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CIVILIAN LABOR FORCE
The civilian labor force averaged about the same in 1952 as in the preceding year, due to the build-up in the armed forces. Nonagricultural employment was at its highest recorded level, while employment in agriculture continued its long-run decline. MILLIONS OF PERSONS*
MILLIONS OF PERSONS
114 YEARS OF AGE AND OVER.
SOURCE: DEPARTMENT OF CONNERCE.
B-12.) Civilian employment rose only slightly from a monthly average of 61.0 million in 1951 to about 61.3 million in 1952. At the same time, unemployment fell from 1.9 million in 1951 to 1.7 million, or 2.7 percent of the total civilian labor force, in 1952, the lowest annual average since World War II.
Over the year, there were small increases in the number of government civilian workers (Federal, State, and local) and those engaged in finance and service activities. Agricultural employment between 1951 and 1952 continued its long-term decline, and there was a fairly sizable drop in mining. Employment in manufacturing industries was somewhat irregular. A rather steady drop during the first 7 months of the year was followed by a sharp rise during the last 5 months, concentrated largely in industries producing durable goods. The monthly average for manufacturing was 16 million in 1952, about the same as in 1951. (See appendix table B–13.)
Despite the reduction in unemployment generally, the labor supply situation in most of the Nation's major production and employment centers was not markedly different at the end of 1952 than it was a year before, although some tightening appeared to have developed. During the past year, the labor force was on the whole adequate to meet defense and civilian needs, although there were shortages in some areas and surpluses in others. In November, the Department of Labor reported 4 labor shortage areas and 18 areas with substantial labor surplus.
Work stoppages. Man-days of idleness directly due to work stoppages during 1952 were more than double the 1951 total. More time was lost because of strikes than in any other year since 1946. The brief strike in the steel industry in April and May, and the prolonged one in June and July, directly involved about 560,000 workers, and accounted for more than two-fifths of the total time lost. Among other important work stoppages were those in petroleum refining and natural gas, railroads, carpet and rug manufacturing, coal mining, West Coast lumber, the manufacturing of farm machinery, the telephone and telegraph industries, and construction. Economic stability
Although the economy encountered many changing currents during 1952, it demonstrated a remarkable degree of over-all stability. It was marked by selective inflationary pressures, mainly in the markets most directly affected by the defense program, and with considerable easiness in the markets for consumer goods. The high degree of general stability was aided by general and direct restraints which limited inflationary pressures in some markets, while the interaction of supply and demand held down prices or reduced them in others.
Prices. Consumers' prices varied little from month to month, and in November were only 1.3 percent higher than a year before. (See chart 8 and appendix table B–24.) In contrast, during 1951 there had been a rise of nearly 6 percent. Much of the rise in 1952 is accounted for by the upward creep of rents, the cost of utilities and services, and
Consumers' prices rose 1.3 percent during the year. Food
the prices of items in the miscellaneous category of consumers' goods and services. Retail food prices, after rising to a high in August, accompanied wholesale prices of farm products and processed foods in moving downward, but averaged somewhat higher than in 1951. The prices of apparel and house furnishings declined. In general, the consumers' prices which continued to advance during the year were those for rents and consumer services, for which there are no counterparts in the wholesale index. (See chart 10.)
The monthly index of wholesale prices was about 342 percent lower in December than a year earlier. (See chart 9 and appendix table B-23.) In the first half of the year, the average decline was a continuation of the downward wholesale price trend during the last 3 quarters of 1951, and reflected reductions in most major commodity categories. In the second half of the year, however, it reflected only the sharp drops in farm prices and, as a result, in prices of processed foods. Industrial wholesale prices showed some disposition to stabilize.
It was increasingly apparent that the readjustment of the price structure during the 15 months after March 1951 had eliminated the worst interprice
The decline in wholesale prices during the first half of the
distortions caused by the violent waves of post-Korean inflation, and had reestablished roughly the relationships among raw material, industrial, and retail prices that prevailed in early 1950. The most dramatic aspect of this readjustment had been the prolonged rapid decline of the prices of imported raw materials from their early post-Korean peaks.
Wages. Wages continued to increase slowly in 1952. Average hourly earnings for the Nation's factory workers reached a new peak of $1.715 in November, 5%2 percent above the year before. Excluding overtime, average hourly earnings of manufacturing workers increased about 4 percent during the same period. During 1951 and 1952, workers in manufacturing industries producing durable goods enjoyed the greater gains, although the differential was considerably larger in 1952. Wages of all other major groups of workers also increased during the past year. (See chart 11 and appendix table B-15.)
Only a small part of the wage increases during the past year was dissipated by higher living costs. But when account is taken of taxes as well as prices, the wage gains of workers were moderate. Thus, the take-home pay, that is, net spendable average weekly earnings of factory workers with 3 dependents, adjusted for price changes, increased only about $2.50 during
COMPARISON OF WHOLESALE
V THE CONSUMERS PRICE INDEX.
THE RETAIL, RENTS AND SERVICES.
SOURCE: BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM, BASED ON DATA
FROM DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.