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UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
L. B. Schwellenbach, Secretary
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
Isador Lubin, Com m issioner (on leave)
A. F. Hinrichs, A ctin g Comm issioner

W a r and Postwar
W ages, Prices, and Hours
1914-23 and 1939-44

B ulletin ?{o . 852

For sale by the Superintendent o f Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office




Washington 25, D. C.

-

Price 10 cents

Letter o f Transmittal
U nited States D epartment op L abor ,
B ureau op L abor Statistics,
W ashington, D . C .t Decem ber 5 , 194.5 .
The Secretary op L abor :
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on war and postwar wages,
prices, and hours, 1914-23 and 1939-44, in two parts: 1.— Comparisons of World
Wars I and II, and 2.— W ar and postwar trends. The report was prepared bvr
W itt Bov den of the Bureau's Labor Economics Staff, assisted by Edith E . Hill
and Marilyn D . Sworzyn.
A. F. H inrichs, A ctin g C om m issioner.
H on. L . B . Schwellenbach,
Secretary o f Labor.

Contents
Part 1.— Comparison of World Wars I and I I :
Page
Summary_____________________________________________________________________
1
Wage changes in the two World Wars:
Manufacturing, mining, and railroads______________________________
2
Union hourly rates__________________________________________________
4
Farm wage rates_______________________________________________
Average annual salary-wage.___________________________
Consumers’ prices and wholesale prices in the two World Wars:
Index of consumers’ prices_____________________________________________
6
Wholesale prices--------------------------------------------------------Hours of work in the two World Wars:
Average weekly hours__________________________________________________
9
Union hours in building and printing trades__________________________
10
Full-time or scheduled hours__________________________________________
11
Part 2.— W ar and postwar trends:
Summary____________________________________________________________________
12
Wages, 19 14 -2 3...............................................................................
Average weekly earnings in manufacturing___________________________
13
Average hourly earnings in manufacturing-----------------------------------------14
Average hourly and weekly earnings in manufacturing, coal
mining, and railroads________________________________________________
15
Average hourly earnings in selected manufacturing industries___
15
Average hourly earnings of railroad workers______________________
17
Union wage rates in bituminous-coal mining______________________
18
Changes in union hourly wage rates in building and printing
trades_________________________________________________________________
19
Monthly wages of maritime workers----------------------------------Farm wage rates----------------------22
Average salary-wage -----------------------------------------------------Consumers’ prices and wholesale prices, 1914-23--------------------------------------23
Hours of work, 1914-23:
Prevailing hours in manufacturing------------------------------------------------------24
Full-time hours per week in selected manufacturing industries___
24
Scheduled hours in railroad transportation___________________________
26
Scheduled hours in bituminous-coal mining__________________________
26
Union hours in the building and printing trades-------------------------- 27
Changes in average weekly hours actually worked___________________
28
Conditions affecting trends after the two wars--------------------------------------29

n




5

20

Bulletin 7S[o. 852 o f the
U nited States Bureau o f Labor Statistics
[Reprinted from the M onthly L abor R e v ie w , October and November 1945]

W a r and P ostw ar W a g e s , P rices, and H o u r s ,
1 9 1 4 - 2 3 and 1 9 3 9 - 4 4
Part 1.— Comparison of World Wars I and II
Sum m ary

A widespread interest in historical analogies and comparisons
has been particularly evident in connection with World Wars I and II.
Recently this interest has extended to the period following the First
World War and the possible course of events after the Second World
War. This report deals with three important phases of such com­
parisons, namely, wages, prices, and hours of work, with incidental
references to related subjects.
Comparisons of this nature necessarily have serious limitations.
Not the least of these is the inadequate nature of available informa­
tion, especially for the earlier period. It is impossible to trace the
course of wages and hours in detail during the First World War,
but extensive information is available for the years 1914 and 1919 and
for succeeding years. The years 1914 to 1919 are compared with
the corresponding 5-year period from 1939 to 1944. Changes during
the concluding months of World War II were comparatively slight.
Between June 1944 and June 1945, the hourly earnings of factory
workers rose 2.0 percent; their weekly hours fell 1.5 percent; the index
of consumers’ prices1 rose 2.9 percent; and the wholesale price index
rose 1.7 percent. The two equal periods from 1914 to 1919 and from
1939 to 1944 covered broadly similar conditions of war in Europe
and of American preparation for war or actual warfare. These time
comparisons, although imperfect, are the best that can be made with
available statistics. It is believed that the data are sufficiently com­
parable and that the basic conditions are sufficiently analogous to
give considerable interest to such a study as is undertaken in the
present article.
Average hourly earnings more than doubled between 1914 and
1919, the increase being mainly a result of changes in basic rates of
wages. Increases far smaller occurred from 1939 to 1944, and yet
factors other than basic wage-rate changes, especially premium pay­
ments for overtime, were much more important than in the First
World War. The increase in gross average hourly earnings in fac­
tories from 1939 to 1944 was 61 percent; the increase in basic wage
rates was hardly more than 35 percent.
i Formerly called the index'of cost of living.




1

2

WAR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

Increases in average weekly earnings during the two periods were
not radically different, especially in factory earnings, in which the
rise in the first period was about 100 percent, and in the second period,
93 percent. When pay-roll deductions are considered, however, the
difference is much greater, for the large deductions for taxes and bonds
made it impossible, in the Second World War, to view weekly earnings
as “ take home” pay available for current consumption.
The adoption of a national stabilization program during the Second
World War was a major factor in preventing both wages and prices
from rising as much as in the First World War. The index of con­
sumers’ prices (formerly called the index of cost of living) rose 72.4
percent from 1914 to 1919, in contrast to a rise of only 26.3 percent
from 1939 to 1944. The increases in wholesale prices were larger in
both periods than were those in eonsumers, prices, but the index of
consumers’ prices fell less between the two wars. As a net result,
the index of consumers’ prices in both 1939 and 1944 was at a higher
level, in relation to 1914, than was the index of wholesale prices.
The workweek was somewhat shorter in 1919 than in 1914 but
much longer in 1944 than in 1939. The reductions during the First
World War were made from levels far higher than those of 1939.
The prevailing workweek in factories in 1914 averaged 55.1 hours, in
contrast to the usual 40-hour week in 1939. Weekly hours actually
worked in factories fell from 49.4 in 1914 to 46.3 in 1919 and rose
from 37.7 in 1939 to 45.2 in 1944.
W age Changes in the T im W orld W ars
MANUFACTURING, MINING, AND RAILROADS

The broadest comparisons of wages during the two World Wars re­
late to manufacturing, coal mining, and railroads (table 1). Average
hourly earnings in manufacturing rose from $0,223 in 1914 to $0,477 in
1919, an increase of 113.9 percent. Similar percentage advances oc­
curred in bituminous-coal mining and steam railroads. Workers in
the bituminous-coal mining industry, however, received higher wages,
the average for 1914 being $0,358, and for 1919, $0,759. Bituminouscoal mining employed a comparatively large proportion of skilled
workers engaged in heavy and hazardous occupations. The hourly
earnings of railroad workers, comprising a wide variety of occupations,
averaged $0,252 in 1914 and $0,537 in 1919.
The increases in average hourly earnings from 1939 to 1944 were
comparatively small, ranging from 27.6 percent in anthracite mining
to 61.0 percent in manufacturing. The average for factory workers
rose much more than did the averages for most of the nonmanufac­
turing groups. In retail trade, for example, the largest of the non­
manufacturing groups, the increase was only 35.1 percent.
The rise in average hourly earnings from 1939 to 1944 was not only
much smaller than from 1914 to 1919 but was also more largely a result
of temporary increases in premium payments for overtime. The aver­
age of gross hourly earnings in factories rose from $0,633 in 1939 to
$1,019 in 1944; the straight-time average rose from $0,622 to $0,947.
Another factor that appears to have had greater recent effect than in
World War I is the relatively large increase in employment in war in­
dustries, such $s shipbuilding and aircraft, with comparatively high




3

PART 1.— COMPARISON OF WORLD WARS I AND II

wage rates. When the effects of interindustry shifts in employment
are excluded, straight-time hourly earnings averaged, in 1944, only
$0,869 as compared with the gross average of $1,019. The increase in
basic wage rates in manufacturing from 1939 to 1944 appears to have
been about 35 percent, as compared with a rise of 61.0 percent in gross
hourly earnings.
T able 1.— Average W eekly and H ourly Earnings in M anufacturing, Coal M ining ,
and Steam Railroads, 1914, 1919, 1939, and 1944
Percent of
increase—

Amount
Industry
19141

19191

1939

1944

1914-19

Average weekly earnings:2
Manufacturing............................................. $11.01
Bituminous-coal mining............................... 12.22
Anthracite mining....................................... 11.40
Steam railroads (class I)............................... 13.66

$22.08
25.65
26.92
24.84

$23.86
23.88
25.67
30.71

$46.08
51.27
47.93
45.69

100.5
109.9
136.1
81.8

93.1
114.7
86.7
48.8

113.9
112.0
133.6
113.1

61.0
33.9
27.6
32.1

Average hourly earnings:
Manufacturing3.......... ................................
Bituminous-coal mining4
.............................
Anthracite mining.......................................
Steam railroads (class I)...............................

.223
.358
.274
.252

.477
.759
.640
.537

.633
.886
.923
.707

1.019
1.186
1.178
.934

1939-44

1The sources and methods used in computing the averages were described in Monthly Labor Review,
September 1940 (pp. 517-544), but some of the averages there given have been revised.
2The wide differences in extent of change in average weekly earnings were caused in part by differences in
average weekly hours (table 6).
3Changes in average hourly earnings in manufacturing were significantly affected by changes in the pro­
portions of workers in the different industries, as the shift of workers to high-wage industries such as ship­
building.
4The inclusion of travel time in 1944 as compensable time causes an increase of 7 or 8 percent in compen­
sable hours. If it is assumed that travel time was in reality working time before as well as after the adoption
of the travel-time rule, that rule caused an increase in average hourly earnings not shown in the table, the per­
centage increase being affected by the payment of rates for travel time one-third lower than the rates for
productive time.

The increases in average weekly earnings during the period from
1914 to 1919 ranged from 81.8 percent for railroad workers to 136.1
percent for anthracite miners. The increases, except for anthracite
mining, were smaller than those in hourly earnings. During the
period from 1939 to 1944, the weekly earnings of railroad workers rose
much less than the earnings of factory workers and miners, a major
cause being the much smaller increase in the hours of work of railroad
employees. The average workweek of railroad workers, however, was
much longer in 1939 than was the usual workweek. In general, the
decline in weekly hours from 1914 to 1919 checked the rise in weekly
earnings; in contrast, the sharp rise in hours from 1939 to 1944 was a
major cause of the upturn in weekly earnings.
Factory average hourly earnings rose 113.9 percent from 1914 to
1919 and only 61.0 percent from 1939 to 1944, whereas the rise in
average weekly earnings in the first period was 100.5 percent, and in
the second period, 93.1 percent. Weekly earnings in the two periods
are not comparable, however, from the point of view of “ take home”
pay or compensation actually available for current consumption, be­
cause of the recent increase in pay-roll deductions. In the First
World War these deductions were negligible. The gross weekly
earnings of factory workers in June 1944 averaged $46.24, but it is
estimated that the “ spendable” earnings of a worker earning that
amount and having three dependents amounted only to $39.56. The
difference is the sum of the estimated deductions for taxes and bonds.




