percent of their incomes. B y contrast,
in 1950, with average incomes of $3,900, the
average Boston wage-earner and clerical family
laid out more funds for current consumption of
goods and services than were taken in as income.11
Massachusetts Cotton-Textile Workers, 1888

Cotton-textile worker families, with an average
of 5.6 members, had annual incomes of $704 in
1888 ($2,193 in 1950 dollars), according to a U. S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics study of 400 cottontextile worker families in Massachusetts.12 The
difference in annual earnings between the 1875
and 1888 studies is explained partially by the fact
that in the later study the workers were entirely
from one industry and not as many higher paid
craftsmen were represented. In spite of this
limitation, certain meaningful comparisons are
possible. First, the food expenditure in 1888 was
a smaller proportion of the total outlay than in
1875, as food prices had dropped. Both the fuel
and light group and the clothing category ac­
counted for about the same percent of the total in
both years. Housing expense, on the other
hand, had declined as a percentage of all expendi­
tures between 1875 and 1888, but this trend was
no doubt greatly influenced by the fact that a
large number of the textile workers included in


the 1888 sample lived in small towns where rents
were lower and company-owned houses more
common than in the cities.
Most important, however, was the rise in the
percentage of income available for outlay on the
miscellaneous or sundry group, where the per­
centage rose from 6.2 percent in 1875 to 19.5
percent in 1888, in spite of a lower annual dollar
income in the later study. Although retail prices
had declined 9 percent from 1875 to 1888, the
implication here is that a greater quantity and
variety of goods as well as subsistence items were
attainable by wage earners.
Although the variety in the family budget was
not wide by modern standards, nevertheless by
1888 there began to appear significant expendi­
tures for amusements. Among the 400 families,
210 reported an average of $11.50 for this category.
T w o hundred and eighty-nine families spent an
average of $9.47 for tobacco. Labor organization
dues were paid by 111 families who averaged
$6.56. Books and magazines accounted for $6.47
per family, with 327 making expenditures of this
kind. Nevertheless, there was only slender evi­
dence in these first two Massachusetts expendi­
ture studies of the amazing changes that were
destined to occur by 1950.13
As in 1875, it was impossible for wage earners by
1888 to make accounts balance solely through the
husbands’ efforts. On the average, these Massa­
chusetts cotton-textile worker families could count
on an annual income from all sources of $704, of
which $431 was earned by the husband. In 152
of the 400 families, there was an income from
boarders and lodgers; in 105, income from wives’
earnings; and in 138, from children’s earnings.
T able 2.

One hundred and ninety-one families reported on
the average a surplus of $138 and 136 families
reported a deficit of $48, the others breaking even.
Wage Earners in Massachusetts, 1901

At the turn of the century, a third survey of
family living in Massachusetts was conducted by
the Bureau of Labor Statistics.14 B y 1901, the
income of Massachusetts wage-earner families had
risen to $818, or $2,406 in 1950 dollars. These
Massachusetts families spent an average of $731.
The proportion of income spent on food was 56.5
percent in 1875, 46 percent in 1888, and only 41
percent in the 1901 study. The outlay for sun­
dries as a percentage of total expenditures, on the
Massachusetts families spent an average of $731.
other hand, was higher by 1901— 21.8 percent.
It was significant that 2,038 of the 2,577 wage
earners’ families in the 1901 survey reported
an annual surplus, while only 143 had a deficit.
The remaining 397 families’incomes and expendi­
tures were approximately in balance.

i* In 1887, 1 year previous to the date of this study of cotton-textile workers,
Looking Backward, 2000-1887, by Edward Bellamy, was published in Boston
(Houghton, Mifflin and Co.), which with its sequel, Equality (New York,
D. Appleton and Co., 1897), contained an amazing forecast of the future
economic profile of Boston by the year A. D. 2000. Bellamy, in his dream
of a future society, described the “electroscope”—his word for television,
which he visualized would enter every Boston home by the year 2000. Fur­
thermore, the programs would be not only for enjoyment, but also for educa­
tional purposes. Bellamy also anticipated heating and cooking by electricity,
and eating from paper plates. The radio would become commonplace in the
future, according to Bellamy, but he believed that sound would come through
telephones, not aerials and individual sets. Curiously enough, he did not
anticipate the automobile and its ability to bring about a complete trans­
formation in transportation and living habits.
h The 1901 survey covered 2,577 families of wage earners and small-salaried
workers in Massachusetts during 1899-1902 (most of the data applying to the
year 1901). All investigations were limited to families headed by persons with
a salary or wage not exceeding $1,200.

— D istribution of current expenditures for goods and services by worker fam ilies surveyed in the Boston area and
M assachusetts , 1875-1950
Year and survey group

Total expendi­ Food (includ­
tures for goods ing tobacco
and services1 and alcohol)






Fuel and light







Other goods and











1875: Wage-earner families...............................................
1888: Cotton-textile worker families................................
1901: Wage-earner families................. .............................. _







1918: Wage- and salaried-worker families........................ 1,438
1934-36: Wage- and clerical-worker families.................... 1,570
1950: Wage- and clerical-worker families.......................... 4,301






Boston area

1See footnote 1, table 1.
N ote.—Because of rounding, sums of individual items do not necessarily
equal totals.



Source: See text footnote 1.









T a b l e 3.

— Average annual incom e of worker fam ilies surveyed in the Boston area and M assachusetts , hy source of funds
1875 to 1934-86 *

Year and survey group





of total


of total


of total

of total









1875: Wage-earner families_____________
1888: Cotton-textile worker families____
1901: Wage-earner families______________





1918: Wage- and salaried-worker families—
1934-36: Wage-and clerical-worker families.





Boston area

1 Data not available for 1950.
2 Earnings of wife and children were combined in the survey reports.
In regard to sources of income, a sensational
transformation had occurred since the time of the
earlier surveys. B y the early 20th century, only 9
percent of the worker families had incomes from
the earnings of children, as compared with 35
percent of the families in the 1888 study. About
31 percent of the 1901 families obtained funds
from keeping boarders and lodgers and 15 percent
derived funds from miscellaneous sources.
The average family income from the earnings of
the husband amounted to $665 in current dollars,
or 81 percent of the total, whereas the wife and
children accounted for less than 1 percent and
3 percent, respectively, of the total income, while
income from other sources (mostly boarders and
lodgers) was 16 percent. Of the 2,577 families in
the 1901 Massachusetts sample, 15 percent owned
their own homes, while 85 percent rented their
dwellings. (See table 4.) In 1875, the percentage
of homeowners had been only 1 percent.
In the 1901 study, the expenditure patterns of a
subsample of 253 families 15 portray the diversity
of expenditures and the importance of spending
for goods and services which were rarely found in
the earlier system of living. For example, 21 per­
cent of these families contributed to charity,

» As these families were selected solely on the basis of their ability to give the
information sought in the desired detail, the data must be interpreted with
i« For 1918, the figures pertain to 407 wage-earner and salaried-worker
families surveyed in Boston. Eligibility requirements for families to be
surveyed were: the family must have as a minimum a husband and wife and
at least one child who is not a boarder or lodger (thus increasing average
family size); the family must have kept house in the locality for the entire
year covered: at least 75 percent of the family income must come from the
principal breadwinner or others who contribute all earnings to the family
fund: all items of income and expenditures of members other than those living
as lodgers must be obtainable; the family may not have boarders nor over
three lodgers, either outsiders or children living as such; and the family must
have no subrental other than furnished rooms for lodgers. Slum or charity
families or non-English-speaking families who had been less than 5 years in
the United States were not taken.












Source: See text footnote 1.
92 percent to religious organizations, 52 percent to
labor organizations, and 73 percent contributed to
other kinds of organizations. B y 1901, the neces­
sity and importance of insurance had grown in the
view of the average wage earner in Massachusetts
along with the rise of life insurance firms, since
28 percent of these families made outlays for life
insurance and 18 percent for property insurance—
expenditures almost nonexistent in 1875 and 1888.
These same worker families made an outlay of
$79 per year for furniture, $11 for books and news­
papers, and a similar amount for amusements and
vacations. Alcoholic beverages accounted for $18
of their spending and tobacco for $13, in 1901.
Boston Wage and Salaried Workers, 1918

The sources and amounts of Boston family in­
come at the close of World War I are recorded in
a Bureau of Labor Statistics study.16 The average
wage-earner family size was 5.3 for 407 families
for w h o m detailed income and expenditure in­
formation is presented.
The average annual income of $1,477 in current
dollars for these families was double that of the
1888 families and nearly twice that of the 1875 and
1901 families. In 1950 dollars, the relationship
was quite different; the 1918 income of $2,363 was
less than that in the 1901 study and only about 8
percent more than in the 2 earlier studies. Of the
1918 income, about 86 percent was earned by the
husband, 1 percent by the wife, and 9 percent by
the children. Other sources accounted for 4
Light is cast upon one aspect of living conditions
of Boston worker families in 1918 by examining
housing facilities. Although these families did not
uniformly have modern conveniences, nevertheless


a major step forward had been made since the
earlier studies. Of 373 Boston families who re­
sided in houses, flats, or apartments,17 206 had
bathrooms and practically all had inside flush
toilets. Nine percent of these Boston wageearner families owned their residence as compared
with 20 percent in 1934-36 and 27.4 percent in
1950. In the earlier Massachusetts studies, only
1 percent were homeowners in 1875, 7.5 percent in
1888, and 15 percent in 1901.
Boston Wage and Clerical Workers, 1934-36
The 1934-36 BLS study of wage earners and
clerical workers in Boston reported an average
family size of 4.0 and an annual income of $1,571
in current dollars, or, in 1950 dollars, $2,766.18
The food expenditures amounted to 35.7 percent
of the total, but had been 44.6 percent in 1918,
while sundry spending accounted for 25.1 percent
of the total compared to 21.5 percent 17 years
The proportion of total expenditures going
into clothing in the midthirties was lower in
Boston (9.8 percent) than in the other large cities
studied. In 1934-36, the average amount spent
on automobile transportation by wage-earner or
clerical families was smaller in Boston than in any
other large city. Incidentally, expenditures for
this category were only 2 percent of total expendi­
tures in 1934-36, but were 8.5 percent in 1950.
By the mid-1930,s, the proportion of income
derived from the chief wage earner of the family
was 83 percent, compared with 86 percent in 1918,
81 percent in 1901, and 75 percent in 1875. Other
earners (wife and children) accounted for 11 per­
cent and other sources for 6 percent of the average
net money income of $1,571 for the 516 Boston
T able 4.—Extent of homeownership among worker families
surveyed in the Boston area and Massachusetts, 1875—1950


Year and survey group

Total Owning Renting

1875: Wage-earner families___ _ - _ ______ 100.0
1888: Cotton-textile worker families... ___ ... 100.0
1901: Wage-earner families.. _ _. __________ 100.0



1918: Wage- and salaried-worker families____ 100.0
1934-36: Wage- and clerical-worker families.._ 100.0
1950: Wage- and clerical-worker families_____ 100.0



Boston area

S ource: See text footnote 1.

T able 5.—Percentage distribution, by nativity, of thefamily

heads in worker families surveyed in the Boston area and
Massachusetts, 1875—19501



Worker family heads..
American bom______
Foreign born______ _
Canada__ __ _ _
Canada (French)..
Russia___ _ ...
Scotland_____ __
Sweden______ ._
Other___ ____

Boston area








8. 8
2. 7


1 Data not available for 1918.
2 Data applying to 1934-36 are for homemaker, not head of family. See
text footnote 19.
3 Data on nativity were not collected in the 1950 BLS study. Data in this
column are from the 1950 Census of Population and are for all families
(not just wage-earner families) and, therefore, may understate the proportion
of foreign born among wage-earner families.
Source: See text footnote 1.
wage and clerical worker families surveyed in
1934-36. Of the Boston families, 64 percent had
a net surplus, 32 percent reported a net deficit,
and the remainder came out even.
By 1934, the profile of the Boston worker family
had undergone immense changes. Over 90 per­
cent of Boston wage-earner families who owned
their houses now had central heat, gas or elec­
tricity for cooking, running hot water, and inside
flush toilets, while 24 percent had electric refriger­
ators, 54 percent possessed telephones, and 43 per­
cent had garden space. For the 80 percent who
rented, these facilities were less prevalent.
Fourteen percent of the Boston families owned
automobiles, on which they spent an average of
$168 for operation and maintenance. For medical
care during the year, Boston wage- and clericalworker families spent an average of $49, while $41
went to community organizations, welfare, and
gifts. Clothing outlay had declined from $222 in
1918, to $154 in 1934, partly because apparel

17 Excludes those living in owned dwellings and those whose rent included
heat or light.
18 In 1934-36, the group of wage-earner and clerical-worker families surveyed
in Boston numbered 516 white families and was confined to those families
with 2 or more persons, with family incomes of at least $500 per year, who
had not been on relief during the survey year. A $200 per month or $2,000
per year maximum income limit was established for inclusion of clerical
workers. No income limit was set for wage earners, but at least 1 earner
in a wage-earner family must have been employed for 36 weeks and must have
earned at least $300. Families interviewed were drawn from a random
sample. Data obtained for Boston pertain to the year ending February 1935.

prices had decreased by 14.4 percent in Boston.
Relatively few persons owned pews in churches,
but large numbers contributed in other forms to
religious societies in 1934.
Homemakers of 198 families, or 39 percent of
the total sample surveyed in 1934-36, were born
outside of the United States.19 (See table 5.) Of
this number, the predominating national groups
of foreign born were Irish (14 percent), and Itali­
an (9 percent). In the 1875 survey, the ratios
were 69 percent of family heads foreign born, with
34 percent of these born in Ireland and 20 percent
in England. No information on nativity of either
family heads or homemakers was collected in
the 1950 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
but the Census of Population for that year indi­
cated only 19 percent of all family heads in Metro­
politan Boston were foreign born. This figure
may understate the proportion of foreign born
among wage earners, which is always higher than
among the heads of all families.
This transition in composition of population by
national origin of family head constituted a major
change in the profile of the wage-earner family in
Boston. However, apparently incidence of foreign
birth little affected expenditure patterns or mate­
rial wants of Boston worker families. Although
there were differences in preferences for specific
commodities and services among first-generation
families, by far the overriding considerations de­
termining the manner of family living were level
of income, the availability of goods and services,
and family size and composition. Examination of
the detailed family food menus in the 1875 study
and the food item purchases in the 1888 and 1901
surveys by national origin fails to reveal any im­
portant nationality tendencies in food consump­
tion, suggesting rapid acceptance of consumption
patterns in the country of adoption. Heritage,
of course, was important in helping to form the
social, political, and cultural patterns of the
Boston community. National origin appears to
have played a minor role except in such matters as
food recipes handed down from mother to daugh-

Table 6.—Average money receipts, average outlays, and

i®In the 1934-36 study, nativity data in regard to the homemaker (usually
the wife) were collected, but no information on the head of the family.
20 For 1950, the figures presented in this article were obtained from 146
Boston wage- and clerical- or sales-worker families of 2 or more persons. They
were drawn from a random sample and no lower income was set for inclusion
nor was any restriction imposed as to receipt of public assistance at any time
during the survey year. A $10,000 maximum income limit was fixed for in­
clusion of wage- and clerical- or sales-workers.

The average size in 1950 of wage-earner and
clerical-worker families in Boston, 3.5 persons, was
smaller than that in any of the 5 earlier surveys
but was second largest among the 11 cities of
1,000,000 population or more surveyed in that
year.20 (See table 6.) On the other hand, total

percentage distribution of outlays by two-or-more person
wage- and clerical-worker families surveyed in the Boston
area, 1950


among 11
large city
areas 1


Number of families covered________
Average family size (persons)______



Money income before personal taxes
Money income after personal taxes 2.
Other receipts___________________
Total receipts (after taxes)________



Average money receipts

Average outlays
Current outlays for goods and services
(total)------------------------------------------------Food and drink_____________________
Alcoholic drinks_____________________
Shelter (current expense)4___________
Fuel, light, refrigeration, and water___
Household operation_________________
Housefumishings and equipment_____
Automobile purchase and operation___
Other transportation_________________
Medical care________________________
Personal care________________________
Miscellaneous goods and services 3_____
Gifts and contributions__________________
Personal insurance premiums_____ _______
Net change in assets and liabilities6_______
Payments on principal of mortgages
and downpayments on owned homes..
Balancing difference (average) 1__________

Amount Percent
of total3



1 The 10 large city areas in addition to Boston are: Baltimore, Chicago,
Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, northern New Jersey area, PhiladelphiaCamden, Pittsburgh, San Franeisco-Oakland, and St. Louis. See BLS
Bull. 1097, Revised, 1953.
2 After deduction of Federal and State income, poll, and -personal property
2 Because of rounding, percentages do not add to 100.
4 Rent, interest on mortgages, taxes on owned homes, and maintenance.
3 A great variety of items: funeral expenses, alimony, etc.
8 Personal insurance premiums and all outlays for durable consumer goods
except dwellings are treated as current expenses and not included in the assets
and liabilities.
t Represents the average net difference between reported money receipts
and reported money disbursements (i. e., sum of current outlays, gifts and
contributions, and personal insurance premiums subtracted from sum of
money receipts, after taxes, plus net decrease in assets and liabilities). It is
a measure of the net reporting error and cannot be assigned to any one seg­
ment of the accounts.
S ource: See text footnote 1.
ter, or skills brought by first-generation immi­
grants in the fabrication of clothing or housefurnishings.
Boston Wage and Clerical Workers, 1950


money receipts after personal taxes amounted
for these families to $3,900 (compared with an
average of $4,038 for the United States21)— a
level exceeded in 9 of the other large cities, and
surpassing only the money income in Baltimore.
In this 1950 survey, the proportion of total
expenditures allocated to “miscellaneous” was
35.6 percent, surpassing even the percentage out­
lay of 35.4 percent spent for food by Boston wageearner families. These same families had a hous­
ing cost which was only 12.7 percent of all pur­
chases. This low ratio compared to 1934-36,
when it was 20.3 percent, is attributable to two
factors: rent control and much higher real incomes.
Inspection of the differences in the average
amount of expenditure for major consumption
commodities among the 11 cities reveals that
Boston worker families were relatively low spend­
ers for most major categories, but purchased
partly by necessity and partly by inclination a few
significant items of consumption at relatively high
rates compared to families in the other large cities.
The average shelter cost for the Boston wage
earner in 1950, for example, was higher than in the
other 10 large cities. Similarly, the group which
includes fuel, light, refrigeration, and water was
one for which Boston families laid out more than
in any other large city.22 Boston families ranked
first in spending both for tobacco products and for
reading materials. For food consumption, at
home and in restaurants, Boston wage-earner fam­
ilies spent close to the median among the Nation's
large cities. In contrast to the relatively high to­
bacco expenditures in Boston, the annual workerfamily outlay for alcoholic beverages was less than
in the other large metropolitan areas.23 In ex­
penditures for clothing, Boston ranked eighth
among the 11 cities.
The relatively low average spending for automo­
bile transportation amounting to only $367 per
worker family, was explained by the much higher
rank (6th) for Boston in terms of spending for
“other transportation,” compared to a rank of 9th
among the 11 cities for auto transportation.
Perhaps even more revealing than the amounts
spent and the rank of Boston was the wide variety
of items of which worker families made purchases
in 1950 compared to the earlier years in which
family expenditures had been studied. In com­
mon with worker families elsewhere in the Nation,
Boston families bought television sets and musical

instruments, television combination sets, mechani­
cal refrigerators, cooking stoves, and automatic
washing machines in large quantities. The im­
proved plane of living in 1950 was manifest in the
purchase of such services as laundry-sent-out,
launderettes, and babysitting.
Two hundred and three dollars per wage-earner
family were spent for medical services and $46 per
family for clothing services (that is, dry cleaning,
shoe repairing, and like items). In the recrea­
tion group, Boston worker families made their
largest single outlay for paid admissions to con­
certs and sporting events, and the next greatest for
cameras and photographic supplies. All of these
were the components of a system of living replete
with commodities and services of the sundries
group, many of which were unknown and even un­
dreamed of at the time of the previous studies.
The strands of advancement threaded their way
through the Boston community, spinning and
weaving a new fabric of living in a continuous proc­
ess over three-quarters of a century. Advancing
technology made available new goods at reasonable
prices and, at the same time, higher wages and
shorter hours. Reform movements focused on
education, slum clearance, and working conditions.
Political action exercised by various groups, in­
cluding labor unions, obtained favorable social wel­
fare legislation. Trade unionism and collective
bargaining grew and won higher wages, more lei­
sure, and improved conditions for workers. The
efforts and accomplishments of many enlightened
employers aided in improving working conditions
and planes of living. The role of the factfinder in
the social sciences brought to light the true condi­
tions of workers' families, providing a factual basis
from which to initiate change and bring reform.
These statistical explorations began with the Mas­
sachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor created in
1869 and the United States Bureau of Labor Statis­
tics founded in 1884.

