Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
Richard Anderson
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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by Richard Anderson » 11 Jul 2021 01:55

historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 22:56
There's also the question of hours per laborer. If Germany extended its working day to 10 hours and required its workers to work 6 or 7 days a week, while American workers only worked 8 hours 5 days a week, then America's productivity advantage was even higher than shown in this thread.
I don't think Germany went that far? Somewhere I have data on the change in the German work week (which, of course, only applied to "Germans").

For the US, the prewar economic stagnation had dropped the average work week in manufacturing to 37.0 hours in May 1939, the lowest ever recorded. Wartime hours swiftly exceeded an 8 hour day, 5 day work week. By February 1941 it exceeded 40.1 hours and it peaked at 45.7 hours in November 1943, then declined to 44.7 hours in July 1945 and 40.9 hours in August 1945. The average exceeded 45.0 hours in 24 months during the war.
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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by historygeek2021 » 11 Jul 2021 02:06

Richard Anderson wrote:
11 Jul 2021 01:55
historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 22:56
There's also the question of hours per laborer. If Germany extended its working day to 10 hours and required its workers to work 6 or 7 days a week, while American workers only worked 8 hours 5 days a week, then America's productivity advantage was even higher than shown in this thread.
I don't think Germany went that far? Somewhere I have data on the change in the German work week (which, of course, only applied to "Germans").

For the US, the prewar economic stagnation had dropped the average work week in manufacturing to 37.0 hours in May 1939, the lowest ever recorded. Wartime hours swiftly exceeded an 8 hour day, 5 day work week. By February 1941 it exceeded 40.1 hours and it peaked at 45.7 hours in November 1943, then declined to 44.7 hours in July 1945 and 40.9 hours in August 1945. The average exceeded 45.0 hours in 24 months during the war.
Per DRZW Vol. V, the German work-week was extended from six days/48 hours to six-days/60 hours at the start of the war in September 1939.

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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by Richard Anderson » 11 Jul 2021 02:20

historygeek2021 wrote:
11 Jul 2021 02:06
Per DRZW Vol. V, the German work-week was extended from six days/48 hours to six-days/60 hours at the start of the war in September 1939.
Beat me to it.

"Prewar Adoption of Longer Hours in Germany

Under the Weimar Republic the basic workweek in Germany was established at 40 hours, although various legislative provisions permitted hours in excess of the basic standard for certain classes of workers under certain circumstances. In 1929, average hours of labor in manufacturing were 46 a week; in 1932, they had dropped to only 41 a week.

After a little more than a year in power, the Hitler regime adopted a law, July 26, 1934, establishing an hours-of-work code, which provided an eight hour workday and a 48 hour workweek. Industrially, Germany was on a war footing for at least four years prior to the invasion of Poland. For the most part, war brought merely a revision or extension of existing controls in such interrelated fields as manpower, raw materials, wages, prices, and hours of work. As early as the middle of 1937, Germany was beginning to suffer from a labor shortage which was not confined merely to skilled mechanics or specialized industries but was becoming general. On April 30, 1938, therefore, the Nazi government issued an order, effective January 1, 1939, revising the hours-of-work code of 1934. Under the new order, hours of work might be lengthened up to 60 a week, although “the normal workday shall not exceed eight hours.”

The amended code apparently stirred some resentment among German workers for in the spring of 1939 the Reich Ministry of Labor attempted to minimize rumors that a 10 hour or even 12 hour day was to become the norm. It was stated that the eight hour day would be maintained as a “general principle,” because long experience had shown it to be the most efficient working time for laborers of all ages. By the middle of 1939, average hours of labor in manufacturing stood at 47 a week, indicating that extremely long hours had not yet been introduced on a wide scale.

Wartime Extension of Workweek in Nazi Germany

On September 3, 1939, two days after the Nazi invasion of Poland, a decree establishing a complete war economy was issued. Various provisions of the decree made it possible to suspend almost all labor legislation by administrative action. Hours of work were to be fixed with reference to the strain of the task and the physical condition of the workers—normally at 10 hours a day, but in occupations requiring merely long periods of attendance hours could be increased up to 16 a day. Bonus payments for overtime, Sunday work, holiday work, and night work were no longer to be given to the workers, but were to be paid into the national Treasury.