4

WAR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

A single worker, earning $46.24, but without dependents, and subject
to a higher tax rate, had estimated “ spendable” earnings of only
$33.79.
There is a striking contrast in the levels of both hourly earnings and
weekly earnings during the two periods. General increases in hourly
earnings occurred between 1919 and 1939. Average weekly earnings
of factory and railroad workers were also somewhat higher in 1939
than in 1919, but the averages of the coal-mining industries declined,
although less sharply than did weekly hours in mining (table 6). The
much higher level of hourly earnings in 1939 than in 1919 is to be ex­
plained largely by the sharp rise in labor productivity. Average out­
put per man-hour in manufacturing industries rose 128 percent;
average hourly earnings adjusted by the consumers’ price index rose
only 69 percent; and unit labor cost fell 44 percent. Large increases
in labor productivity occurred also in coal mining and railroad
transportation.
UNION HOURLY RATES

The increases in basic rates of wages as embodied in union agree­
ments in the building and printing trades were much smaller during
both periods than were the increases in average hourly earnings in
manufacturing, mining, and railroads. The average union hourly rate
of wages in the building trades rose from $0,481 in 1914 to $0,676 in
1919, or 40.5 percent (table 2). The rise in the printing trades, from
a somewhat lower level of $0,449, was 39.9 percent. The increases
between 1939 and 1944 were 13.6 percent in the building trades and
13.1 percent in the printing trades. In both periods the increases for
helpers and laborers were significantly larger than those for journey­
men. In addition, the rise in the average hourly rate for helpers and
laborers between 1919 and 1939 was appreciably greater than the rise
in the journeymen’s rate.
T able 2.— Union H ourly W age Rates in Building and Printing Trades, 1914 , 1919
1939 , and 1944 1

Percent of
increase—

Union hourly wage rate
Trade
1914

1919

1939

1944

All building trades....................... ....... .............
Journeymen---- -------- ------------ -------------Helpers and laborers............................ .......

$0,481
.533
.251

$0. C 6
7
.741
.385

$1.303
1.415
.781

$1,480
1.590
.939

40.5
39.0
53.4

13.6
12.4
20.2

All printing trades...................................-.........
Book and job...................... -.......................
Newspaper........................... — ..................

.449
.410
.558

.628
.591
.732

1.182
1.115
1.308

1.337
1.251
1.505

39.9
44.1
31.2

13.1
12.2
15.1

1914-19

1939-44

i The average rates for years prior to 1944 are estimates calculated by use of indexes. These indexes were
constructed from percentage changes in annual averages which in turn were computed from the quota­
tions of those unions which furnished reports for identical occupations in two consecutive years.
Union hourly wage rates are collected once each year during the spring or summer. Data for 1914 and
1919 are for May 15; for 1939, June 1; and for 1944, July 1.
The averages are straight-time union rates, excluding such compensation as premium payments for over­
time.

The average union rate for the newspaper trades was significantly
higher in 1914 than the average for the book and job trades ($0,558
as compared with $0,410), but the difference was narrowed by a rise
of 44.1 percent in the book and job trades as compared with 31.2 per­




5

PART 1.— COMPARISON OF WORLD WARS I AND II

cent in the newspaper trades. The difference was further narrowed
between 1919 and 1939. Between 1939 and 1944 the newspaper rate
rose slightly more than did the book and job rate, but the increase
from 1914 to 1944 was significantly larger in the relatively* low book
and job rate than in the newspaper rate.
Union hourly rates in the building and printing trades rose less in
both wars than the hourly earnings of industrial workers, partly
because of the comparatively slight pressure of wartime demands on
these trades, especially in printing and publishing. In addition, hourly
earnings tended to rise more rapidly than basic rates because of the
effects of premium payments for overtime and the shifting of workers
to high-wage industries. When the years 1914 and 1939 are com­
pared, it is seen that changes in union rates were not radically different
from changes in average hourly earnings. In the building trades the
average union rate rose 170.9 percent; in the printing trades, 163.3
percent. These may be compared with the rise of 183.9 percent in
hourly earnings in factories, 147.5 percent in bituminous-coal mining,
and 180.6 percent in railroad transportation.
FARM WAGE RATES

The data on farm wage rates published by the Bureau of Agricul­
tural Economics of the Department of Agriculture show trends that
are strikingly different from those of nonfarm wages. The weighted
average rate per month (table 3) rose from $25.13 in 1914 to $51.13
in 1919, an increase of 103.5 percent, roughly comparable to the
increase in average hourly earnings and average weekly earnings in
manufacturing, mining, and railroads. Thereafter, however, the
trends were radically different. Between 1919 and 1939, the general
farm wage rate declined about 40 percent, in contrast to general
increases in nonfarm wages. Between 1939 and 1944, the farm wage
rate rose 155 percent, in contrast to much smaller increases in nonfarm
wages. Even with the very much larger increases in World War II,
however, the rise in farm wages during the whole of the period from
1914 to 1944 was smaller than the increase in either the weekly or
the hourly earnings of industrial workers.
T able 3.— Farm W age Rates, 1914 , 1 9 1 9 ,1 9 3 9 , and 1944 1
Percent of
increase—

Farm wage rate
Type of payment

1914-19 1939-44*

1914
Per month:
With board................................................
Without board...........................................
Per day:
With board.................................................
Without board...........................................
Weighted average rate per month.....................

1919

1939

1944

$22.62
29.74

$43.29
66.63

$27.39
36.82

$74.00
86.70

91.4
90.4

170.2
139.3

1.17
1.43
26.13

2.64
3.03
61.13

1.30
1.66
30.66

3.46
3.93
78.00

117.1
111.9
103.6

166.2
161.9
166.2

i U. S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Agricultural Economics: Farm Wage Rates, Farm Em­
ployment, and Related Data (pp. 3,4); and Farm Labor, current issues.
* The extent of the increases appears to have been partly a result of a significant lag in 1939 in farnfwage
rates.

Thus, the relatively rapid wartime rise in farm wages followed a
serious lag. The rise was accompanied by an increase of 28 percent
from 1939 to 1944 in agricultural production and by an advance of




6

WAR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

88.8 percent in the wholesale prices of farm products, in contrast to
an increase of only 25.3 percent in the prices of all commodities other
than farm products. Farmers were not merely able to pay much
higher wages; they found it necessary to make substantial advances
in order to obtain workers in competition with industrial employers.
Increases in farm wage rates were facilitated early in the war by
exemption from the wage-stabilization program and later by the
relatively limited application of controls to farm wages.
AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARY-WAGE

The average annual salary-wage of all nongovernmental nonagricultural employees, on a full-time equivalent basis, according to rough
approximations derived from national income and employment data,
rose from $753 in 1914 to $1,283 in 1919, an increase of about 70
percent.2 The increase in the average salary-wage was naturally
smaller than were the advances in average weekly earnings of wage
earners in manufacturing, coal mining, and railroad transportation.
The earnings of large groups of workers, such as those in retail trade
and public utilities, are normally much more stable than are those of
wage earners in factories, mines, and railroads. It may be assumed
also that there was a smaller shift of employment from low-wage to
high-wage occupations and industries in employment generally than
in mines and railroads and especially in factories.
During the Second World War, the estimated average salary-wage
of nongovernmental nonagricultural employees (full-time equivalent
basis) rose from $1,338 in 1939 to $2,255 in 1944, or 69 percent.3 The
increase was again, as in World War I, significantly smaller than the
rise in the average weekly earnings of industrial wage earners. The
causes of the smaller rise in the average salary-wage are similar to
those applicable during the First World War, with the additional
factor of the comparatively large effects of the increase in hours and
in premium payments for overtime on the earnings of workers in
factories and mines. The relative stability of salaries and also of
wages in many employments is apparent in periods of downturn as
well as upturn of the weekly earnings of industrial wage earners.
Consumers’ Prices and Wholesale Prices in the Tw o W orld W ars
INDEX

OF

CONSUMERS’

PRICES

The consumers’ price index for moderate income families in large
cities (table 4) rose 72.4 percent between 1914 and 1919, in contrast
to a rise of 26.3 percent between 1939 and 1944. The index in both
* Estimates of this nature, especially for the period of the First World War, should not be viewed in any
sense as exact measures, but only as rough approximations. The averages are derived from estimates of
national income and employment published D the National Bureau of Economic Research, in Income
y
in the United States: Its Amount and Distribution (2 volumes), by W. C. Mitchell and others (New
York, 1921,1922), The National Income and Its Purchasing Power, by W. I. King (New York, 1930), and
National Income and Its Composition, 1919-1938 (2 volumes), by Simon Kuznets (New York, 1941). Fig­
ures for 1914 and 1919 are based on a larger and more dependable volume of data than are the data for the
intervening years, because of the existence of an extensive body of census data for the 2 years.
3Estimates for 1939 to 1943 were made by the U. S. Department of Commerce in connection with its
national income work. The estimate for 1944 is derived from the Department of Commerce figure for 1943
and the 1943-44 percentage change as shown by Social Security Board data. The data of employment
and compensation of workers covered by State unemployment-compensation laws and compiled by the
Bureau of Employment Security of the Social Security Board indicate a rise of about 7 percent in the
average salary-wage from 1943 to 1944. The Bureau of Labor Statistics figures of average weekly earn­
ings in manufacturing and various nonmanufacturing industries show approximately the same average
increase. The estimate of the Department of Commerce for all nonagricultural nongovernmental
employees, when available, may indicate a slightly different percentage increase.




7

PART 1.— COMPARISON OF WORLD WARS I AND II

periods shows average changes in retail prices of selected goods, rents,
and services bought by families of wage earners and lower-salaried
workers in large cities. The changes in particular localities ranged
widely above and below the average change. The index does not
measure changes, either necessary or voluntary, in the total amount
that families spend for living. Significant changes occurred in the
index during the Second World War, especially before the working out
of the national stabilization program, but in comparison with World
War I, the increases were small.
The changes in consumers' prices as embodied in the various major
items ranged widely during both periods. During the First World
War, the prices of clothing rose 141.7 percent; housefurnishings, 121.0
percent; and food, 83.1 percent. The largest increase between 1939
and 1944 was the 43.0-percent rise for food, the next largest increase
being a rise of 38.1 percent for clothing. The increase in housefur­
nishings (34.6 percent) was also greater than the average increase.
The smallest increase in both periods was in rent, the rise during the
First World War being 11.4 percent, and in the later period, 3.7 per­
cent. Next to rent, the smallest increase during both periods was
for fuel, electricity, and ice—46.2 percent from 1914 to 1919 and 10.9
percent from 1939 to 1944.
T able 4.— Changes in Consumers’ Price Index fo r M oderate-Incom e Fam ilies in
Large Cities, 1 91 4 -2 3 and 1 93 9 -4 4

Percent of
increase—

Index (1935-39=100)
Item
1914

1919

1939

1944

1914-19 1939-44

All items............................................................

71.8

123.8

99.4

125.5

72.4

26.3

Food..................................................................
Clothing.............................................................
Rent........................................ ..........................
Fuel, electricity, and ice.....................................
Housefurnishings...............................................
Miscellaneous.....................................................

81.8
69.8
92.2
62.3
60.7
51.9

149.8
168.7
102.7
91.1
134.1
87.6

95.2
100.5
104.3
99.0
101.3
100.7

136.1
138.8
108.2
109.8
136.4
121.3

83.1
141.7
11.4
46.2
121.0
68.8

43.0
38.1
3.7
10.9
34.6
20.5

The comparative changes in the various items of the consumers'
price index during the two wars should be viewed in the light of the
changes between the wars. The general index was 19.7 percent lower
in 1939 than in 1919 as compared with reductions of 40.4 percent for
clothing, 36.4 percent for food, and 24.5 percent for housefurnishings.
The indexes of the other items were higher in 1939 than in 1919, the
increase for rent being 1.6 percent; for fuel, electricity, and ice, 8.7
percent; and for miscellaneous items, 15.0 percent. The increase
from 1914 to 1944 in the general index was 74.8 percent, somewhat
larger than the increase of 66.4 percent in the food index and much
larger than the 17.4-percent rise in rent. The largest increase was in
the index of miscellaneous items (133.7 percent), followed by 124.7
percent for housefurnishings and 98.9 percent for clothing.
Information regarding consumers' prices is much less detailed for
the First World War than for more recent periods. The earlier
indexes are more satisfactory for food (the major item) and for all
items combined than for most of the components other than food.
676568°—46-----2




8

WAR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

The relative importance of the various major items in the consum­
ers’ price index is indicated broadly by the following percentage dis­
tribution of family-budget costs in 1935-39:
Percent

Food................................................ ...........................................
Clothing__________________ ______ _____________________
Rent___________________________________________________
Fuel, electricity, and ice_____________________________
Housefurnishings_____________________________________
Miscellaneous_________________________________________

3 5 .4
1 1 .0
18. 8
6. 7
4. 4
23. 7

All items______________________________________

100. 0

Variations in the extent of price changes in the different items cause
variations in percentage distribution of costs in the index. Thus, in
December 1943, food accounted for 41.2 percent and rent for 17.2
>ercent of the total, these changes accompanying the comparatively
arge increases in food prices.