21 For a detailed analysis in terms of the averages for the United States
see Standards and Levels of Living of City-Worker Families, Monthly Labor
Review, September 1956 (p. 1015).
22 Boston showed a relatively high proportion of rented units; however,
the comparatively high expenditure for fuel was affected both by the climate
and the fact that the rent included heat in only about a third of such units.
22 Although family expenditures for tobacco and alcohol are known to be
underreported in surveys, it can be assumed that the survey results reflect
intercity variations in expenditures for these items.

N e w E n glan d’s economy has become less dependent
on shoes and textiles as employment has risen in both
nonmanufacturing and durable-goods manufacturing.

a n d

E d w a r d T. O ’D

R e c e n t

T r e n d s


E m

P a t t e r n s
p lo y m

e n t


R e c o g n i t i o n and exploitation of New England’s
natural resources and advantageous location for
profitable manufacture came early. For instance,
in 1637, Abraham Shaw was granted by the Great
and General Court of Massachusetts the right
to take ore and fuel from common lands for the
purpose of manufacturing “iron barrs” ; 1 and in
1644, a large iron works was begun in Lynn. A
year earlier, the town of Braintree had voted the
setting aside of 3,000 acres for encouragement of
an iron works,2 and nearly everywhere in the
little coastal settlements, establishments were
busily turning out bricks, pottery, hollowware,
bar iron, scythes, shovels, axes, hammers, and
nails, all articles essential to settlers in a new land.
Thus, New England’s interest in manufacture and
its traditional devotion to the production of light
metalwares and consumers’ goods both began
early and stemmed naturally from the nature of
the readiest market.
Near the beginning of the 19th century, the
greatest regional industry was born with the
building of a spinning frame on the English
Arkwright model by Samuel Slater in Rhode
Island. With this event, the economic history
of New England was revolutionized, for the region
possessed every gift necessary to the manufacture
of textiles: Available waterpower, the proper
degree of humidity for the best processing of
yarn, an adequate labor supply, and excellent
ports for the import of raw cotton and the export
of finished product. In addition, impending
political and historical developments were to
guarantee markets for New England industries
of a magnitude that had previously been


is t o r ic a l

Determinants of Markets for Manufactures
Earliest of these great politico-economic events
was the War of 1812 which cut the flow of English
woven goods into this country and thus afforded
an opportunity for New England merchants to
seize the domestic market. Prior to 1812, New
England had only 32 spinning mills. Between
1812 and 1815, 73 were constructed.3 Even more
significant as part of the general regional pattern
of industrial development, the first power looms
in America were installed in 1813 by the Boston
Manufacturing Co. of Waltham. The weaving of
cloth and the spinning of thread under a single
roof marked perhaps the beginning of the textile
industry in America, as well as the factory system
as we know it.4 New England’s position in the
mid-20th century in the manufacture of precision
machines and interchangeable parts owes much
to the development over the years of mechanical
skills by workers, and of technical knowledge by
management and inventors, in connection with
improving the productivity of textile machinery.6
O f course, other influences helped shape the
region’s machinery and metalworking economy
and account in part for interstate differences
which persist to the present. Although none of
the early iron or copper mines of Connecticut
appear to have developed into m ajor operations,

1 Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtliff, Records of the Governor and Company
of Massachusetts, Boston, W. White, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1873,
Vol. I (p. 206), Vol. II (pp. 61, 81, 103, 125).
2 Samuel A. Bates, The Ancient Iron Works at Braintree, Massachusetts,
South Braintree, F. A. Bates, 1898 (p. 2).
3 C. J. Ware, The Early New England Cotton Textile Manufacture,
Boston, Houghton, Mifflin Co., 1931 (p. 37).
4 Victor S. Clark, History of Manufactures in the United States, New
York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1929, Vol. I (p. 450).
«Ibid. (p. 516).


Chart 1. Industry Shifts in Manufacturing Employment,
New England, 1939 to 1956 1
Percent Change
+ 100

+ 80

settlement of the W ar of 1812, insured even more
than earlier developments that New England
would specialize in the mass production of com­
modities for the Nation's ever-increasing popula­
tion. America needed textiles, shoes, handtools,
and weapons, and New England capitalized and
prospered upon her early mechanization.
Inevitable Decline in Relative Position

+ 60

+ 40

-2 0 -


Goods (except
products and
leather and
leather products)

-4 0

ERS sta

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
and Cooperating State Agencies

i 1956 data are preliminary.
the presence of the metals and the need of the
colonists for hand tools and household wares led
to the growth of a light manufacturing industry
devoted to meeting these demands.6 Further
impetus was imparted to Connecticut metal­
working by the intensive development of clock­
making. In the beginning, the clock movements
were of wood, but early and continuing effort
was made to substitute metal, and in 1837, an
inexpensive brass clock was placed on the market
by Chauncey Jerome of Plymouth, Conn. Its
immediate success proved a boon to the brass
mills of the Nutmeg State.7 At about the same
time, light machines were devised which produced
pins from wire and automatically stuck them on
paper, an advance which secured to its inventors
dominance of the burgeoning American market.8
From beginnings such as these, Connecticut de­
veloped its metallic industries which make it
today a center of hard goods production.
The unparalleled westward surge to settle
inland America, beginning not long after the

B u t the westward migration which provided
the market also contained the seeds of future
competition; each new ly developed section of the
country built its own manufacturing establish­
ments which utilized closer sources of raw material
and sold their goods to the new centers of popula­
tion. Perhaps the most obvious single factor in
speeding the loss of N e w England's relative
position was the universal adoption of steam as a
prime source of industrial power and the con­
sequent loss of premium upon waterpower sites—
probably N e w England's greatest locational

As the fight to retain markets became fiercer
and the region's competitive advantages decreased,
New England management attitudes became less
daring than those of the early innovators and were
increasingly concerned with maintenance of exist­
ing positions.10 Beset by unflagging competition
from other sections of the country, New England
over the years has been sorely pressed to maintain
a share of markets sufficient to support full
employment in its factories. That it has not
been uniformly successful in all aspects of this
struggle has engendered a measure of pessimism
over the region's future as a manufacturing
center.11 Some of this doubt may be justified,
but, in major outline, the record contains more
favorable than gloomy implications. An examina­
tion of the course of New England's economic
fortunes since 1939, as revealed by the ebb and
flow of employment, indicates much to allay the
fears that the region has become static and is
concerned principally with fighting holding actions.

«William G. Lathrop, The Brass Industry in the United States, revised
edition, Mt. Carmel, Conn., William G. Lathrop, 1926 (p. 22).
1William G. Lathrop, op. cit. (p. 34).
s Ibid. (p. 62).
8 Thomas Russell Smith, The Cotton Textile Industry of Fall River,
Massachusetts, New York, King’s Crown Press, 1944 (pp. 41-44).
10 The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Annual Report for 1955 (p. 6).
n Seymour E. Harris, New England's Decline in the American Economy.
(In Harvard Business Review, Cambridge, Spring 1947, pp. 348-371.)

Factory Employment Patterns Since 1939
Between 1939 and 1956, nonagricultural em­
ployment in New England increased by more than
1 million jobs, or 40 percent, as shown in the
following tabulation:

job totals in practically all of the other N e w
England m ajor manufacturing industry groups
have increased in keeping with the nationwide
pattern of advance:

Monthly average employment
Nondurable goodsy
exclusive of textilemil! products and
leather and leather

Monthly average

1 9 3 9 _________

__ _ 2, 582. 4

1 9 4 3 _________

— .

3 , 3 8 0 .7

1 9 4 9 _________


3, 201. 3

1 9 5 3 _________


3, 563. 8



_ _ _ 3, 513. 4

1956 1_______

_ _ _ 3 ,6 0 8 .3

i Preliminary.
Soubce: Bureau of Labor Statistics and cooperating State agencies.
Analysis of these employment trends reveals
elements of both strength and weakness since
certain of the region’s oldest and largest manu­
facturing industries have not, over this span of
years, shared in the general employment gains.
The most dramatic and widely publicized of these
unfavorable developments is the deep decline in
employment suffered by the region’s textile
industry (chart 1). Since 1939, when it was the
major source of jobs for factory operatives,
employment in the New England textile industry
decreased by 108,900 jobs, or 39.5 percent.
Moreover, between 1939 and 1956, the number of
workers in the shoe and leather industry, second
only to the textile industry in 1939 as a source of
manufacturing employment, remained about
stable,12 as shown in the following tabulation:

Monthly average employment
Leather and
Textile-mill leather
(thousands) (thousands)
1 9 3 9 ___________________________________
1 9 4 3 ___________________________________
1 9 4 9 ___________________________________
1 9 5 3 ___________________________________



113. 9
101. 8
114. 4
114. 3



173. 0

114. 9

1956 1_________________________________

166. 4

111. 9

1 Preliminary.
Soubce: Bureau of Labor Statistics and cooperating State agencies.
On the other hand, offsetting the employment
record of textiles and shoes and leather products,
12 New England’s record is better when measured by production rather
than by employment. Its relative share of national output has been well
maintained and of recent years has increased modestly. For a discussion of
this point, see p. 310 of this issue.
13 Chris A. Theodore, New England Economic Indicators, Boston Univer*
sity, College of Business Administration, Bureau of Business Research, 1955
(section on Manufactures).

1 93 9 ________________ _____________

391. 8

387. 2

1 94 3 ________________ _____________

967. 3

406. 3

1 9 4 9 ________________ _____________

585. 5

423. 8

1 95 3 ________________ _____________

791. 3

463. 9

1 95 5________________ _____________

7 1 9 .4

460. 5

1956 1______________ _____________

7 5 7 .8

469. 5

1 Preliminary.
S oubce: Bureau of Labor Statistics and cooperating State agencies.
One effect of the divergence of trends between
textiles and shoes and leather, on one hand, and
all other manufacturing, on the other, has been
a shift of the balance in factory employment
away from the historical heavy reliance upon non­
durable goods toward an even division between
nondurable and durable goods in 1956. (See
chart 2.) Nondurable-goods employment ac­
counted for 66.5 percent of New England man­
ufacturing employment in 1939, for 57.4 in 1949,
and for only 49.7 percent in 1956.
New England’s improving balance between hard
and soft goods is not the result of merely subtract­
ing textile employment from an otherwise static
manufacturing economy. Durable-goods employ­
ment has had an impressive growth in absolute
terms which compares respectably with rates of
growth in other sections of the country.
Some of the oldest and most widely disseminated
production statistics which treat with New
England manufacturing industries are concerned
with textiles and shoes and leather.13 Their
widespread use in the past has tended to focus
attention upon the vicissitudes of those two
industries which have failed to keep pace with the
employment expansion of the rest of the region’s
manufacturing industries. This emphasis has
helped nurture the opinion that New England’s
productive efforts are somehow overconcentrated
in depressed nondurables. In fact, New Eng­
land’s soft-goods industries, apart from textiles
and shoes and leather, have experienced a siz­
able employment gain of 21.3 percent since 1939.

Chart 2. Durable and Nondurable Goods Employ­
ment as a Percent of Manufacturing Employment
in New England, 1939 and 1956 1

ranking by the degree of concentration of manu­
facturing employment in each State's three largest
manufacturing industry groups.14 Massachusetts
and Connecticut, with concentrations of 32.1 and
45.2 percent, were below the median of 46.4
percent. In the remaining New England States,
employment in the 3 largest industry groups ranged
from 50.7 to 57.0 percent of total manufacturing
employment. Comparable figures for other repre­
sentative States were: New York, 35.6 percent;
Virginia, 40.6; Ohio, 43.8; California, 45.2;
Georgia, 56.6; North Carolina, 66.7; and South
Carolina, 78.0.
Trends in Nonmanufacturing Employment

1 1956 data are preliminary.
Diversified Base of Manufactures. In comparison
with other States and regions, New England's
manufacturing employment, whether in durables
or nondurables, is not presently unduly concen­
trated in any small group of industries, but rests
upon a broad base of well-diversified manufactures
most of which are directly tied in with the national
level of industrial activity. It remains undeniable
that in the past a heavy concentration of employ­
ment in the textile industry worked to New
England's disadvantage. Because of this expe­
rience, New Englanders currently display a strong
inclination to spread employment among a broader
list of industries. Not only is the regional factory
economy today less vulnerable to employment
declines stemming from the ills of a single industry,
it is far better diversified than the economies of
some competitive areas which have been the
heaviest gainers from New England's loss of textile
preeminence. None of the New England States
was among the top 25 percent of the States in a

Because major extractive industries are but
lightly represented in New England, and because
of the early and intensive development of manu­
factures, the percentage of the region's work force
in nonmanufacturing employment is lower than
in the United States as a whole. In 1939, for
example, 54.8 percent of New England's nonagricultural workers were concerned with nonmanu­
facturing activities. At the same time, the na­
tional percentage was 66.8 percent. In 1956, how­
ever, the national percentage remained almost un­
changed at 67.2, while New England's participa­
tion in nonmanufacturing employment advanced
to 58.2 percent (chart 3). Since 1939, the ad­
vances in major categories of nonmanufacturing
employment were steady and impressive (table 1).

T able

1.—Average monthly employment in principal non­
manufacturing industries, New England, 1939 and 1956 1


(in thoiisands)

Total__________________________________ 1,414.1
Transportation and public utilities_______
Wholesale and retail trade_______________
Finance, insurance, and real estate................ 100.7
Service and miscellaneous________________
Government (Federal, State, and local)___


from 1939



i Preliminary.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics and cooperating State agencies.
u Based upon employment data obtained from reports by State agencies
cooperating in the Federal-State Current Employment Statistics Program.
Excluded from this comparison were Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska,
Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Wyoming, since published data
for these States were not available in form to permit isolation of the 3 largest
Standard Industrial Classification 2-digit industry groups.


Whether it is desirable for New England to ex­
perience a decrease in the share of manufacturing
employment is a matter over which distinguished
experts disagree. Some hold that such a develop­
ment, if of considerable magnitude, may be the
result of substitution of low-paid service employ­
ment for well-paid factory jobs and should not be
viewed with equanimity.15 Other experts believe
that the tertiary industries assume rising impor­
tance in an advancing industrial economy and
offer hope for overcoming some of the adverse
effects of New England’s dependence on manu­
facturing.16 Whatever the interpretation, cer­
tainly the absolute increase in nonmanufacturing
employment has provided many New England
workers with jobs; and if the second of the two
opinions holds true, the region’s great wealth of
educational, medical, financial, research, and re­
creational facilities probably will provide signifi­
cantly greater employment in the future. The
continued exploitation of these industries should
be a keystone of State and regional development

T a b l e 2 . —Employment in manufacturing and nonmanu­

facturing industries in New England States, 1939 and 1956


N onmanufacturing

Number (in

Number (in


1956 1 1939



278.0 461.2
117.0 167.6
781.6 1,133.9
76.4 99.7
113.6 165.9
47.5 66.4

Connecticut. _ . . . __ 281.2
Massachusetts._ _ _ 568.8
New Hampshire____
Rhode Island.__ ___ 127.8
Vermont ____________ 27.3


19561 1939

i Preliminary.
S ource: Bureau of Labor Statistics and cooperating State agencies.

as the underlying reasons, differed from State to
State. In general, the States fall roughly into
three categories with respect to changes in manu­
facturing employment. Thus, Rhode Island in­
creased factory jobs only slightly over the period,
while moderate gains were scored by Maine, New
Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Vermont in­
creased its manufacturing workers by 41.4 percent,
and Connecticut’s 54.3-percent employment rise
put the Nutmeg State far in the van in the matter
Intrastate Employment Trends
of increased factory employment, as shown in
table 2.
To a greater or lesser extent, employment trends
Most dramatic among the manufacturing em­
within the individual New England States be­
tween 1939 and 1956 have reflected overall
ployment advances were those of the electricalequipment industry, particularly the light assem­
regional changes. Each State has experienced
bly operations comprising the communicationsincreases in the relative importance of nonmanu­
equipment category, and transportation equip­
facturing employment and in the absolute number
ment with especial emphasis upon aircraft engines
of jobs in both manufacturing and nonmanufac­
in Connecticut. Rhode Island did not increase
turing. The employment record of the textile
employment in any single industry sufficiently to
industry has been uniformly unfavorable in the
offset the textile industry decline, although the
6 States, and an almost sidewise trend of shoe and
growth of employment in costume jewelry pro­
leather employment has occurred in 2 of the 3
vided a bright spot. New Hampshire and Massa­
States where this industry is a major factor.
chusetts, on the other hand, by increasing employ­
Only Maine had a notable increase in the number
ment in their electrical-equipment industries, were
of shoe and leather operatives, and some evidence
exists that Maine’s gains were at the expense of
able to cushion somewhat the impact of textile
her New England neighbors.
job declines. Vermont’s gains were for the most
Despite the employment trends in textiles and
part due to a sizable employment increase in the
production of metalworking machinery. No new
shoe and leather products, every State in the
region boosted its manufacturing job total be­
industry of major size developed in Maine over
tween 1939 and 1956. The rates of gain, as well
this span of years, but the gain in shoes and
leather products served to compensate in some
15 Committee of New England of the National Planning Association, The degree for the State’s losses in textiles. Connecti­
People of New England and Their Employment, Monograph No. 7, Boston,
cut during this period has been New England’s
New England Council, 1954 (p. 290). See also William H. Miernyk, Labor
Mobility and Regional Growth. (In Economic Geography, Clark Univer­
prize example of the effect upon employment of a
sity, Worcester, Vol. 31, October 1955, pp. 321-322.)
manufacturing boom. Of the enormous job gain
i« Seymour E. Harris, op. cit. (p. 352).

Chart 3. Manufacturing and Nonmanufacturing Em
ployment in New England, 1939 and 19561

ance and finance industries, long N e w England
strong points, have become even greater providers
of employment in several of the States, notably
Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Dur­
ing the postwar period, government employment,
particularly State and local, mounted in volume
with the increased number of schools and the
additional police and other civic services required
by the great shifts in population and growth of
suburban areas since the close of World War II.
A combination of these factors of industrial boom,
construction activity, and population shifts has
contributed to the expansion of job opportunities
in transportation and public utilities. In five
States, as well as in N e w England as a region, non­
manufacturing industries today account for a
greater relative share of total nonfarm employment
than in 1939, as seen in the following tabulation:

Nonmanufacturing employment as a
percent of total nonagricultural

C onnecticut.
M aine____ __ .
New H a m p sh ire ____
R hode Island
Vermont __ _


4 9 .7
5 5 .3
5 7 .9
5 2 .7
63 .5



1 Preliminary.
S o u r c e : Bureau of Labor Statistics and oooperating State agencies.
in the Nutmeg State, much was due to the extraor­
dinary volume of production of aircraft engines
and parts. This has tended, of course, to stimu­
late activity in allied metalworking and machinery,
the overall effect being to establish Connecticut
at this point of cyclical expansion not only as the
leader among N e w England States, but as one of
the most dynamic in the Nation in terms of
employment rise.
The employment situation of nonmanufacturing
industries was more uniformly favorable among the
States. The gains have been impressive both in
relative and absolute terms. Each State has par­
ticipated in the residential, government, indus­
trial, and highway phases of the nationwide build­
ing boom, and, consequently, construction employ­
ment has risen extensively everywhere. Aggres­
sive promotional drives have aided each State
in developing its recreation industry, with a
resulting stimulus to employment in service activi­
ties and retail trade. Buoyed by a high level of
national income and full employment, the insur­

Several broad conclusions are supported by a
review of the historical development of manu­
facturing in N e w England and an examination of
the regional and State patterns of employment
changes since 1939.
The early development of manufacturing and
the tendency to emphasize the production of con­
sumers’ goods and light, complex machine parts
were natural results of geographical and historical
The degree of regional economic homogeneity
is sometimes overstressed. Despite similarities,
there are important and age-old differences in the
economic structures of the several States.
Emphasis upon the manufacture of nondurable
goods as a principal source of employment has
lessened. The two factors which contributed most
to this changing balance are the growth in the
production of durable goods, particularly since
1939, and the long-term decline in textiles.


Employment trends in the manufacture of non­
durable goods, apart from textiles and, to a lesser
extent, shoes and leather products, have been
strong. Realistic analysis of the region’s economy
calls for consideration of the textile industry apart
from other manufacturing in order to avoid dis­
tortion of non textile trends.
The nonmanufacturing industries of N e w Eng­
land are growing impressively in absolute numbers
of workers and are gaining in relative importance
as sources of employment.
There islittle to suggest that N e w England could
prosper in the absence of national prosperity.
Muc h of the region’s manufacture is consumed or

incorporated into end products beyond its borders.
Similarly, a large part of N e w England’s non­
manufacturing employment advance stems from
high levels of national income which have stimu­
lated expenditures in recreation, finance, educa­
tion, research, medical, and kindred services
offered to the Nation. R y the same token, apart
from the textile situation, there is little to suggest
that regional industries are worse off than their
national counterparts. Since the rising tide lifts
all boats, the economic fortunes of the N e w
England region, and consequently the level of its
employment, will rise or fall with those of the
country as a whole.