During the early months of the war production fell off rapidly, and industrial accidents and stoppages increased to such an extent as to attract the serious attention of the government authorities.2 In November, 1939, Field Marshal Goering promised that although it had been necessary to transform the eight hour day into a 10 hour day, this was to be the limit except in cases of very urgent necessity. Inasmuch as overtime wage rates for the ninth and tenth hours had been taken away, the workers' taxes would be revised downward. In cases where overtime beyond 10 hours a day had to be worked, time and a quarter rates were being reestablished and would be paid to the worker, as would similar rates for Sunday, holiday, and night work.

The Reich Minister of Labor stated that it would be contrary to the intention of the war decrees to have overtime worked in cases where it could be avoided by taking on additional labor or by other means. Moreover, 12 hour shifts might not be habitually worked without permission unless a break of at least two hours was granted, included in the length of the shift, or unless the work consisted to a considerable extent of “mere hours of presence.' The Minister of Labor also pointed out that the labor inspectorate might order reductions in hours of work, not only when conditions in the actual plant were “unfavorable,” but also if the workers were called on for considerable exertion outside the factory, owing to causes such as distances to be traversed, shortage of means of transport blackout measures, and increased difficulty in making store purchases. Limitation of hours of work might also be ordered for workers in occupations, or particular branches of industry, in which the existence of sufficient labor to perform the work could be proved.

Little detailed information as to present working conditions in Germany has been allowed to leak to anti-Axis countries, but President Roosevelt said, November 6, that intelligence reports showed that in the spring of 1942 Germany increased the workweek for employees in war plants to 70 or even 78 hours. Production increased sharply for about two months, the President said, but thereafter fatigue caused output to decline steadily until it was not as large as it had been under a 48 hour week. It is believed that at present, the 10 hour day and the 60 hour week is the norm in Nazi Germany."

K. Lee, "Hours of Work in Wartime", Congressional Quarterly, editorial research reports 1942 (Vol. II).
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

KDF33
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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by KDF33 » 11 Jul 2021 06:35

Richard Anderson wrote:
10 Jul 2021 07:26
Presumably Wartime Development of the Aircraft Industry: Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, No. 800 knew its data too.
Of course it does! The bulletin shows the same data as the USSBS, if one includes subcontractors:

Image

historygeek2021 was comparing total German labor force working on aircraft to just U.S. prime contractors, which obviously skewed his results. That was my point.

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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by Richard Anderson » 11 Jul 2021 07:05

KDF33 wrote:
11 Jul 2021 06:35
historygeek2021 was comparing total German labor force working on aircraft to just U.S. prime contractors, which obviously skewed his results. That was my point.
Does the German data include subs? Subcontractors and parts suppliers included "employment in many plants classified by the Bureau's Employment Statistics Division in other industries, such as electrical equipment and automobiles; all establishments having sub­contracts are included, even when aircraft and parts do not constitute their primary activity." I suspect the same was true with the German data.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by KDF33 » 11 Jul 2021 07:20

historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 20:36
How did you get your data for aircraft weight? Did you go through all the tables in the USSBS Aircraft Division Industry Report, look up the weight of each aircraft, and add them up? If so, that is very impressive. Thank you for your work.
German airframe + spare parts weight is given, on a monthly basis, here. This is what I used for Germany. For the U.S., I used the official data found in the Official Munitions Production of the United States, found here.
historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 20:36
If we compare Richard's labor figures with KDF's, I get the following chart:

WW2 Aircraft Productivity USA v GER.png

My numbers come out the same as KDF when using his employment data.
My employment data is the data found in the USSBS, here. It is the number of workers employed in the airframe industry, including subcontractors. It is an apples-to-apples comparison.