{

WHOLESALE PRICES

Wholesale prices rose more than consumers’ prices during both
World War periods (tables 4 and 5). The rise in wholesale prices from
1914 to 1919 was 103.5 percent, as compared with 72.4 percent in the
consumers’ price index; and from 1939 to 1944, 34.9 percent, as com­
pared with 26.3 percent in consumers’ prices. The wholesale price
index, however, fell much more sharply between the two wars (44.4
percent) than did the index of consumers’ prices (19.7 percent). The
net result of the changes from 1914 to 1939 was a significantly larger
increase in consumers’ prices than in wholesale prices, the former
being 38.4 percent higher than in 1914 and the latter only 13.2 percent
higher. Thus, the consumers’ price index, although less variable
within the period from 1914 to 1939, was at a substantially higher level
in 1939 in relation to 1914 than was the index of wholesale prices.
Furthermore, although the wholesale price index rose more rapidly
during the Second World War than did the index of consumers’
prices, the latter was still, in 1944, at a higher level in relation to 1914
than was the former. The largest increase in wholesale prices during
both periods of war was in farm products, and the next largest in­
crease was in food. These major groups, farm products and food,
underwent relatively large declines during the period 1919-39, but
both rose more than all commodities combined in 1914-44.
T able 5.— Changes in Wholesale Prices, 1 9 1 4 -1 9 and 1 93 9 -4 4
Percent of
increase—

Index (1926=100)
Item
1914

1919

1939

1944

1914-19

1939-44

All commodities.................................................

68.1

138.6

77.1

104.0

103.5

34.9

All commodites other than farm products--------All commodities other than farm products and
food.................................................................
Farm products...................................................
Food...................................................................

66.8

131.6

79.6

99.6

97.0

25.3

66.4
71.2
64.7

128.8
167.6
129.6

81.3
65.3
70.4

98.5
123.3
104.9

94.0
121.3
100.2

21.2
88.8
49.0




9

PART 1.— COMPARISON OF WORLD WARS I AND II

H ours o f W ork in the Two W orld W ars
AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS

Average weekly hours in major employments declined from 1914 to
1919, in contrast to sharp increases from 1939 to 1944 (table 6). The
average weekly hours of factory workers fell from 49.4 in 1914 to 46.3
in 1919, a reduction of 6.3 percent. The hours of employees of class I
steam railroads fell from 54.1 to 46.3 per week, a decline of 14.4 per­
cent. The evidence indicates nominal increases in the average hours
of workers in bituminous-coal and anthracite mining.
The decline in average hours between 1914 and 1919 was caused by
the shortening of work schedules. Some increases in average hours in
World War II resulted from reductions in amount of part-time work,
but a major factor was the lengthening of work schedules. The work­
week in 1914 was so long that the general movement for reductions in
hours was reinforced by arguments for increasing efficiency in war
production. Reductions in scheduled hours had been so extensive by
1939 that the temporary lengthening of the workweek as an emergency
measure encountered little opposition.
T able 6.— Average W eekly H ours in M anufacturing , Coal M in in g , and Steam Rail­
roads, 1914 , 1919, 1939 , and 1944
Percent of
change—

Average weekly hours
Industry
1914 *
Manufacturing....... ..........................................
Bituminous-coal mining2
...................................
Anthracite mining.............................................
Steam railroads (class I).......... ...................... .

1919 1

49.4
35.2
41.6
54.1

46.3
35.5
42.1
46.3

1939
37.7
27.1
27.7
43.5

1944
45.2
43.4
40.7
48.9

1914-19
-6 .3
+ .9
+1.2
-14.4

1939-44
+19.9
+60.1
446.9
+12.4

1The sources and methods used in computing the averages were described in Monthly Labor Review,
September 1940 (pp. 517-644), but the averages there given have been revised.
2Average weekly hours in bituminous-coal mining for 1944 were computed from figures of man-hours
which include travel time in the mines. The figures of man-hours used for the earlier years exclude travel
time. The inclusion of travel time of underground workers raises the general average by 7 or 8 percent.

Starting in 1939 from a much lower level (37.7 hours as compared
with 49.4 hours in 1914), the average hours of factory workers rose
by 1944 to 45.2 hours, only a little below the 1919 average of 46.3
hours. The increase in the hours of railroad workers was only 12.4
percent, as compared with 19.9 percent for factory workers, but the
level of railroad hours throughout both periods was comparatively
high.4
The relatively low levels of hours in coal mining were caused largely,
before the wartime emergency, by part-time operation of the mines.
Data compiled by the U. S. Bureau of Mines indicate that the number
of days of operation of bituminous-coal mines averaged only 195 in
both 1914 and 1919 and only 178 in 1939. The averages for anthracite
mining were 245 in 1914, 266 in 1919, and 183 in 1939. Hours in
coal mining are also affected by the hazardous and exhausting nature
of the work. Before 1944, travel time in the mine was not included.
Collective agreements provided for its inclusion in 1944 in bituminous<The averages for railroad workers (table 6) are not wholly comparable to those for factory workers.
The main difference is caused by the inclusion in railroad data of time credited to road train and engine
men under the mileage or incentive basis of pay, some of which is not time actually on duty.




10

WAR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

coal mining and in 1945, after the expiration of the old agreement, in
anthracite mining. The new agreements, providing for portal-to-portal
time as compensable time, recognized that travel time in the mine is
in reality time on duty, under the control of employers. The ratio
of travel time to “ productive” time, when all workers are included,
has varied with the relative number of underground workers, the
depth of the mines, and the nature of the facilities for reaching the
“ face” or usual place of work in the mine. Rough comparability of
the averages is attainable, however, by raising the earlier averages by
7 or 8 percent.
UNION HOURS IN BUILDING AND PRINTING TRADES

Comparable hours data are available for the periods of the two
World Wars from union agreements in the building and printing
trades. The hours as specified in these agreements are straight-time
hours for a full workweek. The averages therefore differ both from
scheduled hours and from average hours as affected by such factors
as labor turn-over, part time, and overtime. (See table 7.)
T able 7.— Union W eekly Hours in Building and Printing Trades, 1914 , 1919, 1939,
and 1944 1

Percent of
change—

Union weekly hours
Trade
1914

1919

1939

1944

1914-19

1939-44

All building trades............... — ....... .................
Journeymen.................................................
Helpers and laborers....................................

46.4
45.8
48.0

45.6
45.1
47.0

39.4
38.9
40.8

39.9
39.8
40.0

-1 .7
-1 .5
-2 .1

+1.3
+2.3
-2 .0

All printing trades.............................................
Book and job...............................................
Newspaper................ ...................... ..........

49.5
51.0
44.9

49.5
51.0
44.9

39.0
39.7
37.8

39.0
39.7
37.5

0
0
0

0
0
- .8

i The average hours for years prior to 1944 are estimates calculated by use of indexes These indexes
were constructed from percentage changes in annual averages which in turn were commuted from the quo­
tations of those unions which furnished reports for identical occupations in 2 consecutive years.
Data of union weekly hours are collected once each year during the spring or summer. Data for 1914 and
1919 are for May 15; for 1939, June 1; and for 1944, July 1.
The hours are averages of regularly scheduled straight-time hours under the provisions of union agree­
ments and are not affected by part time or overtime.

The weekly hours of union workers in both the building and print­
ing trades show little change during both wars. Union hours in the
building trades declined slightly in the First World War and rose
somewhat from 1939 to 1944. The most important change in the
union hours of both groups of trades was a decline between the two
periods. The union agreements in the building trades indicate a re­
duction from 45.6 hours in 1919 to 39.4 hours in 1939, a decline of
13.6 percent. The reduction in the printing trades was larger, the
average falling from 49.5 hours in 1919 to 39.0 hours in 1939, or 21.2
percent. The average hours actually worked by members of unions
are not available, but it is apparent that the hours as embodied in
union agreements represent neither the levels nor the trends of aver­
age weekly hours. The average for all wage earners in private build­
ing construction was 32.4 hours per week in 1939 and 39.5 hours in
1944. These averages reflect the comparative instability of employ­
ment in the building trades. The averages for all wage earners in
printing, publishing, and allied industries indicate much greater




11

PART 1.— COMPARISON OF WORLD WARS I AND II

stability of employment and a much smaller effect of such factors as
part time, overtime, and labor turn-over. The average for 1939 was
37.4 hours per week, and that for 1944 was 41.0 hours. Comparable
figures for the period of the First World War are not available.
FULL-TIME OR SCHEDULED HOURS

Changes in average weekly hours reflect the combined effects of
changes in scheduled or normal hours of shifts or plant operation and
of such additional factors as part time, overtime, and labor turn-over.
The Bureau of the Census collected data relating to prevailing hours
of the full-time scheduled workweek of wage earners in manufactur­
ing industries for the years 1914 and 1919. These figures indicate a
decline from 55.1 hours in 1914 to 50.8 hours in 1919. The curtail­
ment of the regular or full-time workweek is indicated also by the
following tabulation,6 computed from data of the U. S. Census of
Manufactures:
Scheduled workweek of—
Under 48 hours____________________
48 hours____________________________
Over 48 and under 54 hours_______
54 hours____________________________
Over 54 hours and under 60 hours.
60 hours____________________________
Over 60 hours and under 72 hours.
72 hours____________________________
Over 72 hours______________________
Total.

Percent of wage earners in
plants with specified work­
week, in—

191i

im

13. 5
25. 8

22.0
21. 1

J16. 1
132. 6
16. 5
9 .0
1 3 .8
9 .0

3. 5'
1 .5

3 .0

.8

.

100 0

.

100 0

Statistical records of hours of work in World War II emphasize
average hours as affected not only by work schedules but also by
such factors as labor turn-over, part time, and overtime. The con­
cept of straight-time hours as distinguished from hours for which
premium payments are made acquired increasing importance because
of the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the general in­
clusion in collective agreements of provisions for premium payments
for overtime. The usual provision in collective agreements called
for premium payments after 40 hours, but there were many depar­
tures from this rule, as in coal mining, railroad transportation, and
some of the apparel trades.
Scheduled hours of work in the Second World War rose rapidly.
The majority of wage earners in more than half of 31 selected war in­
dustries were working, as early as October 1942, in plants with a
scheduled workweek of at least 48 hours.6 Among these war indus­
tries, the continuous-process industries, such as blast furnaces, steel
works and rolling mills, had kept as a rule the 40-hour week but later
adopted the 48-hour week under the provisions of an Executive order
of February 9, 1943. This order and the ensuing regulations issued
by the War Manpower Commission called for the extension of the
48-hour week not only to war industries but also to all other employ­
ments in areas of critical labor shortage.
« Monthly Labor Review, April 1944 (pp. 838-855). (Reprinted as Serial No R J635.)
•Hours of Work in Selected War Industries, October 1942 (U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washing­
ton, 1942).