The British commander in the American Revolution] managed well,
but not quite well enough. It is difficult to keep military secrets in the midst
of an attentive people, and by the people themselves the discovery was made.
Paul Revere had some thirty mechanics organized to watch and report the
movements of the British, and these men now became convinced that an
expedition was on foot, and one of a serious character. The movement of
troops and boats told the story to watchers, with keen eyes and ears, who
believed that their rights were in peril. They were soon satisfied that the
expedition was intended for Lexington and Concord, to seize the leaders and
the stores; and acting promptly on this belief they gave notice to their chiefs
in Boston and determined to thwart the enemy’s plans by warning and rousing
the country.

— Henry C abot Lodge, The Story of the Revolution, New Y ork, Charles Scribner’s
Sons, 1903 (pp. 31-32).

Labor-Management Relations
Labor and management in New England are faced
with problems arising from economic pressures
and the transition to more diversified economy.

A. H

ow ard


The outstanding factor is negative— the lack
of any uniform trend of business or industrial
relations. There has been a transition from an
important textile industry to increasingly mixed
industrial activity. While total manufacturing
employment in this region fell 9 percent from
1947 to 1955, a decline of 129,000 jobs in postwar
textile manufacturing accounted for over 90
percent of the net decline of 141,000 manufac­
turing jobs.1
Other major industries in which employment
had fallen are machinery manufacturing (except
electrical) and fabricated metal products, which
accounted, respectively, for 18 percent and 13
percent fewer jobs in 1955 than in 1947. In an­
other major manufacturing activity, leather and
leather products, no significant change occurred
in total employment. The other manufacturing
industry employing over 100,000 workers, elec­
trical equipment, provided 11 percent more e m ­
ployment over the 8-year period, while appreciable
gains also occurred in transportation equipment
and in apparel manufacturing.
A substantial drop in N e w England’s manu­
facturing employment as a proportion of total
nonagricultural employment contrasts with the
relatively stable national situation in recent years.
Also, the increasing volume of service industry
jobs, particularly in Massachusetts and Rhode
Island, and of white-collar employment in trade
and finance has not kept pace with national
trends.2 The degree of unionization of white-


i k e i t s e c o n o m i c a c t i v i t y , N e w England’
s in­
dustrial relations cannot be easily distinguished
from the national pattern. Interregional stand­
ards, centralized authority, and nationwide policy­
making have influenced both labor and manage­
ment organizations. Uniform Federal legislation
also has affected local labor conditions and rela­
tionships, making the distinctive elements stand
out less clearly with the passing of time since its
introduction. Some distinguishable features con­
tinue nonetheless.
Anything peculiar to the N e w England scene
will be a reflection of the people and their economic
activity. The conservatism and respect for the
past that is generally characteristic of the local
population has found expression in their social
and economic conduct, with little inclination for
innovation or rapid change and less dynamic drive
than in some other areas of the Nation.


Industrial Transition and Labor Relations
Manufacturing activity of the region developed
early in the Nation’s history and generally was
limited to a few industries. In recent years, how­
ever, the economic pattern has been moving away
from industrial homogeneity. Unlike the prewar
dominance of textile manufacturing, no single
major industry and no predominant labor organi­
zation stands out conspicuously in any of the six
States. To describe the developing trends and
characteristics of labor relations, it will be wise
to note the diverse directions in which business
and employment have been moving.

1 William H. Miernyk, Unemployment in New England Textile Com­
munities, Monthly Labor Review, June 1955 (p. 645).
2 Seymour L. Wolfbein, Changing Patterns of Industrial Employment
1919-55, Monthly Labor Review, March 1956 (p. 250).
(1 8 )

collar employees has not been as great as that of
workers in the manufacturing and other industries
employing manual workers.
M a n y of these employment changes resulted
in large part from labor relations and labor cost
difficulties, and in turn had a serious impact on
the local problems of unions and management.
Industry, labor, and public officials in many
urban communities have been faced with e m ­
ployment shifts and changes in job skills that
were caused by the liquidation of the older plants.
With many of the displaced workers from the
nonexpanding industries in the older age groups,
serious problems of adjustment have been posed
for management and labor representatives in
many local areas. Shifts in production and em­
ployment to diverse industrial activities have
occurred in or around cities such as Brockton,
Lynn, and Worcester in Massachusetts and
Nashua and Manchester in N e w Hampshire.
Textile centers such as Fall River, N e w Bedford,
Salem, Lowell, and Lawrence in Massachusetts;
Woonsocket and Providence in Rhode Island;
and Sanford and Waterville in Maine have be­
come the locations for garment, electronic, m a ­
chinery, or plastics plants. Labor relations have
become unstable because of periods of unemploy­
ment pending shifts to new employment, and
because the new plants often prefer to employ
younger people.
Extent of Unionization
The organization of N e w England's shoe
workers, leather workers, and textile workers pre­
dated the unionization of mass-production indus­
try, and although collective bargaining has a long
history in the region, recent unemployment, job
shifts, and the developing trend from factory to
more white-collar employment seem to have
slowed down the growth of unionization. It is
difficult to give accurate estimates of trends in
recent years since no continuing figures are avail­
able on labor union membership by State. The
National Planning Association estimated that in

* Report on the Economic State of New England, National P l an n in g
Association, published by New England Council, 1954 (p. 370).
* In the writer’s judgment, a fair index of recent local trends, with the pos­
sible exception of Connecticut, is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
Department of Labor and Industries estimates. Total union membership
in the State as reported in its Annual Directory of Labor Organizations, was
as follows: 1951, 598,000; 1953, 614,000; 1954, 589,000; 1955, 565,000,
421586—57----- 4

1951 union membership included 29.3 percent of
the Nation's nonagricultural labor force, with a
N e w England regional membership of 29.6 per­
cent. The high figure for the 6 States was 33.2
percent for Massachusetts, while the low was 22.7
percent for Connecticut.3 There is some later
evidence that unionization in N e w England m a y
be lagging, if not declining absolutely, in net
growth as a result of increasing white-collar
employment and transitional unemployment.4
Normally, union activity will be of small interest
to those out of work and usually will take some
time to develop among those employed in a new
Competing unions have been active in some of
the major N e w England manufacturing industries
for many years, with keen rivalry between unions
formerly affiliated with the American Federation of
Labor and with the Congress of Industrial Organi­
zations, respectively, as well as between these
and independent unions. The textile, leather
tanning, shoe, and electrical equipment industries
have been subject to this competitive unionism.
Although the AFL- C I O unification m a y eventu­
ally reduce rivalry among affiliated unions, the
region's independent unions will probably con­
tinue their dual union campaigning. The United
Mine Workers, District 50, the International
Longshoremen's Association, and the United
Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America
each represents N e w England employees exclu­
sively in some industry or shares representation
in others in conjunction with A F L-CIO unions.
It is also pertinent to note the extent of local
independent union bargaining of long standing.
In the shoe manufacturing centers in and around
Brockton and Marlborough, Mass., Nashua and
Manchester, N. H., and in Lewiston and Auburn,
Maine, multiplant unaffiliated shoe workers'
unions compete with the national organizations.
Another multicompany local organization of
primarily textile workers bargains with manage­
ment in Woonsocket, R. I., plants. In addition,
some employees in the electric power industry
have independent representation, local or national.
Factors Shaping Management Policy
The major industrial relations problems of the
region have been caused by economic factors
rather than by poor personnel practices or anti-

labor attitudes.5 The highly competitive markets
in which N e w England consumers’ goods manu­
facturers often sell have usually been affected by
low-cost, nonunion competition, either domestic
or foreign. In bargaining and handling of griev­
ances over work assignments and piece rates,
management has frequently been under severe
economic pressure.
In a few industries, employers bargain collec­
tively on a multiplant basis through employer
associations. In some localities, this type of or­
ganization has helped in getting union leaders to
consider management’s problems and needs at
the same time that wages, hours, and working
conditions are negotiated. Such employer labor
relations associations bargain in building construc­
tion, printing and publishing, trucking operations,
shoe manufacturing, leather tanning, worsted tex­
tile manufacturing, and the fishing industry. The
formation of these multiemployer groups has been
directed toward a better balance of bargaining
power, and toward joint efforts at getting the
union to consider the competitive problems of
companies with limited economic capacity.
In the cotton-textile industry of Maine and
Massachusetts, multicompany bargaining disap­
peared after the liquidation of the majority of
those mills that were operating on that basis.
The remaining companies negotiate on a single­
company basis, usually with one agreement for
the unionized plants of the employer both inside
and outside of the region.
Major manufacturing agreements, covering at
least 1,000 workers each, were estimated in Janu­
ary 1956 to number 139 in the 6-State area, with
a total coverage of 369,000 employees.6 Those
industry groups in which larger bargaining units
occurred most frequently were textile-mill prod­
ucts, 17 agreements; paper and allied products, 7;
leather and leather products, 8; primary metals, 6;
fabricated metal products, 8; machinery (except
electrical), 21; electrical machinery, 9; transpor­
tation equipment, 8; and construction, 15.
A few of the larger N e w England plants have
their terms of employment determined largely by
centralized bargaining at locations outside of the
region. In such situations, national patterns apply
to N e w England operations. Industries in which
this type of bargaining occurs include food prod­
ucts, automobile assembly, and rubber in eastern
Massachusetts; chemical and electrical equipment

in western and eastern Massachusetts; and ship­
yards and steel wire fabrication in Connecticut
and Massachusetts.
A number of smaller and some large manufactur­
ing plants remain unorganized, even in urban
manufacturing centers like Boston and Worces­
ter. Moreover, many of the large employers
in the finance and distribution industries continue
to administer personnel policy and personnel rela­
tions without union participation. Except for
organization of the industrial insurance agents in
some N e w England cities, the insurance company
employees are not generally unionized.
Bargaining and Economics
The shifts in industrial activity and employment
have been influenced primarily by cost considera­
tions. In this regard, the employees have fre­
quently been on the defensive, and their unions
have often offered arguments based more on mor­
ality than on economics. Justice and efficiency
unfortunately do not always coincide.
Efforts to move from a plane of conflict to one
of more cooperative bargaining and better oper­
ating results have been usually motivated by the
need for survival. The liquidation or the exodus
of textile mills, of shoe factories, and of leather tan­
neries has often been the cumulative result of in­
dustrial relations difficulties, coupled with other
economic factors.
Some of the difficulties of collective bargaining
are reflected by the record of strike activity. With
about 7 percent of the Nation’s nonagricultural
workers, N e w England accounted for 2.5 percent
of all workers involved and 8.5 percent of the mandays of idleness caused by work stoppages during
1955. A lengthy textile strike resulted in the
larger figure for man-days lost.
The statistics of prior years give evidence of less
time lost through stoppages here than might be
expected. N e w England’s percentage of total
strike idleness has exceeded its present share of the
Nation’s nonfarm employees in only 2 years
from 1935 to 1954, namely, 1942 and 1951. (See
table.) These years were more comparable to the

* Recent reports of the National Labor Relations Board show that unfair
labor practice charges against employers in New England run from 5 to 6
percent of national totals. By comparison, New England accounted for
about 7 percent of total nonagricultural employment in 1955.
• See Characteristics of Major Union Contracts, Monthly Labor Review,
July 1956 (p. 808).

late 1920’s and early 1930’s, when organizing as
well as economic causes accounted for an excep­
tionally high regional share of total time lost.
The principal cause of stoppages in the region,
wage issues in the textile and shoe industries, has
diminished in importance in recent years, not­
withstanding the 1955 textile strike, through bet­
ter economic understanding in those situations
where negotiations continue.
A number of situations could be cited in which
the top management of smaller companies in the
textile, metal products, and paper products in­
dustries have been able to direct the plant’s labor
relations into more cooperative efforts. In these
situations, help from both the union representa­
tives and the employees have lowered labor costs
and increased employee earnings. Group incentive
systems which are successfully operating in some
N e w England plants 7 are examples of such co­
operative efforts. Flexibly higher machine assign­
ments, varying according to product requirements,
have been worked out in some textile cases to the
mutual advantage of the company, the employees,
and the union. There are woolen mills operating
profitably in Vermont and in N e w Hampshire,
which were threatening liquidation a few years ago.
Regularly scheduled labor-management meet­
ings for discussion of whatever problems may be
bothering workers or management have replaced
grievance procedures in many plants. Cooperative
attitudes have replaced aggressive conflict in local
paper, textile, and metal products mills which the
writer has had the opportunity to observe at first­
hand. While these programs improve the adminis­
tration of bargaining relations, of course, they do
not eliminate all disputes over wage adjustments.
Private arbitration of contract terms is not
uncommon in N e w England, particularly in the
needle trades and the leather and textile industries.
A no-wage-increase award in the 1949 arbitration
between the Fall River Textile Manufacturers
Association, the N e w Bedford Cotton Manufac­
turers Association, and the Textile Workers
Union of America was followed by a number of
subsequent cotton and rayon arbitrations, some
allowing wage reductions and some denying

1 Two such cases are reported in the National Planning Association study,
Causes of Industrial Peace, New York, Harper & Brothers, 1955 (Chs. 16
and 17, entitled “The Lapointe Machine Tool Co. and the Steelworkers
(CIO)” and “American Velvet Co. and the Textile Workers (CIO),” respec­
tively, pp. 257-295).

W ork stoppages in


E ngland , 1927-5S

Stoppages beginning Man-days idle during year
in the year
(all stoppages)
1929......... .......................
1930.............- .......... .
1931........... .....................
1937_________ ________
1939.................. ................
1940....... ..........................
1941_____ ___________
1942_________ ________
1944_______ ____ _____
1955________________ _

Number involved


1,757, 600
943, 600

Percent of
States total

S o u r c e : U . S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, New
England Regional Office.

Arbitrations have also been used to adjust costs
to a more competitive basis by increasing work
standards. Higher spindle and loom assignments
frequently have been the subject matter of arbi­
trations, and these awards influenced other similar
situations. Arbitration has had educational re­
sults leading to more accommodating attitudes in
bargaining subsequently on similar problems.
Although, in at least 1 woolen mill arbitration in
N e w Hampshire and in 1 cotton-rayon mill in
Massachusetts, weavers refused to undertake big
increases in loom assignments and still refused
after the proposals by management were allowed
by arbitrators on the basis of time studies and
engineering data, in most recent arbitrations the
awards have been accepted promptly without
serious resistances. In the past 6 months, the
writer has participated in textile workload dis­
putes in Maine and Massachusetts where weavers
who objected to the management proposals finally
accepted the arbitrator’s award sustaining m a n ­
agement’s position. A substantial number of dis­
putes over incentive rates have also been resolved
in textile mills, shoe factories, garment, and metal
products plants by arbitration of time-study data
or production-standard proposals.

in many situations, the union officials are in­
clined to prefer that such disputes go to arbitra­
tion because of difficulty in getting the affected
members to accept management's demands. Al­
though not finding proposals inherently unreason­
able, the union representatives m a y find it im­
possible to obtain assent. In such situations, the
employer often initiates arbitration, or the union
does so after a trial period.
Public and Neutral Influences
Labor legislation and local government policies
influence management, labor, and industrial rela­
tions practices. In this respect, the three southern
N e w England States have played an affirmative
part. Each has enacted statutes covering insur­
ance, factory legislation, and minimum wages for
both men and women, all of which affect payroll
taxes and costs. Each also has anti-injunction
and fair employment practices laws.8
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut
each has a labor relations act applicable to e m ­
ployees not subject to the Taft-Hartley law.
N o statutory restrictions on union security
agreements exist in N e w England.9
State mediation and arbitration boards have
been provided for by legislation in five States,
Vermont being the sole exception. Massachusetts
established the first such permanent board in the
Nation in 1886. Connecticut also has a con­
tinuing tripartite organization with authority to
intervene through mediation and to arbitrate
differences when the disputing parties are willing
to accept such services.
The Massachusetts board also has the statutory
authority to investigate any important disputes
on its own initiative and to publish a report when
cooperation of the parties is not forthcoming. In
addition, the legislature in 1947 enacted a bill
authorizing the Governor to take several optional
steps to prevent stoppages in industries furnish­
ing essential services.10
Management Training
Collective bargaining and personnel work have
developed to a professional level with emphasis
on the job of management to handle labor rela­
tions effectively. Management training and labor
relations programs, courses, and conferences,

offered in many local universities, make an im­
portant contribution to labor-management rela­
tions in N e w England and in the entire country.
The availability of N e w England's outstanding
labor economists has been an important influence
on the evolution of mature attitudes within the
area as well as beyond its borders.
While not confined to N e w England, the research
and published materials in the labor relations and
personnel field by those connected with the educa­
tional institutions of N e w England have had an
impact on local thinking by reason of more direct
contact and of the local publicity given to their
With the constant efforts at improving manage­
ment performance, particularly in the direction of
handling group relations and individuals affected
by social situations, N e w England employers have
been turning to the schools for trained personnel.
M a n y companies not located here send their execu­
tives to N e w England universities for professional
training or recruit management talent from stu­
dents in the graduate or technical programs of
N e w England schools.
Union Leadership
The competitive situation of N e w England pro­
ducers presents problems for labor as well as for
management. M a n y marginal situations exist,
and continued employment opportunities often
depend on lower labor costs. Therefore, bargain­
ing has often required union members to make
some difficult decisions. Labor representatives in
many localities have learned from many harsh
experiences their importance in influencing the
decisions of union workers as well as in influencing
The impact of bargaining decisions on the in­
dustrial activity of a community can be serious

812 States have enacted legislation on fair employment practices.
8 When the Federal act was revised in 1947, New Hampshire adopted
legislation that made necessary the approval of two-thirds of the affected
employees before a union membership agreement could be legally executed;
it was repealed 2 years later.
As of 1954, an analysis of major agreements by the Bureau of Labor Sta­
tistics showed that 55 percent of the New England contracts provided for a
union shop, 22 percent for maintenance of membership, 84 percent for dues
checkoff, and 23 percent gave the union sole bargaining rights. (See Union
Security Provisions in Agreements, 1954, Monthly Labor Review, June
1955, p. 654.)
10 Specifically food, fuel, water, electricity, gas, hospital, and medical
facilities are covered; the law, generally acceptable to all groups, is popu­
larly known as the Slichter act after Professor Sumner Slichter, of Harvard
University, who was chairman of the recommending committee. (See
Oh. 596 of the 1948 enactments.)

where competition precludes the passing on to
consumers of higher costs. Management believes
that one cause of N e w England’s labor relations
problems is the existence of too great a degree of
union democracy. The main management criti­
cism leveled at the union leaders comes from their
failure to overcome membership resistance to
needed changes, or membership insistence on non­
competitive wage levels.
Educational programs have been undertaken by
many of the N e w England universities in conjunc­
tion with union and management advisory groups.
Most courses are directed toward the technical
training of leaders, however, with little attention
to business economics.
The Massachusetts Federation of Labor has
introduced into the secondary schools labor essay
contests for student scholarships; it also provides
scholarships for assisting outstanding labor repre­
sentatives to attend the Harvard Trade Union
Fellowship Program, which is the only fullsemester residence program tailored solely for labor
leaders and conducted on the university campus.
AFL-CIO unions formerly affiliated with the Con­
gress of Industrial Organizations and some of N e w
England’s independent unions also sponsor con­
ferences and support courses in conjunction with
universities in the six N e w England States, as well
as educational programs in their union halls with
assistance from university teachers. The writer
has participated in meetings directed to arbitra­
tion, legislation, and collective bargaining on
wages, and helped plan a number of these under­
takings in Massachusetts.
To draw upon the experience and competence
of labor officials, local and national, can be ex­
tremely helpful to management in meeting the
economic impact of industrial relations. As union
officials can be an obstacle or an aid in the process
of negotiating and administering agreements, they
can be helpful to management in getting employee

cooperation, or they can be an adverse factor. In
the judgment of the writer, management in N e w
England has not done well in educating the union
leaders as to management problems. Where the
product is sold in a highly competitive market,
improvement in understanding most often came
only after harsh experience from a critical situ­
ation; sometimes this education has been useful
only in other situations where the crisis m a y not
have developed to a fatal stage.
N e w England, the oldest industrial section of
the Nation, has been experiencing a substantial
transition in labor relations and in economic ac­
tivity. The capacity of management and of labor
leaders has been severely tested in seeking to work
out accommodations to the rapid economic changes.
Inflexible attitudes have in some cases aggravated
the impersonal economic forces underlying the dif­
ficulties. Labor unions and labor leaders today
play significant roles along with industry’s execu­
tives in determining the capacity of industry to
meet the competition, and in influencing the job
opportunities in N e w England communities. Situ­
ations in which poor labor-management relations
have contributed to the liquidation or removal of
plants are not uncommon, but costs, productive
efficiency, and job security have been improved
by mutual efforts in many other cases.
Generally improved labor relations and employ­
ment opportunities must come from more vision
with less emphasis on the past. N e w England
labor and management, to accomplish their com­
mon objectives to their mutual advantage, are
faced with the need for working together to per­
mit necessary changes. Industrial growth and bet­
ter regional prospects can be enhanced by good
management-labor relations, not only at the bar­
gaining table but also in community affairs.

N ew
bu t

E n gla n d ’ s w a g e levels

te x tile s

th e

has com e closer t o

le v e l


recen t


o f o th er regions.

W a g e s

Paul M

d iversified ,

a n d

P e rs o n a l In c o m e

W ith in the six N e w E n gla n d States, h ow ever,
w id e differences in incom e are apparent. C o n ­
necticut, the second highest S ta te in the N a tio n in
term s o f per capita incom e, easily led the oth er
States in the region in 1955 w ith $2,499; fo llo w ed
b y M assachusetts w ith $2,097; R h o d e Islan d,
$1,957; N e w H am pshire, $1,732; M a in e, $1,593;
and V erm on t, $1,535.
T h e excess o f N e w E n gla n d ’s per capita incom e
o v e r the n ational average has been stea d ily re­
duced fro m 25 percen t in 1929 to 13 percen t in
1955.2 H o w e v e r, this same ten den cy to increase
dollarw ise, bu t a t a decreasing rate, is n oticeable
in oth er industrialized areas. B y contrast, regions
w ith the low est per capita incom e in past years,
such as the Southeast, Southw est, and N o r th ­
west, h ave shown the greatest re la tiv e im p ro ve­
m ent.
In co m e fro m w ages and salaries accounted fo r
alm ost 70 percent o f N e w E n g la n d ’s incom e in
1954. T h e im portan ce o f m anu facturing to the
region is illu strated b y the fa c t th a t alm ost a
third o f its personal incom e was d erived from
m anufacturing, as com pared w ith a fou rth fo r the
U n ited States as a w hole. W h olesale and reta il
trade accounted fo r a sizable bu t considerably
sm aller percentage, w ith slig h tly under oneeighth o f the regio n ’s personal incom e a ttrib u tab le
to this source.3
A lth o u gh com m on historical bonds unite th e six
N e w E n gla n d States, it w ou ld be a m istake to
overem phasize the qualities w hich th e y h ave in


T h e e c o n o m ic s t a t u s o f a n y area m a y be
m easured b y variou s yardsticks. A n y o f them ,
inclu ding em ploym en t, capital in vestm ent, produc­
tiv it y , and wages, to choose bu t a few , serve as
useful tools in eva lu a tin g grow th in a dynam ic
society. T h e present a rticle is concerned p rim a rily
w ith w ages o f N e w E n gla n d w orkers and h ow they
com pare w ith those elsewhere in the U n ite d States.
W ages, o f course, m ean m a n y things to m an y
people. T o the em ployer, th e y represent the cost
o f h irin g la b o r; to the m arket research analyst—
p oten tia l purchasing p o w er; to the sociologist—
attain able levels in the standard o f liv in g ; to the
econom ist engaged in fiscal planning, th e y repre­
sent the largest single source o f gross n ational
incom e. T o the w orker, wages represent m a n y o f
these things b u t p rin cip ally the retu rn fo r effort
I t is difficu lt to measure w age levels accu rately
fo r a n y broad geograph ic area. T o a grea t extent,
w ages depend on the ty p e o f industry, skill o f the
w orker, size o f the firm , degree o f unionization,
and a h ost o f oth er factors. A s a result, w id e
differences w ith in an area can and do exist.
R eg io n a l W a g e and In co m e L e v e ls
F r o m the p o in t o f v ie w o f per capita personal
incom e, N e w E n gla n d com pares v e r y fa v o ra b ly
w ith oth er areas o f the U n ite d States. In 1955,
p er capita personal incom e fo r the 6 States was
$2,087 or a p p rox im a tely 13 percen t a b o ve the
n ation al average. F o r the seven broad geograph ic
areas o f the cou ntry, the N e w E n gla n d average
was exceeded o n ly b y the States o f the F a r W e s t

* Charles F. Schwartz and Robert E. Graham, Jr., Personal Income by
States in 1955. {In Survey of Current Business, Washington, August 1956,
pp. 8-10.)
aIbid (p. 8).
>Charles F. Schwartz and Robert E. Graham, Jr., Personal Income by
States, 1929-54. {In Survey of Current Business, Washington, September
1955, pp. 20-21.)

($2,189) and the M id d le E a st ($2,100).1


com m on, to the exclusion o f im p orta n t differences
w hich exist. T o use the obvious com parison, the
econ om y o f N e w H am pshire, w ith its dependence
on shoes and textiles, is fa r differen t fro m the
econ om y o f C onnecticut and its concentration on
aircraft, brass, m achinery, and oth er hard-goods
In Septem ber 1956, gross average h ou rly
earnings fo r produ ction w orkers in m anufacturing
industries reached the $2 m ark fo r the first tim e
in the N a tio n ’s h istory. A m o n g the N e w E n glan d
States, earnings va ried b y m ore than 20 percent,
w ith C on n ecticu t leadin g the oth er States w ith
a verage earnings o f $2 an hour, fo llo w ed b y
M assachusetts ($1.83), R h od e Islan d ($1.67),
V erm o n t ($1.61), M a in e ($1.59), and N e w H a m p ­
shire ($ 1. 56) .4 (See ch a rt.) S ta te earnings va ried
considerably b y area and b y industry. Springfield, V t., is a case in p oin t where, because o f the
dom in ant m achine-tool industry, gross a verage
h ou rly earnings w ere o n ly 4 cents behind the
C on n ecticu t statew ide average. Th ese statew ide
averages m ust be used cautiously, since th ey
reflect, to a grea t extent, the industrial com posi­
tion o f the S ta te and also the len gth o f the w ork ­
w eek, since prem iu m p a y and shift differentials are
included. D u rin g S eptem ber 1956, average hours
w orked ran ged fro m 39.4 in R h o d e Islan d to 41.9
in V erm on t.
E con om ica lly, there is strong ju stification fo r
considering N e w E n glan d according to a northsouth division. Earnings in Massachusetts, C o n ­
necticut, and R h o d e Islan d are usually higher
than in V erm o n t, M a in e, and N e w H am pshire.
T h e 1950 su rvey o f F a m ily In com e, E x p en d i­
tures, and S avings b y the Bureau o f L a b o r S tatis­
tics substantiated this general tendency. A nn u al
m on ey incom e o f w age-earner and clerical-w orker
fam ilies fo r the eigh t N e w E n glan d cities included
in the stu dy ran ged fro m $4,689 in M id d leto w n ,
Conn., to $3,423 in P o rtla n d , M a in e .5 C o m p a ­
rable incom e in the rem ainin g cities was H a rtfo rd ,
Conn., $4,246; B oston, M ass., $3,886; B arre, V t.,
4 See table 0-7, pp. 412-418of this issue.

* See Family Income, Expenditures, and Savings in 1950, BLS Bull. 1097
Revised, 1953(pp. 17-41).
• Report of the New England Textile Industry by Committee Appointed
by the Conference of New England Governors, 1952 [Seymour E. Harris,
chairman, Littauer Center), Cambridge, Mass. (p. 129).
7Average straight-time hourly earnings exclude premiumpay for overtime
and for work onweekends, holidays, and late shifts and in this respect differ
fromgross average hourly earnings mentioned earlier.
8SeeEarnings in CottonTextiles, November 1954, Monthly Labor Review,
May 1955(p. 533).

Gross Average Hourly Earnings of Factory Production
September 1956



Connecticut LMassa- Rhode Vermont
chusetts Island





Source: Bureauof Labor Statistics
and Cooperating State Agencies

$3,727; Provid en ce, R . I., $3,515; B an gor, M a in e,
$3,513; and La con ia , N . H ., $3,485.
W a g e s in S oft-G o od s In du stries

Textiles. Im p o rta n t differentials betw een w a ge
levels o f tex tile plants in N e w E n gla n d and those
in the South h ave existed throughout the 20th
century. A s a result, m a n y generalizations h ave
been m ade leadin g to the erroneous conclusion
th at N e w E n gla n d is a high-w age area. In the
period 1922-26, N e w E n glan d m ills m ain tain ed an
average w age differen tial o f 36 percen t o v e r
southern plants.6 H o w e v e r, in ensuing years
industrialization in the South gra d u ally brou gh t
the tw o closer together. B y 1939, the differen tial
in the co tto n -textile in du stry had been reduced to
20 percent and, at the tim e o f the B ureau o f L a b o r
Statistics last occupational w age su rvey o f th a t
in du stry in N o v e m b e r 1954, a verage straight-tim e
h ou rly e a rn in g s7 o f the in d u stry’s produ ction
w orkers in N e w E n glan d ($1.32) w ere o n ly 13 p er­
cent higher than the average ($1.17) paid in the
Southeast, w here o v e r 4 ou t o f 5 w orkers in the
in du stry w ere located.8
P ro b a b ly a m ore m eaningfu l comparison, h ow ­
ever, can be m ade b y ty p e o f product. N e w
E n gla n d m ills h ave tended to concentrate on finecom bed cotton fabrics since, because o f their
skilled la b or force and the low er p roportion o f
ra w m a terial costs to to ta l cost, th e y can operate
m ore c o m p e titiv e ly w ith oth er areas. W ork ers in
in tegra ted m ills or those perform in g the com plete
operation on fine-com bed cottons a veraged $1.31

an hour as com pared w ith S I.27 fo r sim ilar oper­
ations in the Southeast. T h e differen tial fo r com ­
parable products is o b vio u sly much less than th at
fo r all co tto n -textile products, including carded
yarn, duck cloth, and gen erally coarser fabrics
w hich constitu te the bu lk o f southern production.
N o rth -S o u th differentials also ten d to v a r y b y
occupation. In N o v e m b e r 1954, h ou rly w ages fo r
the m ore skilled occupations such as m en loom
fixers and w eavers w ork in g on com bed yarn
fabrics in N e w E n gla n d w ere $1.67 and $1.50,
resp ectively, as com pared w ith $1.63 and $1.44 in
southeastern plants. In oth er occupations, h ow ­
ever, in the unskilled and sem iskilled categories,
the differences w ere as h igh as 25 cents an hour.
I n the m anufacture o f synth etic textiles, N e w
E n gla n d m ills accounted fo r about 14 percent o f
the produ ction w orkers em ployed in N o v e m b e r
1954. O f the three m a jo r produ cin g areas, h igh ­
est h ou rly earnings o f $1.35 w ere reported in N e w
E n glan d, w ith w orkers in m ills in the M id d le
A tla n tic States averagin g $1.32 and those in the
Southeast, $1.22 an hour.9
N e w E n gla n d leads all oth er regions in the m an­
ufacture o f w oolen and w orsted goods. In 1952,
o v e r 60 percen t o f all persons em ployed in the
produ ction o f these goods w orked in N e w Englan d.
Because o f the grea ter skills required, their wages
are gen era lly h igh er than those in the cotton - and
sy n th etic-textile industry. In the period A p r ilM a y 1952, a t the tim e o f the latest occupational
w a ge su rvey o f the w oolen and w orsted goods
in du stry m ade b y the Bureau o f L a b o r Statistics,
a verage stra igh t-tim e earnings fo r the entire
in du stry w ere $1.45 an hour as com pared w ith
$1.50 an hour in N e w E n gla n d m ills. B y com ­
parison, a verage h ou rly earnings w ere slig h tly
lo w er in the M id d le A tla n tic States ($1.47) and
considerably lo w er in the Southeast ($1.19).
Th ese three areas com bined accounted fo r o v e r
nine-tenths o f the to ta l em p loym en t in the
in du stry.10

Footwear. N e w E n gla n d tra d itio n a lly leads oth er
areas o f the U n ite d States in the m anufacture
o f fo o tw e a r.11 Since 1949, its share o f the n ational
ou tp u t has been increasing, and cu rren tly o v e r 37
percen t o f all fo o tw ea r produced in the U n ite d
S tates is m anufactured in N e w E n glan d. In
1953, stra igh t-tim e average h ou rly earnings in the
N e w E n gla n d and M id d le A tla n tic regions w e re

about 6 percen t higher than in the G reat L a k es
area and 10 percent h igher than in the M id d le
W e s t.12 T h e fo u r areas represent the m ain shoe
produ cing areas o f the country.
T h e fa vo ra b le ran kin g o f N e w E n gla n d was
p a rtly explained b y the fa c t th a t about h a lf o f
its shoe w orkers w ere engaged in the produ ction
o f w om en ’s cem ent-process shoes, con ven tion al
lasted— the process fo r w hich w ages w ere highest.
M o s t o f its rem ainin g w orkers w ere produ cin g
m en ’s G o od y ea r w e lt dress shoes, the n ext highest
paid group.
W a g e s in M eta lw o rk in g

Nonelectrical Machinery.

In the la tte r p a rt o f
1946, m ach in ery (except electrical), the largest
m a jo r group w ith in the m eta lw o rk in g industries,
em ployed about 12 percen t o f all N e w E n gla n d
w orkers engaged in m anufacturing. D im in g the
succeeding 10 years, there h ave been o n ly slight
variances from y e a r to year. B L S studies illus­
tra te v e r y clearly the im p ortan ce o f this in d u stry
to N e w En glan d. A v e r a g e straigh t-tim e h ou rly
earnings in 1956 fo r about h a lf o f all occupations
studied in three m a jo r N e w E n gla n d m ach in ery
centers— B oston, W orcester, and H a rtfo rd — w ere
o v e r $2 an hour.13 R a tes in H a rtfo rd w ere gener­
a lly higher than in the oth er tw o cities and ran ged
fro m $1.52 an hour fo r jan itors to $2.35 fo r too l
and die makers. B oston rates, ran gin g fro m $1.43
to $2.24 fo r the same occupations, w ere slig h tly
b elo w those in W orcester.
C om p ared w ith m ach in ery w orkers’ earnings in
oth er areas studied, those in N e w E n gla n d cities
la gg ed behind. E arn in gs in the in du stry w ere
ty p ic a lly highest in the D e tr o it area, w ith high
levels also characteristic o f oth er cities in the
G re a t L a k es region, P ittsb u rgh , and, fo r h igh ly
skilled jobs, St. Louis. A ran kin g o f earnings fo r
skilled m ach in e-tool operators 14 in 21 m a jo r m a8See Earnings in Synthetic-Textile Manufacturing, November 1964
Monthly Labor Review, June 1965(p. 659).
wWoolen and Worsted Textiles Earnings in April-May 1952, Monthly
Labor Review, October 1952(p. 403).
n For a discussionof theregion’s footwear industry, see p. 310of this issue.
n Earnings of ShoeWorkers, March 1953, Monthly Labor Review, January
1954(p. 40).
isWage Structure: Machinery Manufacturing, Winter 1955-56, BLS
Report 107, 1956 (pp. 8-9).
1* This occupational classificationincludes productionworkers ofajourney­
man level of skill working on such machines as drill presses, engine lathes,
milling machines, and similar types of machine tools. It represents the
broadest classificationwith the largest number of employees for which com­
parison is possible.

ch in ery areas showed a w id e dispersion— from
$2.89 in D e tr o it to $1.89 in D allas. H a rtfo rd
ranked in 17th position, W orcester in 19th, and
B oston in 20th place
(See table 1.)
H o w e ver, although N e w E n gla n d did n ot rank
am ong the w age leaders in the m ach in ery m anu­
factu rin g industry, it nonetheless has succeeded
in m ain tain in g its re la tiv e position. D u rin g the
period 1945-56, w ages in the 21 k e y m ach in ery
areas com bined increased 98.3 percent.
this same period, the advance in H a rtfo rd (99.1
p ercen t) was slig h tly ab ove the overa ll average
and th a t in B oston (96.4 percen t) slig h tly low er.
(T h e increase fo r W orcester, although included
in the 21-area average, was n ot published
sep arately.)

Other Metalworking Industries, T h e stea d y grow th
o f tran sportation equ ipm ent and electrical m a­
ch inery has also been o f grea t im portan ce in
N e w E n g la n d ’s progress. Th ese industries have
brou gh t to N e w E n gla n d m an u facturing n ot
o n ly a h igh ly desirable degree o f diversification
b u t also higher wages. D u rin g the past 6 years,
fo r exam ple, w ages o f M assachusetts produ ction
w orkers in electrical m ach in ery increased from
$1.43 an hour in O cto b er 1950 to $1.82 in O ctober
1956, and in tran sportation equ ipm ent from
$1.66 to $2.35 an hour during the same period .15
Th ese industries represented 27 percen t and 8
percent, re sp ectively, o f produ ction w orkers em ­
p lo y ed in M assachusetts durable-goods m anu­
fa ctu rin g in O ctober 1956.
C om m u nity W a g e L e v e ls
T h e com m u n ity w age su rvey has p ro ve d a
successful to o l in m easuring the general w age
le v e l o f labor m arket areas and has m ade it pos­
sible to com pare wages in variou s com m unities
b o th w ith in a region and am ong d ifferen t regions.
T h is ty p e o f su rvey covers a w ide range o f oc­
cupations com m on to a v a r ie ty o f in du stries:
m an u facturing; tran sportation and public u tilities;
15See Massachusetts Nonagrieultural Employment, 1939-1953, and Manu­
facturing Hours and Earnings, 1950-1953, Massachusetts Department of
Labor and Industries, 1954; also Total Manufacturing Employment and
Earnings of Production Workers in Massachusetts, October 1956, Mas­
sachusetts Department of Labor.
18 Wage Differences Among 40 Labor Markets, Monthly Labor Review,
December 1952 (p. 620).
17Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1956 (77th ed.), U. S. Bureau
of the Census, 1956(p. 113).

T able 1.—Employment and average straight-time hourly

earnings for machine-tool operators, production, class A,
in 21 cities, winter 1955-56

Detroit____ ___ _
St. Louis. ______ __
Chicago. ... __ __ __ _
Pittsburgh________ _ _ .
Milwaukee.._______ __ . _ _ . . .
Cleveland___ .. __
Philadelphia____ . . . ______
... ___
Denver___ . . . __
Los Angeles-Long Beach___ _ _ _____ ...
San Erancisco-Oakland . _ .... __
New York___ ____
___ _
Newark-Jersey City__ _ _
Portland (Oreg.)_____ ...
Minneapolis-St. Paul__ . . .
. . . __
Houston________ . . . .
Buffalo.... .......
_ __
Hartford __
Baltimore__ ______ _ _ __ . . . ___ _
Worcester___ . . . ____ ___ _ ... ____
Boston. ___ _
_ __ _
Dallas____ _ __ ... __ _____ _ _ _

Number of straight-time
7, 794
2, 528

2. 37
2. 32
2. 26
2. 24
2. 24

Source: Wage Structure: Machinery Manufacturing, Winter 1955-56
BLS Report 107, 1956(pp. 8-9).
wholesale and reta il tra d e; finance, insurance, and
real estate; and selected service industries.
A stu dy o f 40 labor m arket areas in 1952 re­
vea led basic and im p orta n t differences am ong the
G en erally, w ages w ere highest in cities
along the P a cific C oast and in the G reat L a k es
region, w ith cities in the M id d le A tla n tic area
usually higher than in the South and in N e w
E n gla n d .16
T h is stu dy in dicated w ide differences in the
w age levels o f office w orkers am ong N e w E n glan d
cities, w hich ranked as fo llow s: H a rtfo rd , 16th;
Boston, 27th; W orcester, 32d; and Provid en ce,
W e e k ly salaries in the last-nam ed c ity
w ere less than 75 percent o f those received b y
office w orkers in San Francisco and D e tro it, the
highest ran kin g o f the 40 cities surveyed.
S everal factors appear significant in explainin g
the re la tiv e position o f N e w E n glan d office workers.
A m o n g these are the industrial com position o f the
area, w age levels in the various industries, and the
supply o f office w orkers re la tive to existing
dem and. Residen ts o f the N e w E n gla n d States
h ave one o f the highest educational levels in
the U n ite d S tates; th eir average o f 10.4 school
years com pleted com pares w ith a n ational average
o f 9.3 school years com pleted.17
In the 1952 stu dy o f 40 m a jo r labor m arket
areas, in te rc ity w age relationships fo r selected
plant occupations w ere gen era lly sim ilar to those
fo r office w orkers except th a t p a y levels in southern

2.—Average weekly salaries or average hourly
earnings1 for selected occupations in 8 New England
cities, hy sex, selected months, 1956

T able

Law­ Frovi- Boston
rence dence
Occupation and sex

Febru­ March Sep­
1956 tember
Average weekly salaries1

Women office workers:
Clerks, accounting, class A.
Clerks, file, class B_____
Clerks, payroll________
Stenographers, general___

$59.50 $58.50
40.50 42.50
49.00 52. 50
67.00 61.50
54.50 51.50


Average hourlyearnings1
Skilled menworkers:
Carpenters, maintenance_______________
Electricians, maintenance______________
Machinists, maintenance_______________
Pipefitters, maintenance_______________
Tool and die makers__________________
Men custodial and material movement workers:
Janitors, porters, and cleaners___________
Laborers, material handling_____________
Truckdrivers, medium (1^ to and including