Part 2.— W ar and Postwar Trends
Summ ary

The comparisons of changes in wages, prices, and hours of work in
Part 1 of this report were limited to the periods 1914-19 and 1939-44,
which covered broadly similar conditions of the impact of war on the
United States and of preparation for war or actual warfare by the
United States. Part 2 describes in more detail the changes that oc­
curred during World War I and the years of transition to comparative
stability in the twenties and also compares briefly the conditions
affecting trends after the two wars.
Weekly earnings of factory workers rose steadily from early 1916 to
the end of the war. The net result of the sharp postwar fluctuations
was a rise by 1923 to a level slightly above the war-end averages and
116 percent above the 1914 level. The postwar rise in factory hourly
earnings was followed by a decline and a later recovery of part of the
loss, the average in 1923 being 134 percent higher than in 1914. Other
measures of wages, such as union hourly rates and farm rates, show a
wide diversity in levels and in extent of change, but they indicate a
rough consistency with the variations in factory earnings from 1914
to 1923.
Prices were more variable than were wages from 1914 to 1923, but
the net advances in both consumers’ prices and wholesale prices were
smaller than the increases in most of the measures of wages. The
index of consumers’ prices (formerly called the index of cost of living)
was 69.8 percent higher in 1923 than in 1914; the wholesale price
index was only 47.7 percent higher. An economic basis for the larger
increase in wages than in prices was the rise in labor productivity.
The average weekly hours of factory workers declined between 1914
and 1919, largely because of reductions in scheduled hours. Further
reductions, caused mainly by part time, occurred during the business
depression of the early twenties, but comparative stability was at­
tained by 1923 at approximately the 1919 level. Reductions occurred
in some industries by 1923, especially in blast furnaces and steel mills,
but these were substantially counterbalanced by postwar increases
in other industries.
Conditions affecting wages, prices, and hours of work at the end of
World War II differed significantly from those of the period immedi­
ately following the First World War. Major differences related to the
degree of control of prices, rationing and reconversion, the trends of
hours of work, the extent of unionization, the comparative progress of
technology as a basis of controlling production costs, and the shifting
of emphasis to the roles of demand, consumption, and full use of in­
come in maintaining adequate production and employment.1
i Th^se conditions are necessarily subject to unforeseeable changes, as, for example, in public policies.

12




13

PART 2 .— W AR AND POSTWAR TRENDS

,

Wages 1914-23
Information regarding monthly changes in wages during the First
World War is fragmentary. The major monthly series relates to
average weekly earnings in manufacturing industries. Annual aver­
ages of hourly earnings for certain years are available for several major
fields of employment. Wage-rate data include workers in coal min­
ing, the building and printing trades, marine transportation, and
agriculture.
AVERAGE WEEKLY EARNINGS IN MANUFACTURING

Average weekly earnings in manufacturing on a monthly basis are
available beginning in June 1914 (table 1).i
T able 1.— Average W eekly Earnings o f W age Earners in Manufacturing, 1 9 1 4 -2 3 1
Month

1914

1915

1916

1917

1918

1919

1920

1921

1922

1923

Average weekly earnings
January
_ _
February,
Marnh
April ._ _ _
May
June......................................
July........................ .............
August..................................
September.............................
October.................................
November.............................
December... ..........................

$11.20
11.06
11.05
11.00
10.81
10.86
11.07

Average for year.................... 11.01

$10.97 $11.36 $13.61
10.94 12.28 13.69
11.15 12.49 14.30
11.06 12.49 13.77
11.23 12.94 15.02
11.29 12.96 15.12
11.16 12.14 14.60
11.36 12.63 15.18
11.34 12.88 15.33
11.73 13.24 16.56
11.82 13.79 17.25
12.06 14.07 17.09
11.34

12.77

15.13

$15.72
15.87
17.27
37.62
18.91
18.97
19.41
20.98
21.30
22.57
20.94
22.35

$21.59
21.20
21.27
21.03
21.12
21.46
21.56
22.36
22.94
22.46
23.12
24.35

19.33

22.08

$25.03
24.91
26.09
25.79
26.61
27.18
26.84
26.98
26.95
26.94
26.41
26.08

$24.38
23.55
23.49
23.03
22.68
22.38
21.61
21.83
21.22
20.67
20.38
21.11

$20.30 $22.52
20.63 22.96
20.85 23.57
20.65 23.75
21.04 24.51
21.47 24.36
21.30 23.64
21.72 23.65
21.99 23.70
22.09 24.48
22.63 24.30
22.92 24.41
21.51

23.82

221.4
213.9
213.4
209.2
206.0
203.3
196.3
198.3
192.7
187.7
185.1
191.7

184.4
187.4
189.4
187.6
191.1
195.0
193.5
197.3
199.7
200.6
205.5
208.2

204.5
208.5
214.1
215.7
222.6
221.3
214.7
214.8
215.3
222.3
220.7
221.7

200.5 238.9 201.5

195.4

216.3

26.30 22.18

Indexes (average.1914=100)
January
February________________
March___________________
April.....................................
May____________________
June......................................
July.......................................
August..................................
September............................
October.................................
November.............................
December.............. ...............
Average for year..................

101.7
100.5
100.4
99.9
98.2
98.6
100.5

99.6
99.4
101.3
100.5
102.0
102.5
101.4
103.2
103.0
106.5
107.4
109.5

103.2
111.5
113.4
113.4
117.5
117.7
110.3
114.7
117.0
120.3
125.2
127.8

123.6 142.8 196.1
124.3 144.1 192.6
129.9 156.9 193.2
125.1 160.0 191.0
136.4 171.8 191.8
137.3 172.3 194.8
132.6 176.3 195.8
137.9 190.6 203.1
139.2 193.5 208.4
150.4 205.0 204.0
156.7 190.2 210.0
155.2 203.0 221.2

100.0

103.0

116.0

137.4

175.6

227.3
226.2
237.0
234.2
241.7
246.9
243.8
245.0
244.8
244.7
239.9
236.9

i A scries of average weekly earnings from January 1919 to December 1923 was derived by dividing total
weekly pay rolls by total employment. (Bureau of Labor Statistics mimeographed release, January 1941,
giving revised estimates after the exclusion of railroad repair shops from manufacturing industries.) Aver*
age weekly earnings from June 1914 to December 1918 were calculated as follows: Index numbers of average
weekly earnings from November 1915 to January 1919 were derived by dividing indexes of pay rolls by
indexes of employment. (Monthly Labor Review, August 1925, p. 115.) These index numbers were then
used to extend the average weekly earnings back to November 1915, linking at January 1919. For months
prior to November 1915, the average weekly earnings for New York State (New York State Department
of Labor, Industrial Bulletin, vol. 2, p. 221) were linked to the Bureau of Labor Statistics series by means
of the ratio of the averages for the 12 months ending October 1916.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indexes of employment and pay rolls for the earlier period (November
1915 to January 1919) when taken separately appear to have serious biases but the index derived by dividing
the index of pay rolls by the index of employment indicates the approximate trend of average weekly earn­
ings for this period. Any appreciable error in the trend would have resulted in a bias in the estimated
averages for the earlier years. It is found, however, that the average for 1914, calculated as described above,
is almost identical with the average derived by use of the Census of Manufactures revised data of employ­
ment and pay rolls from which railroad repair shops have been excluded.




14

W AR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

It will be noted that no significant changes in factory average
weekly earnings occurred before 1916. The rise early in 1916 con­
tinued virtually without interruption through 1918. Earnings in the
first part of 1919 were substantially stabilized but the rise was resumed
during the latter part of the year, the high point being reached in
1920. The ensuing decline extended into 1922. The upturn begin­
ning in the spring of 1922 raised the averages in 1923 to the levels
which may be viewed as bringing to an end the period of postwar
readjustment, the averages ranging around $24 per week as com­
pared with less than $12 per week in 1914 and in most of 1915.
The changes in average weekly earnings were caused mainly by
changes in basic rates of wages but by 1919 the reduction of average
weeldy hours counteracted m part the rise in rates. The period of
the war was marked by a comparatively large increase in employment
in war industries, largely in the heavy-goods industries, which paid
comparatively high wages. The transition to peace was accompanied
by a shift of employment in the opposite direction.
AVERAGE HOURLY EARNINGS IN MANUFACTURING

Estimated average hourly earnings in manufacturing rose from
$0,233 in 1914 to $0,477 in 1919 (table 2). Quarterly data extending
from the first quarter of 1920 to the first quarter of 1922 indicate a
continued rise in 1920 to $0,564 in the fourth quarter of that year.
This rise was followed by a decline to $0,482 in the first quarter of
1922. The ensuing upturn raised the average for 1923 to $0,522.
T able 2.— Average H ourly Earnings in M anufacturing, 1 9 1 4 -2 3 1
Year and quarter
__________
Yftftr
1919: Year..............................................
1920: First quarter__________________
Second quarter________________
Third quarter_________________
Fourth quarter________________

Average
hourly
earnings
$0,223
.477
.546
.555
.555
.564

Average
hourly
earnings

Year and quarter
1921: First, quarter
Second quarter
Third quarter
Fourth quarter
1922: First quarter
___
1923: Year_____

_ __ , r
_____ __

$0,537
.519
.510
.491
.482
.522

i For the years 1914,1919, and 1923, data are revisions of average hourly earnings of wage earners published
by Bureau of Labor Statistics in Monthly Labor Review, September 1940, pp. 517-544 (reprinted as Serial
No. R. 1150). Quarterly data for the years 1920 to 1922 are interpolations based on the trend of average
hourly earnings of all employees as shown in Table LVII (p. 113) in Employment, Hours, and Earnings in
Prosperity and Depression, United States, 1920-22, by W. I. King (National Bureau of Economic Research,
New York, 1923). The information on manufacturing used in this volume was collected by a cooperative
arrangement between the Bureau of the Census, the President’s Conference on Unemployment, and the
National Bureau of Economic Research.

Information regarding hourly earnings during the years 1915 to
1918 is fragmentary but inferences may be drawn from trends of
average weekly earnings and average weekly hours. Scheduled
hours of work were reduced in many important branches of employ­
ment but the reductions were accompanied, especially after 1915, by
increased production and demand for workers, and part time seems,
therefore, to have been reduced, while at the same time the amount
of overtime increased. The probable result of these counterbalancing
factors was no significant change, from 1914 to 1918, in the average
number of weekly hours actually worked. It may, in consequence,
be assumed that up to 1918 average hourly earnings followed sub­
stantially the trend of average weekly earnings.




15

PART 2 .— W AR AND POSTWAR TRENDS
AVERAGE HOURLY

AND

WEEKLY EARNINGS IN MANUFACTURING, COAL
MINING, AND RAILROADS

Average hourly earnings and average weekly earnings have been
estimated for the years 1914, 1919, and 1923 for manufacturing,
anthracite mining, bituminous-coal mining, and class I steam rail­
roads (table 3). For comparative purposes, the annual averages for
manufacturing given above (tables 1 and 2) are included with those
for mining and railroads in table 3. The average hourly earnings
of coal miners are for hours of work at the face or usual place of work,
excluding travel time in the mine. The hourly earnings of railroad
workers are for hours paid for, not hours on duty, the number of
hours paid for but not on duty being chiefly important for employees
in road train and engine service.
T able 3.— Average H ourly and W eekly Earnings o f W age Earners in M anufacturing,
Coal M in in g , and Class I Steam Railroads, 1914, J9I9, and 1923 *
Average hourly earnings Average weekly earnings
Industry
1914
M far»f.nriug ___ ___ ___
fl.rm
_ ____ _ _
_
$0,223
.274
Anthracite mining.____ ________________________
Bituminous-coal mining.............................................
.358
.252
Class I steam railroads................................................

1919
$0,477
.640
.759
.537

1923

1914

$0,522 $11.01
.791
11.41
.845 12.22
13.66
.581

1919
$22.08
26.95
25.65
24.84

1923
$23.82
34.22
25.60
26.42

i A revision and extension of data in Monthly Labor Review, September 1940 (pp. 523-534).

Average hourly earnings more than doubled between 1914 and 1919
in manufacturing as a whole, the coal-mining industries, and steam
railroads. There was a further rise in hourly earnings between 1919
and 1923 in all of these branches of employment. The increases in
average weekly earnings, with the exception of anthracite mining,
were somewhat smaller than the increases in average hourly earnings,
primarily because of reductions in average hours of work.
The increases in the average hourly earnings of the major groups of
industrial wage earners were substantially larger than the rise in
either the consumers’ price index for moderate-income families in
large cities or the wholesale price index. An economic basis of the
advances in hourly earnings was the substantial increase in average
man-hour output. Labor productivity in manufacturing underwent
little change during the war but rose sharply after 1919. The real
hourly earnings of factory workers (average hourly earnings adjusted
by the consumers’ price index) rose about 11 percent from 1919 to
1923, in contrast to an increase of about 31 percent in average man­
hour output. Later in the twenties hourly earnings and consumers’
prices both underwent little change, in contrast to a continued sharp
increase in average man-hour output.
AVERAGE HOURLY EARNINGS IN SELECTED MANUFACTURING INDUSTRIES

Changes in average hourly earnings may be traced in some detail
for various industries from special surveys made during the First
World War and the early years of peace. These industries include




16

WAR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

cotton goods, woolen goods, silk, hosiery and underwear, men’s
clothing, boots and shoes, and furniture (table 4), and blast furnaces,
steel works, and rolling mills, formerly described as the iron and steel
industry (table 5).
T able 4.— Average H ourly Earnings in Specified M anufacturing Industries, 1 9 1 3 -2 4 1

Year *

1913..........................................
1914..........................................
1915..........................................
191fi

1917..........................................