$2. 22
2. 51
1. 61

1Average weekly salaries are standard salaries paid for standard work
schedules. Average hourly earnings are straight-time hourly earnings, ex­
cluding premiumpay for overtime and for work onweekends, holidays, and
Source: Occupational Wage Surveys, Lawrence, Mass., Providence, R. I.,
and Boston, Mass., BLS Bulls. 1188-11,1188-14, and 1202-4, respectively.
areas w ere considerably lo w e r than in N e w
E n gla n d cities fo r custodial, w arehousing, and
shipping jobs, b u t fo r the skilled m aintenance
crafts th e y com pared fa vo ra b ly .
W ith in N e w
E n glan d, p a y levels fo r m aintenance, custodial,
w arehousing, and shipping occupations w ere
gen era lly highest in B oston, fo llow ed b y H a rtfo rd ,
W orcester, and P rovid en c e in th a t order.18
In the 1955-56 com m u n ity w age surveys o f 17
areas, p a y levels in P rovid en c e (th e o n ly N e w
E n gla n d area in clu ded) ranked 16th fo r w om en
office w orkers, 17th fo r skilled m aintenance
workers, and 13th fo r custodial and m aterial
m ovem en t em ployees.19
In recent years, la rg e ly because o f the relocation
and consolidation o f tex tile plants, several N e w
E n gla n d la b o r m arkets h ave been plagu ed b y a
substantial la b o r surplus.
A lth o u gh there are
some d ata on the econom ic and social effects o f
such conditions upon the la b o r force, little
in form a tion has been ava ila b le on th eir im p act
upon wages. In F e b ru a ry 1956, at the u rging o f
local com m u n ity groups, the Bureau o f L a b o r
S tatistics conducted a full-scale com m u n ity w age
su rvey o f the Law ren ce, M ass., area. L a w ren ce
at one tim e w as the center o f the w oolen and

w orsted in du stry and, as recen tly as 1941, about
80 percent o f its 37,000 m anu facturing em ployees
w ere engaged in the produ ction o f tex tile goods.
B y 1956, h ow ever, slig h tly less than 6,000 w orkers,
or a p p rox im a tely one-fourth o f its fa c to ry w o rk
force, w ere so em ployed.
S evere hardships resulted from the cu rtailm ent
o f tex tile produ ction and, in 1949, an estim ated
21,000 persons w ere u nem ployed.
A lth o u gh
grea t im p rovem en t had taken place b y the tim e
o f the B L S su rvey in 1956, an estim ated 6,000
w ere still u nem ployed.
T a b le 2 shows co m p a rative scales in B oston,
L a w ren ce, and Provid en ce, fo r all occupations fo r
w hich com parison is possible.
A lth o u gh the
L a w ren ce and P ro vid en c e surveys w ere m ade 7
and 6 m onths, re sp ectively, before the B oston
study, several general conclusions can be drawn.
E v e n i f allow ance had been m ade fo r the increases
w hich p ro b a b ly occurred in L a w ren ce and P r o v i­
dence in the in terim , w ages w ou ld h a ve va ried
considerably am ong the three cities although th e y
are less than 70 m iles apart. R a tes w ere con­
siderably higher in B oston than in the oth er tw o
D ifferen ces w ere m ost clea rly apparent
in the skilled m aintenance trades, w here B oston
h ou rly rates ran ged from 36 to 51 cents a b o ve those
in L a w ren ce and fro m 20 to 37 cents m ore than
in P ro vid en c e.20 I n the office and custodial and
m aterial m o vem en t occupations, differen tials also
existed b u t n ot to such a m arked degree.
U nion W a g e Scales
R a tes paid in the bu ildin g trades also serve as a
useful barom eter o f a regio n ’s w a ge structure. In
January 1957, bricklayers in nine N e w E n gla n d
cities studied q u a rterly b y the Bureau o f L a b o r
Statistics earned $3.25 an hour or higher.
contrast, the union scale fo r bu ildin g laborers was
slig h tly o v e r $2 an hour, except in P o rtla n d ,
M a in e, w here it was $1.95.
Because o f local bargain in g patterns, w ages in
construction trades v a r y fro m c ity to c ity and
fro m region to region.
D a ta fro m the m ore
com prehensive B L S annual su rvey o f union
scales in the bu ildin g trades show th a t on J u ly 1,
18See Wage Differences Among 40 Labor Markets, op. cit. (p. 622).
19See Earnings and Wage Differentials in 17 Labor Markets, 1965-56,
Monthly Labor Review, September 1956(p. 1045).
20Occupational Wage Surveys, Lawrence, Mass., Providence, R. I., and
Boston, Mass., BLS Bulls. 1188-11, 1188-14, and 1202-4, respectively.

1956, fo r all bu ildin g trades w orkers (journeym en,
helpers, and laborers) in N e w En glan d, a verage
h ou rly w age rates w ere $2.85 an horn.21 B y
contrast, the n ational average was $3.04 an hour
and the range fo r 9 m a jo r geograph ical regions
was fro m $3.31 in the M id d le A tla n tic States to
$2.56 in the Southeast (ta b le 3).
R ela ted W a g e Practices
In recent years, considerable atten tion has been
g iv en to frin ge benefits. W h eth er considered as
a cost item to m anagem ent or as a social gain to
labor, there can be little question o f the need to
consider them w hen discussing wages.
R esults o f previous surveys in the cotton, syn­
thetic, and w oolen and w orsted tex tile in du stry
revea l th a t N e w E n gla n d produ ction w orkers
w ere gra n ted pa id holidays to a grea ter degree
than those in o th er areas. A p p ro x im a te ly 9 out
o f 10 N e w E n gla n d tex tile w orkers received 6 or
m ore paid h olidays in all 3 segments o f the indus­
try . In the M id d le A tla n tic States, paid h olid a y
provisions w ere abou t the same except in syn th etic
textiles w here o n ly about h a lf the pla n t produ ction
em ployees received 6 or m ore paid holidays. B y
contrast, in both cotton and syn th etic textiles in
the Southeast o n ly about 1 out o f 5 produ ction
w orkers received paid holidays, usually 1 or 2
holidays a year. In plants m anufacturing w oolen
and w orsted textiles in the Southeast, about 1 out
o f 10 produ ction w orkers received 6 paid holidays
a year, w h ile about 8 out o f 10 received no paid
In fo otw ea r, am ong the m a jo r produ cin g areas,
3 ou t o f 5 produ ction w orkers in the N e w E n glan d
and M id d le A tla n tic areas received 6 o r m ore
paid holidays, w hile the percen tage was slig h tly
higher in the G rea t L a k es region and considerably
higher in the M id d le W e s t w here slig h tly o v e r 9
ou t o f 10 p la n t w orkers received 6 o r m ore paid
T h e 1955-56 series o f m ach in ery su rveys in 21
areas o f the U n ite d States reveals th a t in B oston
and N e w Y o r k a m a jo rity o f p la n t em ployees
received 8 or m ore paid holidays and about a third
o f the w orkers received 9 or m ore pa id holidays.
In W orcester and H a rtfo rd , three-fourths o f the
plan t em ployees in these areas received 7 or
Union Wages and Hours: Building Trades, July 1, 1956, BLS Bull.

T able 3.—Average union hourly wage rates in the building

trades by region, July 1, 1956

All building trades..____ ... _ __ ____ _ _____ _
Middle Atlantic__
__ _ ____ _ __ ... _ ... _
Great Lakes___ __ __ ... __ ___ ________
__ _ _
Pacific._____ _
___ ___ _ _____ _
Middle West _ .____
__ __ __ _ _______
__ __
New England... _ __ ___ _______ ___ ____
. __
Border States____ ____ ____ ___ _
_ _____
_ __
Mountain__ _ _____ __ _ _____
Southwest_____ __ _ _ _______
_______ ____
Southeast..__ __ ______ __ __ __________ _ __ _

hourly rate
2. 73
2. 56

Source: Union Wages and Hours: Building Trades, July 1, 1956, BLS
Bull. 1205, 1957.
m ore paid holidays. B y contrast, the predom in an t
practice in 10 o f the 21 areas was to gra n t 6 paid
holidays during the year.
In the fo o tw ea r industry, the m a jo rity o f N e w
E n gla n d shoe w orkers in 1953 received 1 w eek ’s
va ca tion a fter 1 y e a r o f em ploym en t and 2 w eeks
a fter 5 years. W h en the 4 principal shoe-produc­
in g areas are ranked according to the percen tage
o f w orkers receivin g 2 weeks a fter 5 years’ service,
the M id d le W e s t area leads, fo llow ed b y the G reat
Lakes, N e w En glan d, and M id d le A tla n tic areas
in th a t order.
P a id va ca tion policies a p p lyin g to N e w E n gla n d
produ ction w orkers in the tex tile in du stry w ere
gen era lly superior to oth er sections o f the U n ite d
States. I n cotto n and synth etic textiles, N e w
E n gla n d plan t em ployees ty p ic a lly received v a c a ­
tion benefits based on a percentage o f the in d i­
vid u a l’s annual earnings; nam ely, 2 percent a fter
1 year, 3 percen t a fter 3 years, and 4 percent
a fter 5 years. Provision s in the M id d le A tla n tic
S tates w ere n ot as extensive as in N e w E n glan d
b u t m ore lib era l than in the Southeast w here less
than 1 in 10 plan t em ployees received addition al
va ca tion provisions a fter 3 years o f service. In
w oolen and w orsted tex tile m ills also, N e w E n g ­
land va ca tion provisions fo r plan t em ployees w ere
usually m ore liberal than those in the Southeast
and slig h tly higher than those a p p lyin g to plan t
em ployees in w oolen and w orsted m ills in the
M id d le A tla n tic States.
In the broad area o f health and insurance plans,
N e w E n glan d tex tile w orkers also received bene­
fits to a grea ter degree than in the M id d le A tla n tic
and Southeast areas. H o w e ver, in b oth textiles
and footw ea r, coverage under pension plans was
ex trem ely lim ited b o th on a national and region al
basis. A b o u t 10 percen t o f N e w E n glan d plan t

em ployees w ere covered under pension program s;
b u t in fo o tw ea r coverage was even m ore lim ited,
w ith o n ly 2 percent o f the area's shoe w orkers
covered under a pension program .
H o w e v e r, in contrast to the re la tiv e ly lo w p ro ­
portion o f p la n t w orkers covered b y pension plans,
o v e r three-fourths o f all N e w E n glan d production
workers in cotton and about one-half o f those in
syn th etic textiles w ere covered b y retirem en t
severance p a y plans calling fo r stated am ounts fo r
each y e a r o f service.
T h is emphasis on retirem en t severance plans as
opposed to pension program s is due to a num ber o f
factors, bu t p rim a rily to the contractin g nature o f
em p loym en t and re la tiv e in sta b ility o f the industry , plus the cost o f a pension program .
C om parative L iv in g Costs
One final standard can be used in eva lu a tin g the
re la tive position o f N e w E n gla n d w age earners.
W a g e statistics h ave considerably m ore m eaning
w hen considered in relationship to prices. A l ­
though current statistics are n ot available on
in te rc ity com parisons o f the cost o f livin g, the
1951 C it y W o rk e r's F a m ily B u d g et can be used
to a d va n ta ge.22 T h is bu dget is defined as “ the
annual cost o f a m odest bu t adequate le v e l o f
liv in g " fo r a four-person urban fa m ily. T h e cost
o f this bu dget, at O ctob er 1951 prices, in 34 m ajor
cities ran ged fro m $3,812 in N e w Orleans to
$4,454 in W ash in gton , D . C. B oston ranked in
the top third, w ith an estim ated bu dget o f $4,217,
w hich was exceeded in such cities as M ilw a u k ee,
R ich m on d, and L o s A ngeles. N e w Y o r k and
P h iladelph ia had budgets considerably b elo w the
B oston figure— $4,083 and $4,078, respectively.
T h e estim ated cost o f this same le v e l o f liv in g in
M an ch ester, N . H ., was $4,090 and in Portla n d ,
M a in e, $4,021.
T h is bu dget has not been recom pu ted since 1951.
H o w e v e r, som e measure o f price change is a v a il­
able in the Consum er P rice In d e x w hich in
O cto b er 1956 was 117.7 (1947-49 = 100) or 5 per­
cent a b o ve O ctob er 1951 fo r the U n ite d States as
a w hole. T h e in dex fo r B oston h ad risen to 119.3,
or 7.1 percent o v e r its le v e l fo r the earlier period.

22 City Worker's Family Budget for October 1951, Monthly Labor Review.
May 1952 (p. 520).

S um m ary
W ag es and incom e in N e w E n gla n d gen era lly
advan ce and decline in the same m anner as th e y
do in oth er sections o f the U n ite d States. T h e
principal exception to this ten d en cy is fou nd in
the tex tile in du stry w here w ages are u sually set
b y bargainin g ta k in g place w ith in the region.
W ith in N e w E n glan d, w ages and incom e v a r y b y
area, industry, and le v e l o f skill. W a g es and
incom e are gen erally higher in the southern h alf
o f N e w E n gla n d and p a rticu la rly in C on necticut.
Fu rth erm ore, w ith in the States them selves im ­
po rta n t w age differences exist. In M assachusetts,
fo r exam ple, occu pational w age differences are
clea rly evid en t fo r com parable jobs in the L a w ­
rence and B oston areas. T h e substantial unem ­
p lo ym en t problem th a t has existed in L a w ren ce
in recent years appears to be one o f the im p orta n t
factors con tribu tin g to this difference in wages.
In tw o principal soft-goods industries— shoes
and textiles— w ages in N e w E n gla n d are higher
than those in oth er regions, although the d iffer­
ential has been n arrow in g in recent years in the
case o f textiles. In relation to oth er areas o f the
U n ited States, w a ge levels in N e w E n gla n d cities
gen erally ran k b elo w cities o f the P a cific C oast,
M id d le W est, and M id d le A tla n tic States. On
the oth er hand, p a y levels o f office w orkers in
southern cities and in N e w E n gla n d correspond
closely, w h ile plan t w orkers on in direct jobs (m ain ­
tenance, custodial, w arehousing, and sh ippin g) in
N e w E n glan d gen era lly h a ve h igh er p a y levels
than their counterparts in the South.
T h e m ost n oticeable trend in recen t years has
been fo r ligh t-w eigh t m eta l fa b rica tin g and assem­
b ly com panies to lo ca te in N e w En glan d. E x is t­
in g w age rates and an industrialized w o rk force
h ave offered a fe rtile field fo r m anufacturers o f
electronic equipm ent. T h is has been especially
n oticeable in M assachusetts. In a sim ilar m an ­
ner, the m achine-tool in du stry in C on n ecticu t
has added n ew firm s because o f a w a ge differen tial
fa vo ra b le in relation to oth er areas. In m an y
cases, these n ew ly a rrived m anufacturers o f du r­
ables p a y h igh er w ages than the soft-goods indus­
tries w hich in fo rm er tim es set the pace fo r the
N e w E n glan d econom y. A t the sam e tim e, the
new industries m ean increasing diversification o f
the N e w E n glan d econom ic scene.

Improvement has taken place in those New England areas
whi ch have been s t ricken by severe u n e m p l o y ­
ment, but some difficult problems remain to be solved.

The Problem
of Depressed Areas

il l ia m

H. M

ie r n y k

T h e im p a c t o f the recession o f 1947-49 w as un­
usually severe in N e w E n glan d. In addition to
the cyclical rise in unem ploym ent, certain struc­
tural changes w ere ta k in g place in the regional
econ om y w hich added to tota l u nem ploym ent.
In du strial a c tiv ity declined from 1947 through
1949. Insured u n em ploym ent in N e w E n gla n d
passed the 350,000 m ark during the second qu arter
o f 1949.1 T o t a l u n em ploym ent w as in excess o f
this, since som e w orkers had exhausted their un­
em ploym en t com pensation ben efit rights, and
others w ere n ot covered b y u nem ploym en t insur­
ance.2 In M assachusetts and R h o d e Island, the
u nem ploym ent com pensation reserve funds w ere
threatened w ith depletion.3
In J u ly 1949, the trend was reversed. P ro d u c­
tion and em ploym en t began to increase; and b y
the ou tbreak o f the K o re a n conflict, in June 1950,
the r e v iv a l w as w ell under w a y. D u rin g the hos­
tilities, em p loym en t and produ ction rem ained
a t high levels. T h e recession had ended, bu t it
le ft behind a serious problem o f localized unem ­
p loym en t. W h ile the region as a w h ole en joyed
prosp erity, it w as d o tte d w ith a num ber of seriously
depressed areas.
D u rin g the recession, em p loym en t had declined
in all industries. B u t fo llo w in g a b rief re v iv a l
in 1950 and 1951, em ploym en t in the N e w E n glan d
tex tile industries resum ed the secular decline w hich
had been h alted during W o r ld W a r I I and the
im m ediate postw ar period. A t th a t tim e, the
tex tile in du stry group was still the largest em ­
p lo yer o f industrial la b or in the region.

T h e consequences o f the decline in textiles could
h ave been disastrous fo r the entire region. B u t
during the r e v iv a l o f la te 1949, the com m unica­
tions equ ipm ent in du stry began to expand ra p id ly
in N e w E n glan d, and to m a n y observers it ap­
peared th a t this transition in industrial structure,
w hile producing tem p orary problem s, was actu ally
strengthening the regional econ om y.4 C oncern
o ver the decline in tex tile em ploym en t was m iti­
gated b y the grow th o f em p loym en t in electronics.
A n d as this grow th proceeded, there w as an in ­
creasing ten den cy in the region to v ie w the transi­
tion o ptim istically.
In term s o f aggregate em ploym en t, produ ction,
and incomes, N e w E n gla n d 's re co v ery fro m the
recession appeared to be progressing satisfactorily.
B u t the rate o f u nem ploym ent in N e w E n glan d
rem ained w ell ab ove the n ational average. I t
soon becam e evid en t th a t new in du stry was n ot
grow in g in the same areas in w hich old in du stry
was declining. A lso, w hile some o f the w orkers
who had been displaced b y the closing o f tex tile
m ills w ere finding jobs in the com m unications
equ ipm ent and oth er grow th industries, this
i The Economic State of New England, New Haven, Yale University
Press, 1954(p. 310).
3 SeeEmployment and Unemployment Statistics, Hearings beforethe Sub­
committeeonEconomic Statistics, Joint CommitteeontheEconomic Report
(84th Cong., 1st sess.), Nov. 7, 1955(pp. 33-35).
3 A contributing factor in Massachusetts was the inadequate unemploy
ment compensation tax policy which failed to provide an adequate reserve
fund. See Report on Unemployment Compensation Benefit Costs in
Massachusetts, Massachusetts Department of Labor and Industries, Divi­
sion of Employment Security, Boston, August 1950 (p. 6); and Benefit Fi­
nancing and Solvency of the Employment Security Fund in Rhode Island,
Rhode Island Department of Employment Security, Providence, November
1950 (p. 33, fif.).
<The Economic State of New England, op. cit. (pp. 14-17).

shift in employment was not as widespread as
m any believed. The level of unemployment
remained high in the textile towns, hard hit b y
the liquidation or outmigration of mills. Thus,
when the minor recession of 1953-54 occurred,
there was a sharp rise in unemployment in many
of these communities.
Since then, conditions
have slowly improved, but the problem of local­
ized unemployment has not been solved yet in all
of the region's depressed areas.
F a il u r e t o A d a p t t o C h a n g e

Some depressed areas in N e w England re­
bounded quickly from the loss of textile jobs.
N e w manufacturing establishments moved into
these communities to take up the slack. To
some extent, the quick recovery of these areas
In Nashua, N . H ., for example, an announce­
ment in 1948 of a proposed liquidation of a large
mill formerly operated b y Textron, Inc., produced
a strong public reaction. The Textile W orkers
Union of America and other groups protested the
liquidation so vigorously that a congressional
investigation was held.5 The publicity, among
other things, led the company to initiate and
support an effective redevelopment program.
Portions of the mill building were occupied b y
new and smaller establishments, and the economic
base of the community became somewhat more
diversified. In m any ways, however, the experi­
ence of N ash u a is a special case. Manchester,
N . H ., likewise became a surplus labor area
owing to the loss of textile jobs, and there has
been a similar growth of new and more diversified
manufacturing establishments in this community.
B u t recovery in Manchester proceeded far more
slowly than it had in Nashua.
Redevelopment activities in other communities
have been less successful. The communities of
Lawrence, Lowell, Fall River, and N e w Bedford
in Massachusetts, and Providence, R . I., were
classified as surplus labor areas for a m ajor part
of the past 8 years.6 W h ile the employment
situation in all of these areas has improved since
1954, Lawrence, Lowell, and Providence have not
fully recovered from the shock of the recession of
1948-49. A n d it was not until late in 1956 that

Fall R iver and N e w Bedford were removed from
the labor surplus category.
F o r a num ber of reasons, these communities
adapted to change only slowly and with consider­
able difficulty. The liquidation of textile mills
provided a vast amount of vacant factory space,
bu t this was often unsuitable for other types of
manufacturing operations. U ntil recently, these
areas were largely bypassed b y the growth indus­
tries, some of which expanded in smaller, less
industrialized communities, while others located
in or near the Boston M etropolitan Area, where
a large cluster of electronics establishments has
A further explanation of the slow adaptation to
change is to be found in the characteristics of the
workers displaced b y the outmigration of textile
mills. A substantial proportion of these workers
were well past middle age; and while they m ay
have had m any years of textile employment
ahead of them, they became marginal workers
with the loss of their jobs. The more mobile,
younger displaced workers frequently migrated to
jobs in other areas. N e w establishments which
located in these areas usually chose the younger
members of the labor force, and some employed
a large proportion of women. Thus, the average
age of the unemployed workers remaining in the
depressed communities was raised. T he older,
male workers in the community were not easily
Initially, redevelopment activities in these com­
munities relied heavily upon advertising the
availability of labor and vacant plant space.
Only in recent years have local redevelopment
agencies taken positive steps, such as the develop­
ment of industrial parks and the construction of
modern plant buildings, in an effort to attract
new types of industry.

4 Investigation of Closing of Nashua, N. H., Mills and Operations of
Textron, Inc., Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Inter*
state and Foreign Commerce, U. S. Senate (80th Cong., 2d sess.), Pt. 1,1948.
«The Bureau of Employment Security classifies areas, according to rela­
tive adequacy of labor supply, into six major categories designated by letters
ranging from A to F. Group A reflects the relatively greatest labor scarcity;
group C denotes a rate of unemployment about in line with the national
average; and D, E, and F are designated as areas of substantial labor surplus,
with F denoting the relatively greatest surplus. A more comprehensive
definition of area classifications appears in the Bimonthly Summary of
Labor Market Developments in Major Areas, Bureau of Employment
Security, U. S. Department of Labor.

M a g n itu d e o f th e P r o b le m

It is difficult to make an accurate estimate of
the number of chronically unemployed in a
depressed area. Theoretically, it is possible to
make adjustments for unemployment due to
seasonal and cyclical causes and to allow for
frictional unemployment. In practice, however,
it is difficult to make accurate estimates of the
number of workers unemployed owing to secular
or structural change. Moreover, there are other
problems involving the definition of an unem­
ployed worker. Only those workers in a labor
market area who are without jobs and actively
seeking work are counted as unemployed. H o w ­
ever, there are persons in the depressed areas of
N e w England who are available and interested in
further employment, but who have given up an
active search for a job. These are often older
women, with long records of employment in
textile mills. After the loss of their textile jobs,
some continued to register at the local employment
office for 2 or 3 years. B u t eventually, failing to
find work, they discontinued an active search for
a job, although they continued to desire further
I f the labor force of a community is defined as
estimated total em ploym ent7 plus the unem­
ployed, the following tabulation, presenting un­
employment as a percent of the labor force,
provides a measure of the problem in the 5 N e w
England labor market areas in which chronic
unemployment has been most serious during the
past 8 years.




Law rence, M ass _
Low ell, M ass
F all R iver, M ass
N ew Bedford, M a ss___
Providence, R . I _____




23. 1
7. 6
11. 2

19. 0
6. 5

24. 1
10. 5

5. 4
5. 7

9. 3
11. 3
12. 3

6. 9
8. 4

6. 1



8. 7



8. 0

1 Total estimated employment plus unemployed.
2 Averages based on bimonthly data (January, March, May, July, Septem­
ber, and November).
: Unpublished data provided by Bureau of Employment Security,
U. S. Department of Labor, as reported by the Massachusetts Division of
Employment Security except for Providence.

7 Total employment includes nonagricultural wage and salaried workers,
nonagrieultural domestic, self-employed, and unpaid family workers, and
agricultural workers.
8 In July 1952, for example, there was an arbitrated wage cut of 6H percent
in the northern cotton-rayon textile industry.

The preceding tabulation illustrates the effect
upon depressed areas of a cyclical rise in unem­
ployment from a high base of chronic localized
unemployment. Between 1952 and 1953, there
was a decline in unemployment in all of the selected
areas. B u t the recession that began in late 1953
sent unemployment figures upward again in all
the selected areas, and except for Fall River, they
were higher in 1954 than they had been in 1952.
Since 1954, the number of unemployed has de­
clined in all of the areas listed in the tabulation.
B y the end of 1956, Fall R iver and N e w Bedford
had been reclassified as group C, or moderate
labor surplus areas, but F all R iver was again re­
classified in January 1957 to the group D sub­
stantial labor surplus category. Further contrac­
tion of textile employment, whether cyclical or
secular, could again create some of the problems
these communities have faced in the past.
E ffe c ts u p o n th e C o m m u n ity

The existence of a substantial pool of unem­
ployed in a community tends to exert downward
pressure upon the general wage structure of the
community. W ages of unionized workers covered
b y national or regional agreements in nondepressed
industries will not be affected. B u t it is difficult
for unions in depressed industries to negotiate in­
creases in the general wage level. A t times, in­
deed, workers in these industries have been forced
to accept wage reductions in the face of a rising
general wage level.8 In addition, the availability
of a substantial number of unemployed workers
tends to attract certain types of low-wage estab­
lishments such as textile jobbing shops, certain
types of garment factories, and other small estab­
lishments seeking to obtain workers at the lowest
possible wages. Some of the displaced workers,
long unemployed, have balked at the low wages,
but others have been forced b y necessity to accept
Labor-m anagem ent relations likewise m ay be­
come strained. Establishments which continue to
operate in these communities m ay resist wage in­
creases or even seek to impose wage cuts. These
are strenuously resisted b y unions, reluctant to
give up gains achieved after a long and, at times,
costly struggle.

Th e local economy, of course, suffers.
and service establishments curtail tbe level of their
operations. Secondary unemployment occurs, in­
duced b y the decline in local manufacturing em­
ployment. I f local business conditions are bad,
the community m ay not be able to properly main­
tain its social capital. Streets, sewer systems,
schools, etc., will not receive proper maintenance.
If, in addition, there is substantial outmigration
of population from the community, some facilities
will not be fully used. Consequently, there is a
waste of social capital in addition to its deteriora­
S ta te a n d L o c a l C o m m u n ity R e m e d ia l E ffo r ts

U n til quite recently, the redevelopment of de­
pressed communities was considered to be essen­
tially a local matter and in practice depended upon
local initiative and activity. Some local develop­
ment programs have been successful in encourag­
ing sound local growth, as in the case of Nashua,
N . H . B u t others have been able to do little to
improve local conditions. Some local develop­
ment organizations, in their anxiety to provide
work for the unemployed, have encouraged the
location of manufacturing establishments in their
communities which later proved to be unstable.
Because there is a rapid turnover of such establish­
ments, they do little to reduce the level of un­
In N e w England, development activities within
communities have not been coordinated b y state­
wide agencies.
Each community agency has
sought to solve local problems b y its own means.
Some have attempted to fill vacant factory space
with new establishments. Others have developed
industrial parks and constructed modern plant
buildings, hoping thus to induce manufacturers
from outside to locate in their areas. There is no
evidence that development credit corporations, the
new type of financial institution pioneered in N e w
E ngland and designed to encourage the develop­
ment of indigenous businesses, have made a sig­
nificant contribution to the redevelopment of de­
pressed areas.9 P robably to a greater extent than
elsewhere, the problem of rehabilitating depressed
areas in N e w Englan d has been narrow ly conceived
and efforts to solve the problem have been largely
restricted to local activities. State agencies have,
of course, assisted local development groups. B u t

with few exceptions, State development organiza­
tions have been unable to concentrate upon the
redevelopment of specific communities.10
B y way of contrast, Pennsylvania now has a
State agency to deal with this problem.11 And
in southern Illinois, localized unemployment is
viewed, to some extent at least, as an area rather
than a local problem, and is being attacked at the
area level.
At the present time, conditions in N e w England
are reasonably good. The secular, downward drift
in textile employment has slowed down, and there
has been a rise in employment in other industries.
Moreover, there has been improvement in the
employment situation in the depressed areas. But
with a cyclical downturn in employment, the situ­
ation in those depressed areas which are not yet
fully rehabilitated would again worsen. As in the
past, they would enter a recession with relatively
high levels of unemployment.
P r o p o s e d F e d e r a l L e g is la tio n

In their report of January 1956, the Council of
Economic Advisers recognized that “ the fate of
distressed communities is a matter of national as
well as local concern.” 12 Congressmen, as well,
have recognized that the long-run solution of this
problem would depend upon a concerted attack.
Several bills to provide assistance to depressed
areas were introduced into the 84th Congress.
One bill, bearing administration approval, was
introduced b y Senator H . Alexander Smith of
N e w Jersey. A bill on this subject was also intro­
duced b y Senator Pau l H . Douglas of Illinois.
Both bills would have provided loans and
technical assistance to depressed areas. In addi­
tion, the Douglas bill would have provided sup­
plementary compensation to workers w ho had
exhausted their unemployment benefit rights,
while the latter were undergoing training for new
jobs. The Smith bill did not come to the floor
of the Senate for debate. In the final days of the
84th Congress, a modified version of the D ou glas

• See New England Development Credit Corporations (in Monthly Re­
view, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, July 1954 (pp. 1-8), and August 1954
(pp. 1-8); especially, Purpose of Loans).
w Rhode Island is a notable exception. Since Providence is the only major
labor market area in this State, the State development commission has
devoted considerable attention to its redevelopment.
ii In 1956, Pennsylvania enacted an Industrial Development Authority
Act which provides loan funds to depressed areas in that State,
i®Economic Report of the President, January 1956 (p. 61).

bill w as passed in the Senate b y a vote of 60 to
30. It did not come to a vote in the House of
Representatives, however, and thus did not
become law. There is still, however, much sup­
port for Federal assistance, both in Congress and
among various private organizations.
In his
1957 Economic Report, President Eisenhower pro­
posed the establishment of an A rea Assistance A d ­
ministration Program in the Departm ent of
Commerce to revitalize areas with long-standing
Some private organizations, however, including
a few which are engaged in development or pro­
motional activities, have opposed Federal aid
to depressed areas. A t a meeting of the N e w
England Council devoted to the problem of de­
pressed areas, held in February 1956, a resolution
was passed opposing Federal aid. A n d at the
1956 meeting of the Association of State Planning
and Developm ent Agencies, representatives of
some N e w England States voiced strong opposition
to Federal assistance.13
C o n c lu s io n s

Local development organizations in N e w E n g ­
land are continuing their efforts to create new
jobs for the substantial number of unemployed in
depressed areas. B u t because of the improvement
in most of these areas during the past 2 years,

interest in the problem of area redevelopment
has waned outside the affected communities.
Past experience suggests, however, that even a
relatively mild recession such as that of 1953-54
w ill reveal that much remains to be done before
the problem of depressed areas is solved. A n d
while the decline of textile employment in N e w
England has slowed down, it has not been halted.
Periodically, there is an upsurge in unemploy­
ment in one of the depressed areas as still another
mill is closed.

There is a strong conviction in some quarters
that the problem of localized unemployment is a
matter of national rather than local concern.
And an excellent case has recently been made for
spending substantial sums to reemploy displaced
workers on the grounds that the savings in un­
employment compensation would more than
offset the direct and social costs involved.14
There has been some support for such a program
in N e w England; but at the same time, some of
the most articulate groups in the region have
voiced strong opposition to Federal aid. A Fed­
eral program of area redevelopment remains a
distinct possibility, however, and if enacted will
benefit the region in spite of this opposition.

13 Proceedings, 11th Annual Convention, Association of State Planning
and Development Agencies, Boston, 1956 (pp. 30-31).
14 Arnold C. Harberger, The Economics of the President’s Economic Re­
port, Journal of the American Statistical Association, September 1956 (p. 458).

Only those [workers] who managed to accumulate a little property were
allowed to vote; and everywhere the brand of inferiority was stamped upon
them. W h en the son of a Boston bricklayer was elected to the office of
justice of the peace in 1759, the right to the office was attacked on the ground
of his low social origins; and his defense was not the dignity of his calling but
a reply that the charges were false.

— Charles A . and M a ry R . Beard, T h e Rise of A m erican C ivilization, N ew Y o rk ,
M acm illan C o ., 1927, V ol. I (p. 131).

L a b o r T u r n o v e r in T e x t i l e M i l l s

With many young workers taking jobs in New England's
cotton and synthetic textile mills, management faces
the challenging task of retaining and training them.
L eonard A rnold
M a n y i n v e s t i g a t i o n s have been conducted and
much has been written in recent years of the plight
of N e w E n glan d’s textile industry, its losses, and
the impact of these losses on the N e w England
economy. The barrage of material calling atten­
tion to the decline of the industry has emphasized
the negative aspects and has overlooked certain
positive features.
One of these positive features is the fact that
younger workers are taking jobs in N e w E n glan d’s
textile mills and compose a high proportion of new
hires. This fact, combined with the fact that
there are a substantial proportion of younger per­
sons among job applicants tends to indicate the
erroneousness of the popular belief that people are
not attracted to work in N e w England textile mills.
These facts and other data available for the first
time are the results of a study b y the Northern
Textile Association of labor turnover in N e w
England cotton and synthetic textile mills.1 The
period selected for study was the first half of 1953—
a period of stability at a relatively high level in
both the N e w England cotton and synthetic textile
industry and the N e w England economy generally.
It is, therefore, a particularly useful period for the
purpose of studying labor turnover.
In brief, the study showed that although a
m ajority of the work force in N e w England cotton
and synthetic textile mills was 40 years of age or
over, with an average age of 43, employees with
less than a year’s service had an average age of 33,
and 48 percent of them were under 30. In addi­
tion, 44 percent of job applicants were also under

The separation rate in N e w England cotton and
synthetic textile mills was significantly lower than
in all-manufacturing industries in various local
labor markets and was also below the average for
the national cotton and synthetic textile industry.
W h ile a high proportion of total separations for
the N e w England industry was composed of quits,
the m ajority of persons quitting were employees
with less than a year’s service who were apparently
shopping for what would be their permanent jobs.
The existence of this situation, however, presents
a very real challenge to textile mill managements.
Time, effort, and study should be devoted to solv­
ing the problem of retaining the younger workers
who comprise such a large proportion of the new
C o m p o s itio n o f th e W o r k F o r c e

The work force of the N e w England cotton and
synthetic textile industry was almost evenly
divided between men and women, with men com­
prising 52 percent of all production and related
workers. T he average age of men was 43.6 years
and of women, 42.7 years. The proportions of the
work force at various age levels were as follow s:


U nder 35 years___________________________________________


Under 40 years___________________________________________
40 years and o v e r________________________________________


45 years and o v er________________________________________


50 years and o v e r________________________________________


1 The sample consisted of 20 cotton and synthetic textile mills, employing
15,429 production and related workers, selected to be representative of the
New England industry’s locality, product, and size of mill.

30 years.

U nder 30 years___________________________________________


The high proportion of older workers in the work
force poses some rather specialized problems for
N e w England's textile mills. W h a t impact does
an aging work force have on productivity and the
competitive position of the N e w England mills?
D o the factors of experience and skill offset or even
outweigh the physical advantages of youth? Are
the advantages of stability and m aturity— charac­
teristics of an older work force— an offset to the
greater responsiveness to change usually consid­
ered more typical of younger workers? These are
just some of the m any questions which arise from
the fact that almost half of the workers in N e w
England cotton and synthetic textile mills are 45
years of age and over. In any event, a greater
leavening of younger workers would be desirable
if just from the point of view of replacing persons
on the verge of retirement age.
The age distribution of employees in each of
nine m ajor departments was quite similar to the
age distribution of the employees in all the plants
combined. W hile the proportion of employees in
various age brackets differed from one depart­
ment to another, no particular concentration of
either younger or older workers was found in any
one department. Com pared with the 60 percent
of all workers who were 40 years of age and over,
the proportions in this age group in the various
departments ranged from 55.5 percent in the clothroom to 66.5 percent in the carding department.
W ith respect to younger workers, 9.4 percent of
all workers were under 25; departmental ratios
ranged from 8.3 percent in the clothroom and the
carding department to 12.9 percent in the yarn
preparation department. Similar situations were
found with respect to other age brackets.
A distribution of the work force in nine m ajor
departments shows that the largest num ber of
workers, b y far, was employed in the weaving
department, as shown in the following tabulation.
The sex composition of the employees within each
department indicates a matching of the different
work skills and experience, as well as physical

2 United States data from monthly turnover series published by the Bureau
of Labor Statistics.
* Unpublished study conducted by the Northern Textile Association from
data which were available from the State employment security agencies.
Although the 6 areas studied had moderate or substantial labor surpluses in
the spring of 1953, they had experienced a gradual buildup in employment
during the previous year, and two of the areas had been shifted in the direc­
tion of a tighter labor market situation in the first half of 1953.
* These rates apply only to the mills included in the sample and, therefore,
do not measure any separations which may have resulted from mill closings.

qualifications, with job requirements in the various

Percentage Percentage distribution of de­
total em­ partmental employmentbysex

C a r d i n g _____

_ _



Y a rn p reparation. _ __
Filling and w inding___







T w isting













_ _ ______ _

Slashing__________ ______


D raw ing-in and ty in g in _



W ea vin g
C loth room . _ _

___ __


T o ta l S e p a r a tio n s

The average monthly separation rate of the
N e w England cotton and synthetic textile indus­
try during the first half of 1953 was 33 per 1,000
employees, or 6 percent less than the separation
rate of 35 per 1,000 employees in the national
cotton and synthetic textile industry during the
same period.2 M oreover, it was, as shown in the
following tabulation, consistently below the sepa­
ration rates of all manufacturing industries in
certain local labor market areas in the first half
of 1953.3

per 1,0for00

A verage, all areas_________________________________
F all R iver, M a s s __________________________________


Low ell, M a s s ______________________________________


M anchester, N . H ________________________________


N ew B edford, M a ss______________________________
Providence, R . I __________________________________


S p ringfield-H olyoke, M a ss______________________


D urin g the period when the N e w England cotton
and synthetic textile separation rate was 33 per
1.00 0 employees, the accession rate was 28 per
1.000 employees, with a consequent net loss in
the industry's total work force.4 In the same
period, the accession rate in the national industry
was identical with the separation rate— 35 per
1.000 employees— indicating stable employment.
Also, quits accounted for a smaller proportion of
total separations in the national cotton and syn­
thetic textile industry, 63 percent, than in the
N e w England mills, 73 percent. T o complete the
analysis, 12 percent of the separations in the N e w
England industry were discharges; 9 percent were
layoffs; 3 percent were military separations; and
3 percent were retirements.

Q u it R a t e s

By Department. W ith a quit rate of 24 per 1,000
employees for all employees in all plants studied,
the rates in individual departments varied widely—
from 10 in the drawing-in and tying-in department
to 34 in the twisting department, as shown in the
following tabulation:

ratesper Percent


T o ta l em ployees, all plants


100. 0

C ard in g___ _____ __
Spin n in g__________


17. 1


Y a r n preparation
Filling and w inding


19. 6
4. 4

T w istin g _



_ _ _ _ _

D raw in g-in and tying-in
W e a v in g .
Clothroom _


_ _ __


3. 5
3. 1


1. 3


1. 4
44. 0


5. 6

By Shift. The largest concentration of quits was
from the second shift. T he high proportion of
quits from that shift— 42.6 percent of the total—
is accounted for principally b y two factors: (1)
Th e second shift is generally found to be the most
undesirable from a fam ily and social point of view ;
and (2) no premium pay was provided for secondshift work, but a 7-cent hourly premium was paid
to workers on the third shift.
Since it is generally thought that first-shift
work is more desirable than employment on the
third shift, it was surprising to find that the pro­
portion of total quits from the first shift was
almost as high as from the third shift, 28.3 and
29.1 percent, respectively.
By Age. The largest cluster of quits was composed
of employees in the age group under 30 (45 per­
cent of total quits). A s would be expected, the
percentage of total quits b y age groups declined
as the age increased.

By Sex and Length of Service. A s is the case in most
industries, the m ajority of quits were b y new em­
ployees: of all persons who quit their mill jobs, 72
percent had less than 1 year of service. Seventeen
percent of the quits were b y employees with more
than 3 years of service, while only 11 percent were
employees with from 1 to 3 years of employment.
Although the w ork force was almost evenly
divided between men and women, as previously
indicated, 62 percent of total quits were made b y

men. O f the men who quit, 77 percent had less
than 1 year of service, while 65 percent of the
women who quit their jobs were in this category.
The proportion of employees who quit after 3 years
of work was considerably higher among women
than among men— 23 percent and 13 percent,
N e w E m p lo y e e s

B y far the most interesting findings with respect
to the new employees, i. e., workers in the employ
of a mill for less than a year, were that a large
number of them were young and a relatively high
proportion had no previous textile experience.
O f the 2,948 employees hired during the period
studied, 48 percent were under 30 years of age and
30 percent were under 25 years. O f new male
employees, 55 percent were below age 30 and 37
percent were under 25. In contrast, only 38 per­
cent of new female employees were below 30 years
and 21 percent were below 25. T he fairly even
balance between men and women in mill employ­
ment was not found among new hires; men com­
prised 60 percent of the hires.
A s would be expected, with the high proportion
of quits from the second shift, a high proportion
(46 percent) of new employees were hired as re­
placements for that shift. The proportion of
hires exceeded that of quits for both the second
and third shifts, with 31 percent of new hires going
on the third shift. However, replacements on the
first shift— 24 percent of new hires— were below
the quit level for that shift.
A comparison of new hires b y departments shows
that most departments had about the same propor­
tion of total hires and total quits. The two m ajor
exceptions were the spinning department, where
hires were greater (22 percent of hires and 20 per­
cent of quits), and the weaving department, where
the reverse was true (44 percent of quits as against
39 percent of hires).
W ith respect to the work experience of new
employees, 58 percent had previous textile experi­
ence, 24 percent had other manufacturing experi­
ence, and 18 percent had no previous m anufactur­
ing experience of any kind. The proportion of
new employees with previous textile experience
was much higher among women (71 percent) than
among men (49 percent).