1918
1919
__________
192ft
1921 ____________________________
1922 ____________________________
1923
____ ______________
1924
____ __________ _

Cotton
goods

Woolen
and
worsted
goods

$0,153

$0.182

.179

Hosiery
and
under­
wear

Men’s
clothing

$0.172

$0,256

.225

Silk

$0,202

Boots
and
shoes

$0,243
.259

.267

.342

.480

.628

.330

.474

.354

.728

.533

.409

.760

$0,220
.227

.501

.372

Furni­
ture

.516

.384

.315

.446

.336
.559

.337

1Data are the results of special surveys, published in Bureau of Labor Statistics bulletins, as follows:
Cotton goods, Bull. No. 446 (p. 6); woolen and worsted goods, Bull. No. 443 (p. 7); silk, Bull. No. 668 (p. 2);
hosiery and underwear, Bull. No. 462 (p. 9) and Bull. No. 265 (pp. 37, 38); men’s clothing, Bull. No. 387
(p. 8); boots and shoes, Bull. No. 460 (p. 2); furniture, Bull. No. 526 (p. 2), and Bull. No. 265 (pp. 37, 38).
The averages for men’s clothing are not representative of the industry as a whole because of an overrepre­
sentation of larger northern cities.
* It should be noted that the special surveys did not cover the whole of the years indicated. They were
limited to certain months or periods, as May for the 1914 cotton-goods survey and January to April for the
1924 survey of the boot and shoe industry. In a period of rapid changes in rates of wages, a limited period,
especially if near the beginning or the end of the year, cannot be viewed as representative of the year.

The averages for 1914 and 1924 show not only a wide range among
the industries in levels of hourly earnings but also significant diver­
gences in the trends. The averages in 1914 ranged from $0,153 in
the cotton-goods industry to $0,301 in blast furnaces, steel works,
and rolling mills. The increases between 1914 and 1924 ranged from
112 percent in boots and shoes to 197 percent in men’s clothing. The
increase in blast furances, steel works, and rolling mills was 114 per­
cent. The rise in all manufacturing industries combined during the
same period was 145 percent.
The special surveys from which the averages of tables 4 and 5 were
derived were made primarily for the purpose of analyzing the occu­
pational wage structures of the several industries as they existed when
the surveys were made. Studies of different industries were made in
different periods of the year. During the war and the years imme­
diately following, there were rapid changes in wages, and the averages
as shown are not to be viewed as annual averages or as strictly com­
parable for the several industries. The years 1914 and 1924, however,
were years of comparative stability in the wage structure, and the
averages for these two years are therefore colnparable, as are the
percentages of change from 1914 to 1924.
The study of blast furnaces, steel works, and rolling mills by the
Bureau of Labor Statistics in October 1920 was made when wages in
that industry were near their peak (table 5). Hourly earnings at
that time averaged $0,745, as compared with $0,301 in May 1914,
the increase being 148 percent. The sharp downturn of 31 percent
in the average hourly earnings of these workers between October 1920




17

PART 2 .— W AR AND POSTWAR TRENDS

and October 1922 was significantly greater than the general decline
in hourly earnings. The rise to $0,644 in January 1924 was accom­
panied by reductions in the scheduled or full-time hours of work from
63.2 hours per week in October 1922 to 55.2 hours in January 1924.
The average hourly earnings of common laborers in blast furnaces,
steel works, and rolling mills rose from $0,181 in May 1914 to $0,508
in October 1920, an increase of 181 percent as compared with the rise
of 148 percent in the average hourly earnings of all workers in this
industry. The earnings of laborers, however, fell somewhat more
than did the general average between October 1920 and October 1922,
and rose somewhat less from October 1922 to January 1924. The
increase from May 1914 to January 1924 was 114 percent for all
workers and 130 percent for common laborers.
T able 5.— Average H ourly Earnings in Blast Furnaces, Steel W orks, and Rolling M ills ,
1 9 1 4 -2 4 1

1914
(May)

Department

1915
(May)

1918-1919
1917
1922
1924
1920
(Septem­ (October (October) (October) (January)
1918 to
ber)
May 1919)
All occupations

All departments________

__

$0.301

$0,297

$0,745

$0,513

$0,644

Blast, fnmACM
Bfisspmpr nnnvprtprs
Open-hearth furnaces...... .........
Puddling mills........ 1________
Blooming mills_____________
Plate mills.._______ ________
Bar mills___ _____________
Standard-rail mills__________
Sheet mills
Tln-plat.fi mills

.206
.255
.237
.328
.269
.258
.278
.252
.488
.425

.207
.264
.246
.315
.268
.270
.266
.246
.450
.428

.571
.677
.671
.885
.659
.671
.713
.632
1.039
.949

.398
.470
.480
.496
.472
.476
.486
.470
.694
.650

.520
.624
.635
.721
.613
.562
.585
.573
.809
.795

Common laborers
___ _

$0,181

$0,180

$0,298

$0,461

$0,508

$0.336

$0,417

Blast furnaces______________
Bessemer converters_________
Open-hearth furnaces________
Puddling mills______________
Blooming mills_____________
Plate mills_________________
Standard-rail mills__________
________ ___
Bar mills __
Sheet mills
Tin-plate mills _

.177
.193
.185
.173
.187
.174

.171
.193
.186
.167
.187
.174

.281
.298
.292

.457
.489
.468
.436
.469
.450

.474
.537
.525
.457
.511
.498

.315
.363
.354
.305
.350
.336

.173
.188
.189

.173
.188
.190

.443
.462
.461

.506
.536
.533

.316
.356
.359

.401
.448
.434
.355
.462
.432
.385
.392
.420
.436

All departments_

.287
.294
.331

* Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin No. 442 (pp. 3.4,13); Monthly Labor Review, March 1918 (pp. 29-51).
The figures are not annual averages but are limited to the periods indicated. The earnings of laborers in
rail mills, although not shown separately except for 1924, are included in the averages for all years except
1917. The comparatively small coverage for 1917 may affect slightly the average for that year.
AVERAGE HOURLY EARNINGS OF RAILROAD WORKERS

The average hourly earnings of railroad wage-earning groups
(including clerical employees) were given above (table 3) for certain
years. Average hourly earnings of all workers, including salaried
employees, are available for each of the years from 1915 to 1923, as
shown in the following tabulation.




18

W AR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS
Railroad
average
hourly
earnings1

1915 (year ended June30 )___________ $0. 269
1916 (year ended June30 )__________
. 276
1916 (calendar year)_________________
. 283
1917 _________________________________
. 320
1918 _______________________________
.4 5 8
1919 _________________________________
. 565
1920 _________________________________
.6 7 6
1921 _________________________________
.6 7 7
1922 _________________________________
. 629
1 9 2 3 -_ ______
. 627
i Sources: Interstate Commerce Commission. For the years 1915 to 1920, data are from the 1919 and 1924
volumes of Statistics of Railways in the United States. For the years 1920 to 1923, the data as published
were based, except for certain occupations, on time paid for. The averages for these years have been recalcu­
lated from figures of total time worked or on duty and total compensation as given in Statistics of Railways,
1921, p. XXIII, and in Wage Statistics for the last 6 months of 1921 and for the years 1922 and 1923. These
averages are higher than those in table 3 mainly because of the inclusion of salaried employees and to a slight
extent because of the use of hours on duty as distinguished from hours paid for.

On the basis of data compiled by the Interstate Commerce Com­
mission, with certain adjustments for comparability of the data for
different years, the hourly earnings of all railroad workers during the
year ended June 30, 1915, averaged $0,269. Small increases occurred
up to the end of 1917, the average for the calender year 1917 being
$0,320. The efforts of labor organizations, combined with the recom­
mendations of public agencies, notably the Lane Commission ap­
pointed to investigate railroad wages, resulted in sharp increases to
$0,458 in 1918. Further advances raised the average to $0,565 in
1919 and to $0,676 in 1920. Basic wrage rates remained unchanged in
1921 but readjustments of rates reduced average earnings by 1923
to $0,627.
UNION WAGE RATES IN BITUMINOUS-COAL MINING

Tonnage workers in coal mining, although declining in relative
numbers as a result of mechanization, still form a significant part of
total employment. Tonnage and other piece rates vary widely with
the nature of coal veins, the type of work, the extent of mechanization,
and other conditions. One of the basic aims of union policy, however,
has been the maintenance of an equitable relationship between ton­
nage rates and the rates of day workers. Changes in the rates of day
workers may, therefore, be viewed as indicating broadly the general
trends of wage rates in coal mining.
The trends of the wage rates of day workers are indicated by changes
in the rates of a comparatively few occupations. The rate of brakemen inside the mines (a group of workers with rates the same as those
of several other occupational groups) was $2.84 in the Hocking Valley
district during the wage-agreement period extending from April 1,
1912, to March 31, 1916, and the rate rose to $7.50 in August 1920
(table 6). Similar changes occurred in the wage rates of other occu­
pations. Thus, the rate per day of inside laborers and that of outside
dumpers and trimmers rose from $2.36 to $7.25.
The Hocking Valley district of Ohio was formerly viewed by opera­
tors and miners as the basic-scale field for the determination of union
rates in the surrounding districts of Ohio, in the Danville district of




19

PART 2 .— W AR AND POSTWAR TRENDS

Illinois, in Indiana, and in western Pennsylvania. The rates given
in table 6, although a significant measure of the levels and trends of
union rates, are not to be interpreted as representative of all rates.
Some of the unionized areas had independent rate scales and some
mining areas were not unionized. The percentage changes in basic
day rates naturally differ from the percentage change in the average
hourly earnings of all bituminous-coal miners (table 3) because of the
numerous factors, such as tonnage rates, labor productivity, and the
changing composition of employment, that effected the changes in
average hourly earnings.
T able 6.— Union Rates P er D a y in Selected Occupations in the Bitum inous-Coal Industry
o f the Hocking Valley District, 1 90 8 -2 3 1
Rate per day
Inside work

Period of wage agreement

Laborers
1, 190R, to M a rch 31, 1910________________
1, 1910, to M arch 31, 1912
1, 1912, to M arch 31, 19U
1, 1914, to M arch 31, 1910
>
April 1 , 1916, to April 16,1917....................................
April
April
April
April

April 16,1917, to October 31,1917..............................
N ovattiher 1, 1917, to M arch 31, 1918

_

April 1,1918, to November 30,1919_______________
P acattiher 1, 1919, to M a rch 31, 1920.....
April 1, 1920, to August 16,1920................................
August 16,1920, to March 31, 1922............................
April 1, 1922, to M arch 31, 1923
April 1 1923, to M a rch 31, 1924

$2,360
2.490
2.620
2.620
2.750
3.360
4.760
4.760
5.420
5.760
7.260
7.260
7.250

Outside work

Brake- Trappers Carpen­ Dumpers
and trim­
ters
men
(boys)
mers
$2,660
2.700
2.840
2.840
2.980
3.600
5.000
5.000
5.700
6.000
7.600
7.600
7.600

$1.130
1.260
1.320
1.320
1.400
1.900
2.660
2.660
3.020
3.180
4.000
4.000
4.000

$2,530
2.670
2.810
2.810
2.960
3.550
4.950
4.950
5.640
5.960
7.460
7.460
7.450

$2,360
2.490
2.620
2.620
2.750
3.350
4.750
4.760
5.420
5.750
7.250
7.250
7.250

i Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin No. 601; Wages and Hours of Labor in Bituminous-Coal Mining,
1933. The Hocking Valley district of Ohio was formerly viewed by operators and miners “as the basic-scale
field, not only for the surrounding districts in Ohio, but also for the Danville district of Illinois, for Indiana,
and for western Pennsylvania.” Brakemen’s rates were the same as the rates of various other occupational
groups. More than half of the workers were piece-rate workers, with rates dependent on the type of work,
extent of mechanization, etc., but a general aim in wage adjustments was the maintenance of established dif­
ferentials between the earnings of tonnage workers and day workers.
CHANGES IN UNION HOURLY WAGE RATES IN BUILDING AND PRINTING
TRADES