In this connection, information concerning train­
ing programs was requested. I t appeared that
specific well-formulated training programs were
carried on b y only a minority of the mills, and the
information received was inadequate.
J o b A p p l ic a n t s

M o re than 4,000 job applicants were studied to
determine the age, sex, and previous experience
of potential cotton and synthetic textile employees.
The proportion of younger applicants was high,
with 44 percent under 30 years of age and 30 per­
cent below the age of 25.
M o re women applied for work than men.
W h ile 53 percent of total applicants were women,
they represented only 40 percent of the new hires.
Lik e the new employees, less than half (44 per­
cent) of the job applicants had had no previous
textile experience.
R e a s o n s fo r Q u its

It was not possible to gather adequate data
permitting valid observations concerning the
reasons w h y employees voluntarily left the employ
of the mills covered in this study.
Although exit interviews were conducted b y 5
mills employing 22 percent of the workers, actual
exit interviews were held with only 18 percent of
the total number of quits. The largest proportion
of workers interviewed (42 percent of the 448
interviewed) gave no reason for quitting.

P r in c ip a l C o n c l u s i o n s

Perhaps the most significant conclusion which
can be draw n from this study of labor turnover is
that the age levels of new employees and appli­
cants for work tend to disprove the popular belief
that younger workers are not attracted to the
N e w England textile industry.
The extremely high proportion of persons
quitting their jobs after less than 1 year of service,
however, indicates that mill management must
meet the challenge of retaining their younger
workers. Moreover, the lack of adequate data on
reasons for quits suggests that management has
not been particularly concerned with ascertaining
w h y workers leave the employ of the mills. This
is an area which deserves more thought and con­
sideration than it evidently has received.
Finally, the scarcity of training program s at
the time of the study can be attributed in part to
the availability of experienced workers and in some
measure to management’s lack of interest in
developing such programs. T h e fairly large pro­
portions of new employees and of applicants for
work without either previous textile experience or
manufacturing experience of any kind apparently
focused management attention on the increasing
need for training programs in N e w England cotton
and synthetic textile mills. It is encouraging to
note that evidence gathered since the date of the
study shows that m any additional training pro­
grams have been inaugurated and mill m anage­
ments appear to be cognizant of this need.

[A t a meeting in 1846 of the N e w England W orkingm en’s Association in
Peterboro, N . H ., a resolution was adopted condemning work before sunrise.
The resolution read] “ Resolved, T h at although the evening and the morning is
spoken of in the Scripture, yet in that book no mention is m ade of an eve­
ning in the morning. W e therefore conclude that the practice of lighting up
our factories in the morning, and thereby m aking two evenings in every
twenty-four hours, is not only oppressive but unscriptural.”

— George E .

M cN e ill, T h e L ab or M o v e m e n t, B o ston , A . M . Bridgm an & C o .,

1887 (p. 107).

C o lle c tiv e B a r g a in in g

th e


C o m p e titiv e C o s t

S h o e In d u s trg

Collective bargaining in N e w England shoe factories has
adapted reasonably well in the postwar period to the highly

E . R . L iv e r n a s h

N e w E n g l a n d has been maintaining its share in
national shoe production since 1925, except during
the years 1947-49, after m any years of severe
decline following the C ivil W a r .1 And, since
1953, it has shown evidence of enlarging its share.
W ithin the region, production in M ain e has in­
creased in importance relative to Massachusetts
and N e w Hampshire, but this is only a minor
qualification with respect to an encouraging
competitive performance b y all three States.
Looking more closely at the N e w England
production record,2 we find the following: In the
years 1925-29, inclusive, census d a t a 3 showed an
average share of total national production of
33.8 percent. There was a decline in 1947, 1948,
and 1949. Th e years 1950-53, inclusive, again
averaged 33.8 percent.
(A revision of the sample
in 1950 precludes close comparison with the years
of decline, but probably improves the comparison
with the predepression base.) In 1954, 1955, and
the first 8 months of 1956, the average share has
been 37.3 percent— higher than in any of the
years of the period since 1924.
C an this production record be related in any
significant w a y to the results of collective bargain­
ing in the postwar years? This is not an easy
question to which dogmatic answers m ay be found.
This much m ay be said: Assisted b y the Federal
minimum wage, restraint in negotiating general
wage increases, compared with most m anufactur­
ing industries, seems to have held the increase in
earnings in unionized plants to about the same


partially organized footwear industry.

amount as the average for the industry as a whole.
The presumed differential between union and non­
union earnings does not appear to have increased.
M oreover, some regional earnings differentials, un­
favorable to N e w England, appear to have nar­
rowed. This m ay in part be the result of collective
bargaining, although data demonstrating the im­
pact of bargaining are not available.
W a g e and earnings changes, both general and
regional, affect the competitive union-nonunion
situation, of course, but do not go to its heart.4
W hether union plants frequently have a serious
labor-cost disadvantage remains an unanswered
question. In a piece-rate industry, high average
earnings do not necessarily indicate high labor cost.
Generally, the traditional shoe centers, including
those in N e w England, have relatively high earn­
ings and are heavily unionized, and manufacturers
in these centers appear to feel that they have a dis­
advantageous labor-cost position. Union spokes­
men can reply, however, that if there were a laborcost disadvantage equal to the earnings differ­
ential, these shoe centers would have long since

1 The N ew England Economy, A Report to the President Transm itting a
Study In itia te d by the U . S. Council of Economic Advisers and Prepared by
its Com m ittee on the N ew England Econom y, July 1951, W ashington, 1951
(pp. 173-183).
The Federal Reserve B ank of Boston, in cooperation w ith the N ew Eng­
land Shoe and Leather Association, has made several studies of N ew Eng­
land's share. See M o n th ly Review , Federal Reserve B ank of Boston,
Novem ber 1948, October 1950, and Novem ber 1953.
* Facts for In dustry: Shoes and Slippers, Series M 68A (m onthly reports
on o u tp u t), U . S. Bureau of the Census.
^ Th ey are also of interest w ith respect to N ew England’s production
record, though they by no means explain th a t performance.


The Importance of Labor Cost in Competition
L a b o r cost is of crucial importance in the shoe
manufacturing industry.
M arketing channels,
market analysis and finesse, and product competi­
tion in all its varied aspects are also of great
importance; their effects on business success divide
firms into dynamically changing groups. B u t these
phases of competition are bounded b y and im­
mersed into cost competition.
The shoe industry meets the ordinary criteria
associated with a highly competitive industry.
W ithout delving into statistical description, the
number of firms is large, the average firm is small
in size, the degree of concentration of production
in larger firms does not insulate them from com­
petition with each other and with smaller firms,
and entry to and exit from the industry are rela­
tively easy. Production is widely dispersed geo­
graphically, partly in response to the search for
low labor costs. Internal Revenue Service figures
for the industry indicate that, in 1929, 711 estab­
lishments showed gains and 547 reported losses; in
1932, 298 reported gains and 829 losses; in 1946,
1,029 showed gains and 296 losses; and in 1950,
673 were profitable and 344 were not.5
Price competition in the shoe industry is keen
though difficult to measure. Substantial quanti­
ties of shoes are bought on very detailed specifica­
tions, with firms gaining or losing business because
of small differences in cost. W hile prices at retail
appear orderly, with fairly commonly accepted
price lines and reasonably parallel movement of
these lines, there is great underlying change.
Competition intensifies as marketing opportunities
appear to shift among price lines. A n indication
of this change is the greater variation in average
factory price compared with a price index based
on a fixed product composition. I f average fac­
tory value moves sharply within a few months,
the probability is that shoes are being repriced
through upgrading or downgrading among price
lines rather than that there is a pure change in
product mix. A t all times there is strong compe­
tition to produce a better shoe at a given price.
s These figures, along w ith others dem onstrating the general description in
the paragraph, m ay be found in Facts and Figures on Footwear, 10th E d itio n ,
N ew Y o rk, N ational Shoe M anufacturers Association, 1956.
« George P . Shultz, in Pressures on Wage Decisions (N ew Y o rk, The Tech­
nology Press of the Massachusetts In stitu te of Technology and John W iley
Sons, In c ., 1951), has ably demonstrated this basic po int, particularly in
his discussion of the Brockton grade system.


Accepting as fact a high degree of price and
product competition, there remains the question
as to w h y labor cost is of particular significance.
W hile the shoe industry’s proportion of labor cost
to manufacturing selling price (about 25 percent)
is not low, neither is it outstandingly high in com­
parison with other manufacturing industries.
The answer to our query is to be found, first, in
the absence of technological competition. Tech­
nology is almost identical from factory to factory
for similar constructions and types of shoes. Also,
technology is neither controlled nor developed b y
shoe manufacturers. M eaningful competitive ad­
vantage of even a temporary nature cannot be
obtained b y superior basic methods and processes.
This is in sharp contrast to m any industries where
the technology of product and process is the m ajor
focus of competition.
In the second place, the price of the basic raw
material, leather, derives from an auction market
in hides and, subject to modest qualification for
quantity purchasing and speculative intuition,
does not provide a competitive advantage for par­
ticular firms. I f the qualification were of particu­
lar importance, it is most doubtful that the figures
on concentration for the largest 50 firms (or for
smaller numbers) would show, as they do, that the
proportion of production of the larger firms de­
clined from 1939 to 1954.
T w o m ajor areas thus remain as possible sources
of cost advantage; these are labor cost and m er­
chandising and marketing. Superior performance
in the latter area, as for example anticipation of
shifts in the market or in consumer tastes, m ay in­
directly lower overhead per pair b y so broadening
the sales base as to permit better organization
and consequently increased efficiency of produc­
Low er labor cost can yield a similar advantage
and is thus a strategic competitive factor. A s
shoe manufacturing is a piece-rate industry, labor
cost is the sum of a list of piece prices plus the cost
of “ fringe” benefits. Competition in selling price
(and product) becomes and is competition in piece
prices. Collective bargaining in this decentralized
industry of m any firms, only partially organized,
has never been able to “ remove wages from com­
petition.” Rather, collective bargaining has its
prim ary focus upon labor cost within this com­
petitive struggle for favorable price position.6


Union-Nonunion Changes in Earnings Level
The United Shoe W orkers (form erly C IO ),
the Boot and Shoe W orkers (formerly A F L ),
and independent unions represent little more than
half of the industry’s production workers. The
1953 wage survey of the industry b y the Bureau
of L a b o r Statistics of the U . S. Departm ent of
L a b o r estimated that 50 to 60 percent of the
workers were covered b y labor-management agree­
ments.7 Clearly a most substantial segment of
the industry is not organized, including some
large multiplant firms that are either entirely or
partially unorganized.
Still, it is not appropriate to describe the
industry in very m any regions as “ nonunion,”
although in the South, the Border States, and
Pennsylvania, it is heavily nonunion. B u t the
W est,8 which in the period of N e w E n glan d’s
heavy decline (before 1925) was poorly organized,
is now probably almost as heavily organized as
N e w England. Unionism, while weak in terms of
potential membership, has had a more pervasive
influence upon wage movements in W o rld W a r I I
and the postwar period than in the prewar era.
The shoe industry is a low-wage industry and,
as compared with all-manufacturing, has lost
ground in the postwar period. In 1946, average
hourly earnings in the shoe industry were 14
percent below the average in manufacturing
($0.93 compared with $1.08), according to the
hours and earnings series of the Bureau of L a b o r
Statistics. B y 1949, with wartime wage controls
lifted and the labor market not so tight, earnings
in the industry ($1.10) were 21 percent below
average earnings in manufacturing ($1.40), and b y
1955, this percentage had grown to 29 ($1.34
compared with $1.88).
The total increase in
average hourly earnings from 1946 to 1955
was substantially less in the shoe industry than
in all-manufacturing— 41 cents compared with
80, or, in relative terms, 44 and 74 percent, re­
Shoe manufacturing has thus been
one of the minimum-increase manufacturing
industries, lagging even in percentage terms in
a period when most relative wage differentials
were narrowing.
T o estimate the typical impact upon average
earnings of general wage increases in union
plants, two wage chronologies published b y the
Bureau of L a b o r Statistics— for Massachusetts

Shoe M anufacturing and for the International
Shoe C o.9— can be compared with the average
earnings data. W h ile the general wage changes
listed in the chronologies are not directly com pa­
rable to changes in gross average earnings, such
a comparison appears to be generally valid when
the two m ajor areas of noncomparability are
considered. First, the general wage changes do
not include adjustments in individual rates such
as promotions and changes in individual job
rates that do not have an immediate or noticeable
effect on the average wage level and thus would not
necessarily coincide with the change in straighttime average hourly earnings even in the situations
In the footwear industry, changes in
individual piece rates could have an appreciable
effect over a num ber of years. The other m ajor
difference stems from the fact that average earn­
ings include premium payments for overtime,
shift differentials, sick leave, holidays, vacations,
and production bonuses, which are, of course,
excluded from the general wage change data.
A s rough guides to the effect of these inclusions
on the average earnings figures, it should be noted
that in recent years average weekly hours of
w ork have not exceeded 38 and late-shift w ork
has not been common.
W ith respect to paid
holidays and vacations, only those occuring in
the week ending nearest the 15th of the month
would be included, since that is the date of refer­
ence for the earnings data.
General wage changes under the International
Shoe C o .’s contracts with the B oot and Shoe
W orkers and the United Shoe W orkers resulted in
an increase of approxim ately 59 cents per hour
from the end of W o rld W a r I I through October
1955, when the most recent w age adjustment be­
came effective.10 W h en the Massachusetts wage
chronology, based on agreements between the
U n ited Shoe W orkers and a num ber of shoe com­
panies in the L y n n -H a v e rh ill-B o sto n area, is
updated through January 1956, the date of the
last general w age adjustment, the increase comes
7 See Wage Structure: Footwear, M arch 1953, B LS R eport 46,1953 (p. 2).
8 Loose N ew England shoe parlance for M issouri, In d ian a, Ohio, Illin o is ,
and Wisconsin.
9 Wage Chronology N o. 20 and Supplem ent 1: Massachusetts Shoe M an u ­
facturing, M o n th ly Labor Review , February 1952 (p . 169) and July 1953
(p. 751): and Wage Chronology N o. 25 and Supplem ent 1: In ternatio nal Shoe
C o., M o n th ly Labor R eview , July 1952 (p. 30) and A p ril 1953 (p . 403).
18 To the general wage changes shown in the published chronology, the
author has added his estim ate of the cents-per-hour equivalent of the approx­
im ately 5-peroent increase effective October 3, 1955.

to 58 cents per hour.11 (In Brockton, a second im­
portant Massachusetts shoe center, a rough per­
sonal estimate places the comparable increase at
about 55 cents per hour.)
A rough estimate of changes in earnings in the
nonunion segment of the industry can be made b y
comparing general wage changes in union plants
with the 63-cent increase in the average earnings
series for the comparable period of September
1945 to M arch 1956. In making such a compari­
son, which is of course subject to the qualifications
previously mentioned, one must also assume that
the average earnings data are based on reports
from a sample of firms that is representative of the
extent of unionization in the industry as a whole.
W h ile no information can be offered to validate
this assumption, the fact that the sample firms
employ about half of the workers in the industry
suggests that it is reasonable. Thus, it can be
said that nonunion earnings appear to have in­
creased b y almost the same amount as in union
plants. B u t recognition must also be given to
the effects of the two changes in the Federal mini­
mum wage which took place during the period
The minimum wage under the F air L a b o r Stand­
ards A ct was increased to 75 cents in January
1950, and average hourly earnings in the shoe
industry increased between 2 and 3 cents per hour
from 4 months prior to the change to 4 months
after the change.12 General increases were not
given during this period. A comparison of earn­
ings in 12 important shoe-producing States for the
same period shows an increase of about 5 cents
per hour in the lower paying States and about 2
cents in the higher paying States. Despite some
deviations, this generalization appears reasonably
In M arch 1956, the $1 Federal minimum became
effective. I t is not desirable to use a 4-month
before-and-after comparison in this situation, as
late 1955, early 1956 was a period of general in­
creases. Union firms were more willing to nego­
tiate general increases in late 1955 and early 1956
because of the probability that the higher mini­
mum would bring pay increases to a substantial
11 T o the published chronology, the author has added the increase amount*
ing to 5 percent of gross w eekly earnings effective in January 1956, w ith a
personal estim ate of its cents-per-hour equivalent.
12 Figures for the Federal m inim um -wage comparisons are the Bureau of
Labor Statistics data on gross average hourly earnings.
18 For a discussion of the effects of the $1 m inim um on wages in the southern
footwear industry, see p. 323 of this issue.

number of workers in the industry,13 and in addi­
tion, some important nonunion firms announced
general wage increases in advance of negotiations
in unionized firms, partly in anticipation of the
higher minimum. Earnings in the industry were
quite stable at $1.34 to $1.35 for the period A p ril
to October, 1955, and then increased gradually to
$1.41 in F ebruary 1956. This figure increased to
$1.45 in M arch and maintained this level until
August. The only 1 of the 12 States which did
not reflect this M arch increase had increased very
substantially from Decem ber to January. The
pattern of larger advances in low-paying States
than in the United States average was a little less
marked than in the case of the 75-cent minimum.
A fair inference seems to be that the Federal
minimum wage increased earnings about 4 cents
per hour, with the earlier advances attributable to
general increases.
These estimates indicate that the Federal mini­
mum wage has been important in the shoe in­
dustry. The 2 increases have contributed at
least 5 cents per hour to average earnings in the
industry and more probably 7 cents.
N o w a rough appraisal of the effects of general
wage changes on average hourly earnings m ay be
made. Deduction of the earnings increase that
m ay be attributed to Federal minimum-wage
changes from the total increase of 63 cents that
occurred from September 1945 to M arch 1956
leaves an amount that is within the range of the
general increases in union firms of 55 to 59 cents
per hour shown b y the wage chronologies. It
would appear, therefore, that nonunion general
increases were not too different in average magni­
tude from the increases in union centers.
Nothing approaching industry bargaining or
precise wage patterns exists in the shoe industry,
but the International Shoe Co., the largest pro­
ducer, might be regarded as something of a bench­
mark. From the unions’ point of view, Interna­
tional Shoe has no doubt been a hard bargainer
well aware of the partial organization of the
industry. N e w England firms, bargaining from
a high earnings base, have about matched Inter­
national Shoe and have held a constant relative
position. T he effect of these facts, plus the union
awareness of the competitive character of the
industry, has produced no general wage increase
in various years when such increases were quite
prevalent within manufacturing. The union sec-

tor of the shoe industry has negotiated general
increases only when there was a good chance that
nonunion firms would follow. This restraint,
coupled with the effects of changes in the Federal
minimum wage, appears to have held to a min­
imum any union-nonunion earnings differential.

Regional Earnings Levels
Th e best data on regional wage levels in the
industry are two B L S wage structure surveys, one
in 1945 and the other in 1953.14 Comparison of
these two surveys shows the following changes in
straight-time average hourly earnings: 15



1945 1963 hourper Percent

$0. 83

$1. 31

$0. 4 8


M id d le A tla n tic __________

. 95

1. 37

. 42


N e w E n g la n d _____________
G reat L a k e s______________

. 93
. 72

1. 37
1 .2 9

. 44
.5 7


Border S tates_____________
M id d le W e s t______________

. 69
.6 6

1. 0 8
1 .2 4

. 39
.5 8


S ou th ea st_________________

.6 5


.5 4


1 D ata for Pacific and Southwest regions are om itted because they accounted for only 3.2 percent of em ploym ent in the industry a t the tim e of the
1953 survey.
The regions for which separate data are presented include:
Jersey, N ew Y o rk , and Pennsylvania;
necticut, M aine, Massachusetts, N ew H am pshire, Rhode Island, and Ver­
m ont;
niino is, In diana, M ichigan, M innesota, Ohio, and
W isconsin;
D elaw are, D is tric t of C olum bia, K entucky,
M arylan d , V irg in ia , and W est V irginia;
Kansas, M is ­
souri, N ebraska, N o rth D akota, and South D akota; and
A la­
bam a, Florida, Georgia, M ississippi, N o rth C arolina, South C arolina, and


Middle At­
New England—

Middle West—lewo.,Southeast—

T o reflect some of the differences within regions
and to give a later terminal comparison, B L S data
on gross average hourly earnings b y States are
shown in the following tabulation for Decem ber
1946 and M arch 1956.16 Again, it should be noted
that the gross earnings figures include payments
for overtime, shift differentials, etc., which are
excluded from the regional wage data just pre­
14 Wage Structure: Footw ear, 1945, Series 2, N o. 23; and Wage Structure:
Footwear, M arch 1953, B LS Report N o. 46.
» Excludes prem ium pay for overtim e and shift differentials.
16 December 1946 is the earliest m onth for which State data are available on
a basis fa irly comparable w ith those for M arch 1956, which was chosen as the
term inal m onth because the $1 m inim um w ent in to effect then.


_ __

$1. 12

$1. 56

$0. 44

1 .1 9
1. 10

1. 55
1. 54

. 36


. 44


.9 2

1. 50

. 58


1. 45

. 50


O hio____

.9 5
.9 4

1. 45

. 51


M a i n e ___

.9 4

1. 44

. 50


Indiana __
M issouri_____

1. 42
1. 39
1. 28

. 55
. 49


M a r y la n d . _ _

.8 7
.9 0
.7 9

P ennsylvania

.8 5

1. 26

. 49
. 41


.7 5

1. 21

. 46


M assach u setts.
N ew Y o r k . _ _
N ew H am pshire
W iscon sin ___
Illin o is. __

V irginia____





i Because of some changes in sample composition in this industry, data for
December 1946 for a few States are not exactly comparable w ith the M arch
1956 averages.


U nited S tates_____________


1946^ 1956 hour Percent

These regional and State data on earnings in the
shoe industry show a reduction in differentials
that is favorable for N e w England. This is
particularly true in percentage terms, which seems
to be the most valid indicator of probable effect
upon labor cost. O f course, the regions have their
internal variations; for example, Pennsylvania
lowers the M iddle Atlantic average, and M aine
lowers the N e w England average. B u t in the
early postwar years, N e w England (particularly
Massachusetts and N e w Ham pshire) and the
M iddle Atlantic States (particularly N e w Y o rk )
were well above the W est and South. In the
more recent years, significant improvement in
N e w E n glan d’s relative position, as measured by
these indicators of labor cost, is indicated with
respect to the W est, less with respect to m ajor
southern competition.
Several reasons for the improvement can be
advanced. The impact of the Federal minimum
wage has had both a direct and indirect influence.
The spreading union organization is im portant;
particular areas in which wages are lowest are
those remaining weakly organized. G row ing in­
dustrialization in some areas where unionization,
though stronger, is of relatively recent origin m ay
also have helped to narrow certain differentials in
this low-wage industry, but this is a limited


I f labor cost data were available, a more
definitive analysis might be undertaken. I f em­
ployment, hours worked, and average earnings
data were broken down into union and nonunion
categories b y States and types of shoes, a much
more satisfying description would be possible.
B u t even from the data available, two tentative
conclusions m ay be made.
Collective bargaining has adapted reasonably
well to the highly competitive and partially or­
ganized character of the industry. If, in the
period following W o rld W a r I I , union demands
had been more forceful and effective, N e w E n g ­
land's production record might easily have been
less favorable. From a union point of view, this
degree of restraint has no doubt been most frus­
trating. W hen the union has been faced with the
task of balancing a management bargaining

position that higher wages might bring reduced
employment against the desires of its members
for a wage increase, the preservation of union
jobs must have appeared to be unreal and specu­
lative. From a management point of view, it
has been a thankless task to be a tough bargainer
in order to retain or regain competitive position.
In the second place, some regional earnings
differentials appear to have narrowed since the
end of W o rld W a r I I . Prosperity, particularly
in the immediate postwar period, the two in­
creases in the Federal minimum wage, and the
spread of unionism m ay all have contributed to
this end. However, growth in the industry
continues to favor low-earnings States where
organization has had limited success; some signifi­
cant firms in N e w England have ceased operations.
Competitive difficulties remain, bu t collective
bargaining in the postwar period does not appear
to have intensified the problems.

[The Knights of St. Crispin were founded in 1867 b y N ew ell Daniels, a
boot-treer of M ilford, M ass. Thousands of N e w England shoe workers in
Lynn, Weym outh, Brockton, and other N e w England towns flocked to this
craft organization. Protection of the craft was one of its basic elements.
The constitution included a regulation that] “ no member of this Order shall
teach, or aid in teaching, any part or parts of boot or shoe-making unless
the lodge shall give permission b y a three-fourths vote of those present . . .
Provided, this article shall not be so construed as to prevent a father from
teaching his own son."

— George E . M cN e ill, T h e L abor

1887 (p. 200).

M o v e m e n t, B oston, A . M . Bridgm an & C o .,

New England9s skilled workforce has joined with man­
agement talent and engineering ability to establish
a new high-wage in d u s try w ith a promising future.

The Growth of
the A ircra ft Industry

a v id

P in s k y

i r c r a f t is not the leading manufacturing em­
ployer in N e w England.
M achinery, textiles,
apparel, leather, electrical machinery, and fabri­
cated metals all exceed it in employment. W h a t
then is its peculiar importance to the area?
First is its potential. Aircraft is a new and far
from mature industry. I t is basic to national de­
fense, and its importance and use in this respect
are likely to grow. B u t in the commercial field, its
growth potential is much greater. E ven today
more passengers cross the ocean b y aircraft than
b y surface ships. M o re coast-to-coast travel is
b y air than b y surface vehicles. F or short inter­
city travel, the helicopter m ay become as common
as buses and trains in the not too distant future;
thus, it is important that N e w England maintain
its basic foothold in the industry.
Second, during the past decade aircraft em­
ployment has been advancing at a time when
employment in some leading N e w England in­
dustries has been stable or declining.
growth has enabled the area to maintain a skilled
work force, an important key to its future growth.
Third, aircraft is a relatively high-paying in­
dustry. The level of wages paid to N e w England
aircraft workers has been a significant factor in
maintaining its economy at a high level.


Development of N e w England Aircraft Industry
In 1925, a young executive from Ohio in search
of a location and money to realize his idea for an
air-cooled airplane engine turned to N e w England,

where craftsmen of all sorts had their shops.
Journeying to H artford, he concluded an agree­
ment with Pratt & W hitney, producer of precision
tools and lathes, whereby that firm furnished
him capital and working space.
T his young
executive was Frederick B . Rentschler.
company he founded, first known as P ratt &
W h itn ey Aircraft, eventually became the nucleus
of the present United Aircraft Corp. Its engines
have been highly successful from the start. T h e y
power about 75 percent of all the commercial
aircraft outside of Russia flying today. W ith its
licensees, P ratt & W h itn ey produced about 50
percent of all aircraft engines used b y the combined
A ir Corps and N a v y air arm in W o rld W a r I I .
A large proportion of today’s modern jet aircraft
is powered b y P ratt & W h itney Aircraft gas
Through his preeminence in aircraft, Rentschler
soon attracted other leaders in the field. T h ey
included Igor Sikorsky and Chance Vought, both
brilliant engineers and pioneer pilots, and W illiam
Boeing, financier and executive, pioneer pilot, and
devoted aviation enthusiast. United Aircraft,
formed in 1928 under the leadership of Rentschler
and these 3 men, gave additional know -how and
financing to 3 then small aircraft firms.
United Aircraft established a plant in B ridge­
port for one of these, Sikorsky Aircraft, which was
producing amphibious planes on L o n g Island.
Bridgeport was selected because a seaport for the
flying boats could be built there and the area could
supply skilled workers. The plant has discon­
tinued production of its flying boats and is now
the w orld’s leading producer of helicopters.

The Chance Vought airplane division of United
Aircraft was moved from the environs of N e w
Y o rk C ity to East H artford and later to Stratford,
Conn., largely because United Aircraft had found
a good supply of trained workmen in both areas,
which were nearer the parent corporation. This
division was also highly successful and made a
m ajor contribution to the W o rld W a r I I effort
with the production of its Corsair fighter planes.
After the war, a number of factors caused the
division to seek a new location. Principally, the
speed of their planes had become too great for
testing over the congested metropolitan area
around Bridgeport, and the N a v y was concerned
over the concentration of fighter-plane production
in the area with other m ajor producers, Republic
and Grumman, on Lo n g Island. A s a result, the
division was moved to Texas where the flat,
unpopulated areas and arid climate better suited
jet testing. In 1954, Chance Vought was sepa­
rated from United Aircraft.
Th e combination of engine and propeller pro­
duction was a natural one, and in 1928, Ham ilton
Standard Propeller, then located in M ilw aukee
and Pittsburgh, became a part of United Aircraft
and moved to the site of the engine plant in East
H artford. Ham ilton propellers today are stand­
ard equipment on more than 90 percent of all
commercial airliners flying in the Western W orld.
W ith the change from piston engines to jets, the
company in 1952 built a new plant to make
accessories for jet planes and engines, at the large
B radley Field airport in W indsor Locks, 18 miles
aw ay from the Pratt & W hitney engine plant in
East Hartford.
The other large airplane plant in Connecticut is
Avco M anufacturing C orp.’s Lycom ing plant in
Stratford, which manufactures airplane and heli­
copter engines. This plant was established there
because the removal of Chance Vought to Texas
had left available a good supply of skilled workers,
and the vacated plant itself was ideally suited for
airplane engine production.
General Electric Co. has a large plant producing
jet engines and accessories at Lynn, M ass. D r.
Sanford Moss, working for General Electric in
Lynn, pioneered the development of the turbosupercharger in the 1920’s. T he plant expanded
greatly during W o rld W a r I I. Additional research
developed the jet engines it is now producing.

Aircraft and Parts Employment as a Percent of Manu­
facturing Employment in New England, 1942-56

1942 ’43 *44 ’45 ’46 ’47 ’48 ’49 ’50 ’51 *52 ’53 ’54 ’55 ’56

Source: CompiledbyD.PinskyfromdatesuppliedbyThe
Bureouof LaborStatisticsandCooperatingState

A smaller but promising company is K am an
Helicopter in Bloomfield, Conn., just outside of
Hartford. Charles Kam an, its founder, was an
engineer at Ham ilton Standard during the war.
H e conceived the idea of a helicopter having twin
rotors intermeshed like an eggbeater and spinning
in opposite directions to eliminate the torque
resulting from use of a single rotor.
B u t recital of the rise of these large firms tells
only a part of the N e w England aircraft story.
Because of the large amounts of precision parts
required, aircraft plants traditionally contract
out considerable work. The availability of m any
small precision metal shops in N e w England
attracted the large producers in the first place.
F or example, United Aircraft alone purchases
products from 2,000 suppliers in N e w England,
employing an estimated 10,000 workers.
The standard airframe is not made in N e w E n g ­
land. The airplane engine, propellers, and the
helicopter are the three principal products. M a n y
N e w England plants contribute other parts or

subcontract work to aircraft manufacturers. Prin­
cipal among these are instruments and communi­
cation equipment.

Employment. Aircraft employment in N e w E n g ­
land hit an alltime peak of 85,000 in February
1944.1 In 1938, employment totaled approxi­
mately 7,300. In June 1940, with fighting already
started in Europe, aircraft employment reached
about 14,700. B y the time the bombs fell on
Pearl H a rb o r in Decem ber 1941, the number of
workers approximated 37,000.
The end of W o rld W a r I I in 1945 resulted in a
drop of aircraft workers from the 85,000 peak of
1944 to 20,800 after V - J D ay. Following this, the
number moved up slowly to 27,400 b y the outbreak
of the Korean conflict in June 1950.
(See accom­
panying chart.) Em ploym ent again moved up
rapidly to a peak of 71,600 in Decem ber 1953, 3
months after the truce was signed.
Unlike the situation at the end of W o rld W a r
II, no large cutbacks were made in aircraft produc­
tion following Korea. Aircraft and parts em ploy­
ment dropped in N e w England to 65,300 b y June
1955, but has increased since then to 76,300, in
September 1956.
Table 1 shows aircraft employment in N e w
England and the United States for June of each
year from 1942 through 1956. The 73,300 air-

T able

1.—Number and index of workers employed in the
aircraft and parts industry in New England and the
United States in June of 1942-56

Number (in thou­ Index (June 1942=
United New United New
States England States England
1942: June___ _________________
1943: June__ _____ _ ___ 1,339. 7
1944: June__ ____ ______ 1,300. 6
1945: June__ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ 947.7
1946: June____ _____________
1947: June_________ _ __ _
1948: J u n e .__...
1949: June____ _ _ _____ _
1950: June__ _ _____
_ 262.5
1951: June__ _ __ _ ... __ ...
1952: June__ _ ... ___
1953: June__ ____ ______ _
1954: June________ ______ ___
1955: June___ ___ _ __ __
1956: June_________




New England data compiled by the author; national data by
U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So u rce:

aircraft and parts industry by region, December 1955

En lployment


Employment and Earnings in Aircraft


T a b l e 2 . —Employment in manufacturing and in the

United States. _______
New England___ _____
Middle Atlantic___ _ _
East North Central.. ...
West North Central___
South Atlantic______ _
East South Central_____
West South Central____
Mountain___________ _
Pacific___... _________

Ratio of
aircraft and
to all
ing (in
thousands) (in thou­ Percent
Aircraft iand parts

1 17,027.0
4,241. 2
4,962. 5
1,908. 5
1,446. 8

1 759.8


6. 7
2. 8

1 BLS estimate for United States adjusted to 1955 benchmarks; the States
(and regional) series are unadjusted.
S o u r c e : Regional estimates compiled by the author; national data by
the U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

craft workers employed in N e w England in June
1956 represented a 42-percent increase over the
51,500 employed in June of 1942, the first year for
which reliable data are available. F o r the coun­
try as a whole, the 790,400 aircraft and parts
employment in June 1956 was about the same as
in June 1942.
N e w E n glan d’s 73,300 aircraft workers in June
1956 comprised 4.9 percent of her total factory
employment. This percentage for N e w E ngland
was about the same as the proportion (4.5 percent)
for the country as a whole.
W ithin N e w England, Connecticut’s 59,600
aircraft workers of Decem ber 1955 comprised 13.7
percent of its manufacturing employment; in
Massachusetts, the proportion was only 1.2 per­
In numbers of aircraft workers, three regions
exceeded N e w England. The largest employment
appeared in the Pacific region, followed b y the
East N o rth Central and the M iddle Atlantic
(See table 2.)

Worker Concentration in Connecticut. The largest
concentration of aircraft workers in N e w England
is in Connecticut, where 65,900 were employed in
September 1956. Massachusetts employed a m od­
erate 9,000 workers in this field, and fewer than
1,000 each were employed in M aine and Vermont.

1 Data presented for New England and other States or regions were pro­
vided by the author. Corresponding estimates for the country as a whole
are from the U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The
most recent data in each case apply to the latest period for which the author
had comparable data available when preparing the article in the early fall
of 1956.


There is virtually no direct aircraft employment
in N e w Hampshire and Rhode Island.
These figures do not, however, indicate the large
numbers of former residents of other N e w England
States who have moved into Connecticut to man
the expanding Connecticut aircraft industry.
The first wave hit Connecticut during W o rld W a r
II, when the moves were generally considered
temporary. The northern N e w Englanders were
supposedly going to Connecticut to work for “ the
duration” and then, after the war, presumably
would take their hard-earned money back to their
native towns. This did not transpire. They
liked and became accustomed to their relatively
high earnings and their new environment; so they
remained in Connecticut in large numbers. The
second wave hit during the expansion of the
Korean conflict. Again large numbers of workers
from the northern States came to Connecticut
and found jobs in the aircraft industry. These
workers have also generally remained.
W a s this migration to Connecticut good or bad?
F or Connecticut, it permitted an expansion of
high-wage aircraft employment and offset losses in
other manufacturing industries. The aircraft
wages paid within the State have enabled the econ­
omy to continue at a relatively high level and have
helped make the State the most prosperous in N e w
England. On the other side, the large numbers of
migrants have created housing, school, and other
social problems.
F or the States which the workers left, the mi­
gration m ay have helped to relieve unemploy­
ment associated with declines in the textile and
shoe industries. On the other hand, it is con­
ceivable that greater industrial development
would have occurred in some of those areas, had
the labor pool remained available.
3 . —Hours and gross earnings of production workers
in the New England aircraft and parts industry in
June of 1947-56

T able


Average Average Average
weekly weekly hourly
earnings hours earnings

1947: June______ ___ _________ ______
1948: June____ _____________________
1949: June___ - _ _ 1950: June___ _ _____
1951: June___ - _____ ___________ -1952: June________ ___ _ ___________ 1953: June______________________________
1954: June_- __ - ____- ___________
1955: June. _____
_ _ ______
1956: June____ _______________________
So u rce:

Estimates compiled by the author.

$54. 22
64. 23
82. 98
86. 86
93. 83


$ 1 .3 6

1. 44
1. 56
2. 04
2. 21

Labor Turnover.

The N e w England aircraft and
parts industry has had a lower separation rate for
the past 5 years than manufacturing as a whole.
In June 1956, the aircraft total separation and
quit rates in N e w England were 1.7 and 1.4, re­
spectively, per 100 workers employed (see tabu­
lation), compared with a total separation rate of
3.9 and a quit rate of 2.0 for the same month for
all manufacturing in Connecticut, where the bulk
of aircraft workers are employed. The aircraft
and parts accession rate in June 1956 was 5.8 in
N e w England as compared with 4.2 for all m anu­
facturing in Connecticut.

June of—

Turnover rates in the New England aircraft and
parts industry (per 100 employees)
Accession Total separarate
tion rate1
Quit rate





1. 9

1. 6





1. 8

1 .0





1. 6

1 .0





1. 5

1 .1





1. 7

1. 4

1 Includes quits, discharges, layoffs, and military and miscellaneous
S o u r c e : Estimates compiled by the author.
The aircraft and parts industry has shown
lower turnover in N e w England than in the coun­
try as a whole. For example, in June 1956, the
aircraft total separation and quit rates in N e w
England of 1.7 and 1.4 compared with the na­
tional industry's total separation rate of 2.4 and
quit rate of 1.7. The 5.8 accession rate in the
N e w England aircraft and parts industry in June
1956 compared with 4.8 for the industry as a


W eekly wages paid in aircraft and
parts are the highest of any industry group in
N e w England. In June 1956, average weekly
earnings in aircraft were $93.83 as compared with
an average of $71.94 for all production workers in
N e w England.
(See table 3.) B u t the N e w
England aircraft average earnings were below the
$94.66 for all aircraft and parts workers through­
out the United States in June 1956. Neverthe­
less, the regional average was substantially above
the $54.22 in 1947. The rise was marked b y a
jum p from $64.23 in June 1950, to $85.40 in 1951
as the Korean conflict flared, and a second jum p
from $86.86 in June 1955 to the June 1956 figure.
Fringe benefits vary from plant to plant, but
aircraft workers in N e w England generally enjoy
7 paid holidays; 1, 2, or 3 weeks of vacation, de-

pending on length of service; and life insurance,
health and medical coverage, and pensions— all
financed jointly b y employer and worker.

Other Employment Characteristics. N e a rly all the
N e w England aircraft workers are represented by
labor unions. The International Association of
Machinists covers about two-thirds of Connecti­
cut's aircraft workers, and the United Auto
Workers, the remainder. In Massachusetts, the
International Union of Electrical, Radio and
M achine W orkers represents nearly all of the
aircraft workers. A few very small plants in that
State have no unions.
The aircraft industry in the region has a good
labor-management record; relatively few work
stoppages resulting from labor-management dis­
putes have occurred in N e w England. The post­
w ar adjustment in 1946 saw several moderately
long disputes. N o stoppages occurred from 1946
until October 1951, when 1 work stoppage involv­
ing 2,000 aircraft workers lasted for 2 weeks.
N o stoppages have occurred since then.

The Outlook
The future of aircraft development in general
is very promising and very complex. The aircraft
industry is constantly changing and the location
in N e w England of a substantial segment of the
industry is, in itself, no guarantee that it will
remain there in the future. How ever, the N e w
England aircraft plants are blessed with progres­
sive management and skilled labor, which bodes
well. Also, they offer a considerable amount of
training, ranging from on-the-job training for
semiskilled workers to postgraduate courses for
their professional workers.
Aircraft and engine designs are not static. A n y
aircraft company which did not perform constant
research and development would soon be out of
business. One promising sign is the new atomic
engine research center being built in M iddletown,
Conn. The thousands of scientists and engineers
who will be employed there will play a large part
in determining which w ay N e w E ngland's aircraft
production w ill go.

[Six hundred Boston House Carpenters were involved in the first great
strike for the 10-hour day in 1825. In opposing their demands, the master
carpenters stated that they were] “ fraught with numerous and pernicious
evils" . . . and would expose the journeymen themselves “ to m any tempta­
tions and improvident practices" from which they were “ happily secure"
when working from sunrise to sunset. . . . Finally, they declared that they
could not believe “ this project to have originated with any of the faithful
and industrious Sons of N e w England, but are compelled to consider it an
evil of foreign growth, and one which we hope and trust will not take root in
the favoured soil of M assachusetts."

— John R . C om m on s and Associates, H istory of L ab or in the U nited States, N ew
Y o r k , M acm illan C o ., 1918, Y ol. I, P t. 1 (pp. 1 5 9 -1 6 0 ) .