Union hourly wage rates in the building and printing trades from
1914 to 1923 reflect the changes in basic rates of wages in important
segments of the national economy during a period when building
construction and printing and publishing were subordinated to the
more urgent requirements of wartime production; The wage rates
embodied in union agreements naturally differ as to levels and prob­
ably also in some degree as to trends from the wage rates of unorganized
workers. The union rates do not include rates for overtime work. An
outstanding characteristic of union rates in the building and printing
trades (table 7) is their comparative stability. The averages were
computed from indexes, which were constructed for the purpose of
eliminating the effects of variations in the samples covered from year
to year.
The rates of building-trades journeymen rose only 39 percent
between M ay 1914 and May 1919, in contrast to a rise of 53 percent
in the rates of helpers and laborers. The rates of journeymen also
rose less than did those of helpers and laborers between 1919 and 1920.
The changes between 1920 and 1923 were somewhat more favorable




20

W AR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

to journeymen than to helpers and laborers, but the increase for the
entire period from 1914 to 1923 was 117 percent for helpers and laborers
in contrast to a rise of only 97 percent for journeymen.
Reductions in the union rates of building-trades workers occurred
between 1921 and 1922, but printing trades advanced throughout the
period. The increases in union building-trades rates during the period
as a whole were smaller than the advances in the hourly earnings of
industrial workers generally (table 3), but union building-trades rates
continued to rise sharply after 1923. The increase between 1923 and
1930 was 31 percent, as compared with only 6 percent in average
hourly earnings in manufacturing industries as a whole.
Union rates of the book and job printing trades showed a signifi­
cantly larger increase than did rates of the newspaper trades. The
average for the book and job trades rose 116 percent from 1914 to
1923, in contrast to an increase of only 78 percent for the newspaper
trades. The average rates for both the book and job and the news­
paper trades continued to rise throughout the period of the war and
the transition to peace from 1914 to 1923. The increases during the
period as a whole were smaller than the increase in average hourly
earnings of factory workers as a whole, but, as with building-trades
rates, the increases from 1923 to 1930 were larger than the rise in
average hourly earnings in manufacturing.
T able 7.— Union H ou rly W age Rates in Building and Printing Trades, 1 9 1 4 -2 3 1
Union hourly wage rates
Year

Building trades
All
trades

1914...........................................................
1915...........................................................
1916...........................................................
1917......................... -................................
1918...........................................................
1919...........................................................
1920...........................................................
1921...........................................................
1922...........................................................
1923...........................................................

$0,481
.485
.500
.532
.590
.676
.912
.929
.872
.963

Printing trades

Journey­ Helpers
and
men
laborers

All
printing

$0,251
.253
.261
.287
.333
.385
.558
.564
.513
.544

$0,449
.452
.456
.472
.613
.628
.805
.882
.891
.919

$0,533
.538
.556
.587
.649
.741
.992
1.010
.952
1.050

Book
and
job
$0,410
.411
.418
.433
.479
.591
.770
.848
.852
.885

News­
paper
$0,558
.562
.565
.579
.607
.732
.896
.974
.983
.994

i The average hourly rates were calculated by use of indexes applied to the 1944levels of wage rates. These
indexes were constructed from percentage changes in annual averages which in turn were computed from the
quotations of those unions which furnished reports for identical occupations in 2 consecutive years. Data of
union hourly wage rates are collected once each year during the spring or summer. The indexes for the
years 1914 to 1923 are based on reports for May 15. The averages are straight-time union rates, excluding
overtime and other special rates.
MONTHLY WAGES OF MARITIME WORKERS

Wartime and postwar changes in the monthly wages of two groups
of maritime workers— able seamen and firemen— are broadly indica­
tive of changes in this field of employment. The data shown for the
period from* 1914 to 1918, for 1922, and for 1924 (table 8) are not
wholly comparable in coverage, and maritime wages, which are in
addition to the equivalent of board and lodging, cannot be compared
with industrial wages. The figures are nevertheless significant as
indicating the general nature of the changes in the wages of maritime
workers.




21

PART 2 .---- W AR AND POSTWAR TRENDS
T a b le 8.— M onthly W ages o f A ble Seamen and Firem en , 1 9 1 4 -2 4
Vessels sailing from New York and San Francisco, 1914-181

Sailing from San Francisco

Sailing from New York
Fiscal year ended—
TransAtlantic

To West
To
Indies and South
Gulf of
America
Mexico

Atlantic
and Gulf
coastwise

Trans­
pacific

PacificAtlantic
coastwise

Able seamen
June 30,1914...................
June 30,1915...................
June 30,1916....................
June 30,1917....................
June 30,1918....................

$27.50
27.50
35.00
45.00
60.00

$30.00
30.00
35.00
45.00
60.00

$30.00
30.00
35.00
45.00
60.00

$27.50
27.50
35.00
45.00
60.00

Pacific
coast­
wise

,
$40.00
38.43
41.88
55.20
65.00

$31.00
32.38
36.86
56.15
65.14

$47.10
47.53
50.45
55.53
66.00

$55.00
53.33
52.35
55.30
65.00

$38.00
43.35
43.84
55.67
65.14

$54.91
54.82
54.50
55.61
66.00

Firemen
June 30,1914....................
June 30,1915...................
June 30,1916...................
June 30,1917....................
June 30,1918...................

$40.00
40.00
40.00
50.00
60.00

$40.00
40.00
40.00
50.00
60.00

$40.00
40.00
40.00
50.00
60.00

$40.00
40.00
40.00
60.00

American cargo steamships, 1922 *
Able seamen

Employer or operator
Period covered

Shipping Board______

Firemen

Num­ Wages
ber of per
ves­ month
sels

Num­ Wages
ber of per
ves­ month
sels

American steam and motor
cargo vessels of 5,000 gross
tons and over, 19243

1 $45.00
1 47.50
l 1 55.00
5

(
July 24-Sept. 7,1922. \
i

Other................ ......... July 31-Aug. 22,1922. \
l

4 40.00
2 42.00
1 45.00
5 47.50
2 50.00

Date

Able Fire­
sea­
men men

1 $47.50 1
1 50.00 >Jan. 1,1924 $63.00 $65.00
15 57.50 J
4 40.00 1
2 45.00
1 47.50 L ...d o......... 60.00 63.00
7 50.00 |
1 55.00 J

1U. S. Shipping Board, Marine and Dock Industrial Relations Division, Report on Marine and Dock
Labor: Work, Wages, and Industrial Relations During the Period of the War (p. 110), by Horace B. Drury.
Washington, 1919. Wages shown are the predominant wages.
2 Monthly Labor Review, February 1923, pp. 132-138 (derived from reports by American Steamship
Owners’ Association).
»Monthly Labor Review, April 1927, p. 85 (derived from Merchant Marine Statistics, 1926, published
by U. S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation).

The wages of workers on vessels sailing from New York and San
Francisco for ports in various regions ranged widely in 1914, the lowest
monthly wage of able seamen as represented in table 8 being $27.50
and the highest monthly wage being $47.10. The corresponding
range of the monthly wages of firemen was from $40 to $55. By
June 30, 1918, wages had risen substantially, especially for workers
whose wages in 1914 had been comparatively low. The rates for able
seamen and firemen on vessels sailing from New York were raised to a
uniform level of $60 per month. The monthly rata of both able
seamen and firemen was $65 on vessels sailing from San Francisco
to trans-Pacific ports, $65.14 on Pacific-Atlantic coastwise vessels
from San Francisco, and $66 on Pacific coastwise vessels from San
Francisco.




22

W AR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

The high degree of uniformity in rates attained by 1918 was broken
down after the war, and the wartime levels of wages were seriously
lowered. By January 1, 1924, however, a comparative uniformity was
again restored at levels of wages similar to those of 1918.
FARM WAGE RATES

The Bureau of Agricultural Economics of the Department of
Agriculture obtained wage-rate data of four types for the period of the
war and the transition to peace: Rates per month with board and
without board, and per day with board and without board (table 9).
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics also computes the weighted
average rate per month, primarily for the purpose of indicating the
general trend as distinguished from the levels of farm wage rates.
Each of the four types of farm wage rates rose steadily from 1914 to
1920. The rate per month with board rose 129 percent, and without
board, 120 percent; the rate per day with board rose 155 percent, and
without board, 142 percent; and the weighted average rate per month
rose 138 percent. The increase in the general rate was somewhat
smaller than the advance in average hourly earnings of factory workers
and about the same as the rise in average weekly earnings in factories.
Sharp declines occurred between 1920 and 1922, the reduction in the
weighted average rate being 37 percent. An increase of 12 percent
occurred between 1922 and 1923. The rise in the weighted average
wage rate from 1914 to 1923 was 67 percent, much smaller than the
increases in most of the nonagricultural branches of employment.
T able 9.— Farm W age Rates, 1 9 1 4 -2 3 1
Farm wage rates
Per month

Year

With
board
1914............................................................
1915........................................-..................
1916............................................................
1917............................................................
1918.............................-.............................
1919............................................................
1920................................ - ........................
1921............................................................
1922............................................................
1923.....................................- .....................

$22.62
22.97
25.17
31.11
37.96
43.29
51.73
33.62
32.75
37.24

Without
board
$29.74
30.06
32.84
40.52
48.80
56.63
65.40
44.67
43.33
48.25

Per day
With
board
$1.17
1.18
1.31
1.65
2.15
2.54
2.98
1.77
1.73
1.89

Without
board
$1.43
1.44
1.58
1.98
2.54
3.03
3.46
2.12
2.07
2.25

Weighted
average
rate per
month2

$25.13
25.41
27.93
34.79
43.73
51.13
59.88
38.29
37.47
41.87

1U. S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Farm Wage Rates, Farm Em­
ployment, and Related Data (p. 3).
2Computed primarily for indicating the general trend rather than the general level.
AVERAGE SALARY-WAGE

Estimates of the average annual salary-wage of all nongovern­
mental nonagricultural employees (full-time equivalents) for 1914
and 1919 were given in Part l .2 The averages for 1919 to 1923 are
derived from somewhat more satisfactory data than is the estimate
2 See p. 6, footnote 3.




23

PART 2.— W AR AND POSTWAR TRENDS

for 1914. They are to be viewed, however, not as exact measures
but only as rough indications of trends. The estimates are as follows:
1914.
1919.
1920.

$753 1921.
1, 283 1922.
1, 513 1923.

$1, 378
1, 343
1, 428

The average salary-wage was less variable than were the earnings
of industrial workers. The low point for both was 1914 and the high
point was 1920; the increase between these years was 101 percent in
the average salary-wage and 139 percent in the weekly earnings of
factory workers. The period of depression from 1920 to 1922 reduced
factory weekly earnings 18 percent as compared with a decline of only
11 percent in the average salary-wage. The average was 90 percent
higher in 1923 than in 1914, as compared with a somewhat larger
increase of 116 percent in the weekly earnings of factory workers,
but the increase from 1919 to 1923 was slightly in favor of the average
for all nongovernmental nonagricultural employees.
Thus, the increase in the average salary-wage was smaller and the
fluctuations were less extreme than were the changes in average
earnings of industrial workers. Salaries were affected to a com­
paratively small extent by changes alike in basic rates and in hours
of work, and also by changes in productivity, especially as these are
reflected in piece-rate or incentive systems.
Consum ers’ Prices and Wholesale P rices , 1 9 1 4 -2 3

The most important single factor affecting the rise in wages during
the period of the First World War and the transition to peace was the
general increase in prices (table 10).
The index of consum ed prices for moderate-income families in
large cities underwent little change during 1914 and 1915. The up­
turn beginning late in 1915 continued, however, virtually without
interruption until June 1920, when the index number was 108.1 per­
cent higher than in 1914. The decline which began in July 1920 con­
tinued until April 1922, when the index was only 66.0 percent above
the 1914 level. Thereafter, only minor changes occurred until the end
of the decade.
In the index of wholesale prices of all commodities, as in that of
consum ed prices, only minor changes occurred until late in 1915.
The rise which began in October 1915 was much more rapid than the
rise in the consum ed price index. The increase continued until May
1920, when it reached a high point 145.5 percent above the 1914
average. The postwar low point, reached in January 1922, was 34.2
percent above the 1914 level. A new upward movement raised the
index by March 1923 to a level 53.5 percent above 1914, but the
year-end index number, which was 44.1 percent above 1914, was more
nearly characteristic of the price levels of the rest of the decade.
The index of consum ed prices did not reach as high a level as com­
pared with 1914 as did the index of wholesale prices, but the net result
of the changes from 1914 to 1923 was a comparatively high level of
consumers’ prices above the 1914 average. The consumers’ price
index for the year 1923 was 69.8 percent above the 1914 average; the
wholesale price index was only 47.7 percent higher.




24

W AR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

T able 10.— Indexes o f Consumers' Prices and W holesale P rices, January 1914 to
December 1923

Month

1914

1915

1916

1917

1918

1919

1920

1921

1922

1923

Indexes (1914*100) of consumers' prices1
January.................
February...............
March------- --------April......................
May..................—
June.......................
July.......................
August.............. —
September.............
October................
November.............
December............ .

100.0
99.0
98.5
97.9
98.2
98.9
99.9
101.4
101.8
101.1
101.3
101.1

100.7
100.1
99.3
99.9
100.3
100.6
100.6
100.7
101.1
102.1
102.6
103.1

104.0
104.2
104.9
105.8
106.4
107.7
107.7
108.9
110.9
112.3
114.3
114.8

116.2
118.9
119.8
124.8
127.7
128.8
127.9
129.7
132.0
134.4
134.5
136.2

138.9
140.5
139.7
141.1
144.0
146.8
150.1
152.8
156.7
159.3
161.6
164.3

164.6
160.9
162.7
165.7
167.8
168.5
173.0
176.0
177.2
180.1
184.1
188.4

192.2
194.2
196.4
201.8
205.3
208.1
207.2
201.7
199.6
198.3
197.2
192.6

189.6
183.4
181.9
179.7
176.3
175.3
175.5
176.3
174.5
174.0
173.1
172.1

168.7
167.8
166.2
166.0
166.0
166.4
166.7
165.2
165.3
166.4
167.1
167.7

167.3
166.9
167.4
168.4
168.7
169.4
171.2
170.6
171.4
171.9
172.3
172.0

Average for year...-

100.0

101.0

108.5

127.6

149.7

172.4

199.6

177.9

166.7

169.8

Indexes (1914=100) of wholesale prices (all commodities)

99.1
98.8

100.0
100.7
100.1
100.9
101.3
100.3
101.8
100.7
100.3
103.1
105.3
108.7

113.1
115.3
118.1
120.0
121.1
121.7
122.5
125.0
127.6
133.8
143.0
145.7

149.9
153.5
158.1
167.5
177.2
179.1
180.6
183.3
181.4
179.4
180.3
180.5

183.6
180.2
185.6
188.4
188.1
189.4
193.8
197.2
201.9
200.1
200.1
200.1

197.4
190.6
192.8
195.3
198.7
199.1
207.2
211.9
207.2
207.9

100.0

102.1

125.6

172.5

192.8

January.................
February............
March....................
April......................
May......................
June.......................
July...... .................
August...................
September.............
October..................
November.............
December..............

100.7
100.3

Average for year__

9 9 .9

99.3
99.0
99.0
98.8
102.2
103.1
9 9 .9

221.0

231.6
230.7
232.9
243.0
245.5
244.5
243.5
237.0
227.9
211.7
195.9
177.2

167.4
154.0
150.4
145.2
141.3
137.2
137.2
137.3
137.2
138.2
138.3
136.4

134.2
136.4
136.3
136.9
141.1
141.4
146.0
144.8
145.8
146.3
147.6
147.9

149.8
151.7
153.5
152.6
149.6
147.3
144.5
143.6
146.4
146.0
144.5
144.1

203.5

226.7

143.3

142.0

147.7

212 .2

i The indexes show average changes in retail prices of selected goods, rents, andservices bought by families
of wage earners and lower-salaried workers in large cities.

H ours o f W ork , 1 9 1 4 -2 3
PREVAILING HOURS IN MANUFACTURING

Prevailing hours of work in manufacturing industries averaged 55.1
hours per week in 1914 and 50.8 hours in 1919.3 The average for
1923 was 51.1 hours, and for 1929, 50.6 hours. The major change
in prevailing hours of work, it will be noted, occurred between 1914
and 1919. These figures are averages of the regularly scheduled
hours of plant operation or of shifts, not average weekly hours
actually worked.
FULL-TIME HOURS PER WEEK IN SELECTED MANUFACTURING INDUSTRIES

Major sources of information regarding scheduled hours of work
are the special industry surveys of wages and hours made by the
Bureau of Labor Statistics. In these surveys the term “ full-time
hours of work” was used. The figures relate to varying periods, but
information is available for a considerable number of industries for
1914, for 1924, and for certain intervening years (tables 11 and 12).8
8These averages are computed from the frequency distributions of workers by prevailing hours of labor
per week as formerly published by the Bureau of the Census in the Census of Manufactures.




25

PART 2 .— W AR AND POSTWAR TRENDS

T able 11.— Average Full-T im e Hours per Week in Specified M anufacturing Industries,
1 9 1 4 -2 4 1

Year *

1914...................................................... ...
1915.......................................... ..............
1916..................................... .....................
1917...........................................................
1918.................. ............ ..........................
1919..........................................................
1920...........- .............................................
1921..................... ........ ......................... .
1922.............. ..........................................
1923......... ........................... .....................
1924...........................................................

Cotton
goods

Woolen
and
worsted
goods

Silk

Hosiery
and
under­
wear

Men’s
clothing

54.8

51.3

Boots
and
shoes

56.8

55.0

56.9

54.8

54.6

56.0

54.3

52.3

51.8

48.3

52.8

48.8

51.0

44.1

48.7

53.0

49.1

50.7

44.1

49.0

54.6

51.6

47.9

54.7

48.6

1Data are the results of special surveys, published in Bureau of Labor Statistics bulletins, as follows:
Cotton goods, Bull. No. 446 (p. 6); woolen and worsted goods, Bull. No. 443 (p. 7); silk, Bull. No. 668
(p. 2); hosiery and underwear, Bull. No. 452 (p. 9); men’s clothing, Bull. No. 387 (p. 8); boots and shoes,
Bull. No. 450 (p. 2). The averages for men’s clothing are not representative of the industry as a whole
because of an overrepresentation of larger northern cities.
* It should be noted that the special surveys did not cover the whole of the years indicated. They
were limited to certain months or periods, as May for the 1914 cotton-goods survey and January to April
for the 1924 survey of the boot and shoe industry.

Average full-time weekly hours in the industries covered ranged, in
1914, from 51.3 hours in men’s clothing to 64.9 hours in blast fur­
naces, steel works, and rolling mills (described in the earlier reports
as the iron and steel industry). The average for the men’s clothing
industry represents a coverage confined to larger cities and is prob­
ably lower than the average for the industry as a whole. Most of
the industries reduced their hours significantly by 1920. Between
1920 and 1924, work schedules were somewhat lengthened in cotton
goods, woolen and worsted goods, and boots and shoes. During the
period as a whole, however, from 1914 to 1924, all of the available
averages show substantial reductions. Full-time hours in cotton
goods fell from 56.8 in 1914 to 53.0 in 1924; in the woolen and worsted
goods industry, from 55.0 to 49.1; in the hosiery and underwear in­
dustry, from 54.8 to 50.7; in men’s clothing, from 51.3 to 44.1; and
in boots and shoes, from 54.7 to 49.0 hours. The largest reduction
(from 64.9 to 55.2 hours) was in blast furnaces, steel works, and
rolling mills (table 12).i
T able 12.— Average F ull-T im e Hours per W eek in Blast Furnaces, Steel W orks, and
Rolling M ills , 1 9 1 4 -2 4 1
Department

1914
(May)

1915
(May)

1922
1920
1924
(October) (October) (January)

All departments___ __________________________

64.9

65.5

63.1

63.2

55.2

Blast furnaces................................................_.........
Bessemer converters................. ................ _........ .
Open-hearth furnaces__________________________
Puddling mills____ ____________ _______ ______
Blooming mills_______________________________
Plate mills........... ................................... ................
Bar mills____________________________________
Standard-rail mills................ ............. .... ................
Sheet mills.............. .................................................
Tin-plate mills.....................„...................................

74.8
68.4
74.5
53.2
70.5
69.0
61.7
70.1
52.3
46.0

74.9
68.7
74.4
52.2
71.0
69.8
61.4
70.9
52.5
50.4

72.1
70.3
68.7
53.9
67.5
68.8
61.8
61.2
50.3
50.6

72.3
68.7
70.8
52.1
68.0
66.2
61.2
61.5
51.1
49.9

69.7
52.3
58.0
55.7
54.6
57.2
55.6
57.4
50.2
48.8

i Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin No. 442 (pp. 3, 4). The figures are not annual averages but are
limited to the periods indicated.




26

W AR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

The different departments of blast furnaces, steel works, and rolling
mills in 1914 showed extreme variations in full-time hours. The
blast-furnace average was 74.8 hours, that of open-hearth furnaces
was 74.5 hours, and that of standard-rail mills was 70.1 hours; in
contrast, the average in tin-plate mills was only 46.0 hours, and two
other departments had averages somewhat lower than those of most
of the other industries covered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
surveys.
The extremely long workweek in blast furnaces, open-hearth fur­
naces, and some of the other departments is explained by the survival
in many plants of the 12-hour shift and the 7-day week. Wartime
public agencies recommended reduction in horns and a few plants
adopted the 3-shift system, some of these reverting, however, after the
war, to 2 shifts. Hours in the industry as a whole underwent only a
small reduction before 1923, the average for October 1922 being 63.2
hours as compared with 64.9 in May 1914. Between October 1922
and January 1924 there was a sharp reduction, from 63. 2 to 55.2
hours, largely as a result of the extensive adoption, late in 1923, of the
3-shift system in plants with continuous operation. In many de­
partments of the industry, the 7-day week was retained after the
adoption of the 8-hour shift.
SCHEDULED HOURS IN RAILROAD TRANSPORTATION

The distinctive nature of the work schedules of railroad operating
employees, especially of those engaged in road service, makes difficult
an exact comparison of the hours of these employees with the hours
of other groups. The dual basis of pay of road-service employees
provides for a basic day’s work for a specified mileage or for a specified
number of hours, the mileage system being essentially a piece-rate or
incentive system. The Adamson Act of 1916, effective in 1917, re­
quired that in contracts for labor and service, 8 hours must be deemed
a “ day’s work and a measure or standard of a day’s work for the pur­
pose of reckoning the compensation for services.” That act applied
to operating employees, but in 1918 the Director General of the U. S.
Railroad Administration recognized the principle of the basic 8-hour
day for nonoperating employees.4
SCHEDULED HOURS IN BITUMINOUS-COAL MINING

According to data collected by the Bureau of Mines, little change
occurred in the weighted average workday of workers employed in
bituminous-coal mining during the period of the First World War and
the transitional period following the war. The weighted average
workday in 1914 was 8.6 hours, and the average in both 1919 and 1923
was 8.06 hours (table 13). There was, however, a decline in the pro­
portion of workers employed in 10-hour mines, from 23.9 percent in
1914 to 1.1 percent in 1923. The proportion of miners employed in
9-hour mines fell from 15.4 to 4.2 percent, and the proportion working
in 8-hour mines rose from 60.7 to 94.7 percent.
4The Interstate Commerce Commission before 1919 computed the hours of employees whose time was
reported on a daily basis by multiplying the number of days by 10, but beginning in 1919, the Commission
multiplied the number of days by 8. There remained many exceptions to the 8-hour day, as for example,
among station agents and telegraphers, and many employees continued to work 7 days per week.




27

PART 2 .— W AR AND POSTWAR TRENDS

T able 13.— Percent o f M en Em ployed in Bitum inous-Coal M ines W ith Established
W orking D ays o f 8 , 9, and 10 H ours, 1 91 4 -2 3 1
Percent of total employees in—
Year

8-hour
mines

9-hour
mines

10-hour
mines

Weighted
average
working
day
(hours)

60.7
59.6
58.6
79.0
90.6

1916................................................................................
1917...............................................................................
1918................................................................................
1919

1920................................................................................
1921

1922................................. .............................................
1923................................. .............................................

15.4
17.0
17.4
12.6
6.7

23.9
23.4
24.0
8.4
2.7

8.6
8.6
8.6
8.3
8.12

95.5
97.1
96.6
95.1
94.7

1914
1915

3.5
2.0
2.9
4.0
4.2

1.0
.9
.5
.9
1.1

8.06
8.04
8.04
8.06
8.06

* T . S. Bureau of Mines, Coal in 1930 (p. 655) (from Mineral Resources, 1930, Part II). See also U. S.
J
Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin No. 516: Hours and Earnings in Bituminous-Coal Mining, 1929 (p. 13).
The percentages were calculated on the basis of total number of men in mines definitely reported as having
an 8,9, or 10-hour day. A small number of mines that worked more than 10 hours or less than 8 hours were
excluded, as were also all mines for which the reports were defective or which changed their working day
during the year.

Prevailing mine practices called for a 6-day week. The full-time
workweek, or the number of regular or customary hours per week, was
therefore the number of hours per day multiplied by 6, or 51.6 hours in
1914 and 48.4 in 1919 and 1923. The average full-time week, as com­
puted from data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for a
sample pay period in 1919, was 48.8 hours.5
UNION HOURS IN THE BUILDING AND PRINTING TRADES

There was little change in the weekly hours of union workers in the
building trades as embodied in union agreements (table 14) from 1914
to 1923. The hours, it should be noted, are normal full-time hours,
excluding both part time and overtime.
T able 14.— Union W eekly Hours in Building and Printing Trades, 1 9 1 4 -2 3 1
Union weekly hours
Year

Building trades
All
trades

1914...........................................................
1915...........................................................
1916...........................................................
1917...........................................................
1918..........................................................
1919...........................................................
1920...........................................................
1921...........................................................
1922.......................................................—
1923...........................................................

46.4
46.4
46.2
46.1
45.9
45.6
45.4
45.3
45.3
45.4

Printing trades

Journey­ Helpers
All
and
men
laborers printing
45.8
45.8
45.6
45.5
45.3
45.1
44.9
44.8
44.9
44.9

48.0
47.9
47.8
47.6
47.4
47.0
46.7
46.7
46.6
46.6

49.5
49.5
49.5
49.5
49.5
49.5
48.1
45.1
45.0
44.8

Book
and job
51.0
51.0
51.0
51.0
51.0
51.0
49.1
45.2
44.6
44.3

News­
paper
44.9
44.8
44.8
44.8
44.8
44.9
44.8
44.7
45.6
45.5

i The average weekly hours were calculated by use of indexes applied to the 1944 levels of weekly hours.
These indexes were constructed from percentage changes in annual averages which in turn were computed
from the quotations of those unions which furnished reports for identical occupations in 2 consecutive years.
Data of union weekly hours are collected once each year during the spring or summer. The indexes for the
years 1914 to 1923 are based on reports for May 15.
The hours are averages of regularly scheduled straight-time hours under union agreements and are not
affected by part time or overtime.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin No. 279: Hours and Earnings in Anthracite and Bituminous-Coal
Mining (p. 9).




28

W AR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

As indicated in table 14 above, the average of all trades fell from
46.4 hours in 1914 to 45.6 hours in 1919, and the reduction there­
after (to 45.4 hours in 1923) was nominal. The hours of journeymen
building-trades workers were somewhat lower than the hours of helpers
and laborers. The average for journeymen fell from 45.8 hours in
1914 to 44.9 hours in 1923, and the average of helpers and laborers fell
from 48.0 to 44.6 hours.
CHANGES IN AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS ACTUALLY WORKED

Average weekly hours have usually been significantly lower than
scheduled hours, because hours actually worked are affected by part
time, labor turn-over, overtime, illness, and other factors. Informa­
tion regarding average hours as thus defined is comparatively slight for
the period of the First World War and the years immediately following.
Estimates are available for the Census years 1914, 1919, and 1923 for
manufacturing, coal mining, and railroads (table 15).
Average weekly hours in manufacturing fell from 49.4 in 1914 to
46.3 in 1919. Available information does not permit the making of
satisfactory estimates of average weekly hours during the years inter­
vening between 1914 and 1919, but the curtailments of scheduled
hours were probably counterbalanced, up to 1918, by reductions in
part time and increases in overtime. Employment in factories began
to decline in the summer of 1920, and average hours were reduced by
part time and labor turn-over. The estimated average in the first
quarter of 1922 6 was 42.7 hours. The industrial recovery beginning
in 1922 raised factory employment by 1923 almost to the 1919 level,
and average working time rose by 1923 to 45.6 hours per week, not far
below the 1919 level.
T a b le 15.— Average W eekly H ours in M anufacturing, Coal M ining , and Steam R ail­
roads, 1914, 1919 , and 1923 1
Average weekly hours
Industry
1914
Manufacturing................................................... ..........
Bituminous-coal mining2
...............................................
Anthracite mining2
........................................................
Steam railroads (class I).................................................

1919
49.4
35.2
41.6
54.1

1923
46.3
35.5
42.1
46.3

45.6
31.3
43.2
45.5

1The sources and methods used in computing the averages are described in Monthly Labor Review,
September 1940 (pp. 517-644), but the averages there given have been revised.
2Travel time in the mine is excluded. The 1943 bituminous-coal agreement and the 1945 anthracite agree­
ment provided for the inclusion of travel time as compensable time, thereby increasing the computed
average of weekly hours by 7 or 8 percent.

The reduction of average weekly hours in bituminous-coal mining
from 35.5 in 1919 to 31.3 in 1923 is explained largely by an increase in
part time. The average number of days of operation of the mines
fell from 195 in 1919 to 179 in 1923. Part time and reduced weekly
hours were caused in part by the distinctive nature of skills in coal
mining and the relative isolation of milling communities, which tended
to prevent mine workers from leaving the industry.
Average working time in anthracite mining rose slightly, from 42.1
hours per week in 1919 to 43.2 hours in 1923. The average number of
6 Computed by dividing averageweekly earnings (table 1, p. 13) by averagehourly earnings (table 2, p. 14).




PART 2 .— WAR AND POSTWAR TRENDS

29

days of operation of the mines also rose slightly, from 266 days in
1919 to 268 in 1923.
The average weekly hours of railroad workers fell much more sharply
from 1914 to 1919 than did the hours of factory workers, the major
cause being the Adamson Act and the widespread shift from the 10hour to the 8-hour day.7 The averages for railroads and factories
were virtually identical in both 1919 and 1923.
Conditions Affecting Trends A fter the Tw o W ars

The extreme variability of wages, and especially of prices, after the
First World War was largely a result of the sudden ending of the war
in the midst of full-scale preparations, the abrupt transition, and lack
of controls of prices and of the flow of materials for production and of
goods for consumption. Conditions at the end of World War II gave
promise of relative stability. As for wages, there was relatively little
control after the First World War, either by collective agreements or
by public policies, to raise wages in keeping with labor productivity
and prices or to prevent wages from falling below minimum levels
such as those later adopted and in effect at the end of World War II.
At the beginning of the First World War the usual workweek was
so long that pressure for reductions of hours was effective to a con­
siderable degree during the war, but after the war there were few
marked reductions in hours. Average hours during the 20,s continued
near the levels of 1919. At the beginning of World War II, hours
generally had been reduced to a scheduled 40-hour workweek, and
average hours actually worked were usually below 40. During the
war, hours rose sharply, and the lengthening of the workweek was
accompanied by a large increase in the proportion of premium pay­
ments for overtime.
The tendency after World War II to restore prewar scheduled hours,
with the accompanying elimination of premium payments for over­
time, brought about demands for increases in basic rates of wages to
check reductions in weekly earnings. Such a program has been adopted
by most of the unions. Among Government officials/ the Director of
the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, in his Second Report.
April 1, 1945, stated: “ I feel sure that ultimately, after the war, total
take-home pay in the United States will reach the present level.”
In his Third Report, the Director stated that workers had voluntarily
given up the right to strike, and that this no-strike pledge implies an
obligation on the part of the public to protect the workers’ standard
of living. Wage adjustments should be possible, he stated, because
of declines in premium payments for overtime and increases in aver­
age output. “ Therefore, we must be prepared to make some up­
ward adjustments to compensate for severe declines in take-home
pay.” 8
Technological changes and general improvements in the efficiency
of production are of primary importance as an economic basis for wage
7The railroad averages were derived from Interstate Commerce Commission figures with certain ad‘
justments for comparability, the adjusted figures representing hours paid for and the average number of
employees on pay rolls, excluding principal salaried groups.
8 Office of Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion, Second Report, April 1, 1945 (p. 23); “The
War—Phase Two,” May 10,1945 (p. 18); and Third Report, July 1,1945 (pp. 38,39): The Road to Tokyo
and Beyond.




30

WAR AND POSTWAR WAGES, PRICES, AND HOURS

adjustments. Changes of this nature after the First World War were
extensive but were based main-y on postwar developments rather
than on wartime experiences. During World War II, there was an
unprecedented effort to improve techniques, to promote favor-ablo
labor-management relations, and to utilize resources effectively for
maximun production. There existed at the end of the war not only
a large accumulation of knowledge and experience acquired during the
war, but also an exceptional organization of the facilities for research
and for the application of improved techniques. Related factors
affecting postwar productivity include the lifting of restrictions on
materials and equipment for civilian-goods industries, the shortening
of the workweek, additional holidays and vacations, and the with­
drawal from the labor market of many workers whose age, lack of
training, or family duties impaired their efficiency. It is therefore
expected that for a considerable period after the war, labor produc­
tivity will increase at above-normal rates,9 or, inversely, that unit
labor requirements will materially decline.
Wage changes are significantly subject to such general influences as
prevailing economic and political views. During the 20’s the prevail­
ing views emphasized dependence on the flow of savings and invest­
ment as determined by the “ free” competitive markets to maintain
“ equilibrium” of supply and demand at the level of “ full employment”
of both labor and capital. The “ return to normalcy” was the prevail­
ing ideal, both politically and economically, and “ normalcy” implied
that full freedom to save and invest would automatically take care
of employment, production, and consumption.
The later experiences with depression, unemployment, and public
relief, the emergence of World War II out of depression, and the evolu­
tion of the war economy with unprecedented use of productive capacity
for war, gave rise to new points of view. Emphasis was shifted to the
roles of demand, consumption, and the full use of income in maintain­
ing adequate production and employment. The extent of use of cur­
rent income, and the nature of its use, either for needed productive
facilities or for the purchase and consumption of the products, is
thus viewed as a vital factor in determining the succeeding volumes of
employment, production, and income. These views led in turn to
emphasis on the avoidance of unused savings and the maintenance of
high levels of wages as the major source of demand and consump­
tion.1
0
•U. S. Senate, Wartime Technological Developments: A Study made (by the U. S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics) for the Subcommittee on War Mobilization of the Committee on Military Affairs. Senate Sub­
committee Monograph No. 2 (79th Cong., 1st Sess.), Washington, 1945.
ioThe nature and prominence of such views are illustrated by the Full Employment Bill (S. 380, 79th
Cong., 1st Sess.), by the Third Report of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion (Washington,
1945), by the Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture for 1944 (sections on full industrial employment
and adequate wages as the basis of farm prosperity), by the programs of labor unions, and by the morerecent
concepts in the study of national income as accounting on a national scale and the use of these concepts in
the work of such agencies as the National Planning Association.




U. S . GOVERNMENT PRINTING O FFIC E ! 1946

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