The U.S. figures are also available in the source Richard mentioned, here. See Table 10 on p. 22.
historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 20:36
Richard provides data for only a single point in time (mid-1943), so I interpolated the data in his side of the chart for 1942 and 1944 based on trends in employment in both countries (Germany increasing slightly each year, the US increasing drastically from 1942 to 1943 and then declining slightly in 1944).
The source linked to above has the complete time series (Table 1, p. 4). For the selected dates, it shows:

5/31/1942: 848,200
5/31/1943: 1,836,600
5/31/1944: 1,956,500
historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 20:36
It's also interesting to note that Richard gives a figure of 625,000 U.S. "equipment" workers, and KDF's data suggest that Germany had a roughly equal amount of equipment workers.
This is incorrect. What the respective data shows is this:

In the 3rd quarter of 1943, Germany had 935,000 workers employed to produce 'Airframes, Aircraft engines and Aircraft equipment'. Of them, ​~385,000 were assembling airframes, including subcontractors. The comparable U.S. figure for the same period was ​​~1,143,425 assembling airframes, again including subcontractors. A further ~819,025 U.S. workers were employed in the engines, propellers and parts suppliers sectors, again including subcontractors. It is unclear whether that category matches the balance of ~550,000 German workers working on 'Aircraft engines' and 'Aircraft equipment'.

One would tend to assume that the U.S. category is narrower, given the smaller % of the overall workforce it represents. Notably, the U.S. report describes parts suppliers as being 'composed of specialists [...] devoting their attention to such products as instruments, turbo-superchargers, generators, and the like'. Nowhere are aircraft weapons mentioned. Thus, if the German figure of 935,000 includes weapons production, whereas the U.S. figure of ~1,962,450 doesn't, then comparing these two datasets will lead to erroneous conclusions.

For the time being, the only sector where we have a clear idea of what we are comparing is the airframes industry, including subcontractors for both countries. And here it shows:

5/31/1941: 291,000 German / 203,100 American workers = 143%
5/31/1942: 340,000 German / 510,200 American workers = 67%
5/31/1943: 373,000 German / 1,084,200 American workers = 34%
5/31/1944: 460,000 German / 1,063,400 American workers = 43%
historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 20:36
In any event, both KDF's and Richard's data show that U.S. productivity far exceeded that of Germany.
It depends on your definition of 'far exceeded'. Personally, it is not at all the conclusion I reach.
historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 20:36
When we take equipment workers into account (in Richard's data), the U.S. productivity advantage is significantly higher.
It would be a mistake to do so, because unlike with airframe workers and subcontractors, we don't know what we are comparing.
historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 20:36
Moreover, using either data set, the productivity gap widened significantly in 1944.
The gap starts widening in the 2nd half of 1943. It coincides with the beginning of strategic air attacks on the German aircraft industry. Barring the last months of the war, the gap is in fact the widest in February 1944.
historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 20:36
The USSBS report (p. 146) states that the decline in German output due to air raids in 1944 can be estimated at 18%. I've added a fourth row ("No Air Raids") under each set of data to show what German output and productivity would have been without air raids, according to the USSBS.
I am curious how the USSBS arrived at that conclusion. Besides, plant dispersal also had adverse effects on productivity - perhaps more than through bombing directly.
historygeek2021 wrote:
10 Jul 2021 20:36
The other big factor is that U.S. productivity soared in 1944 relative to 1943. German productivity rose each year, but not nearly as fast as U.S. productivity.
In fact, German productivity didn't increase at all in 1942. It increased very quickly in the first half of 1943, at a rate similar to the U.S. It then collapsed in the second half of the year, in the context of Pointblank, to bounce back only in the spring of 1944 under Saur's Fighter Staff.

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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by KDF33 » 11 Jul 2021 07:26

Richard Anderson wrote:
11 Jul 2021 07:05
Does the German data include subs?
The German figure of 935,000 accounts for 'Armaments final assembly incl. Specialized components', and is for 'Airframes', 'Aircraft engines' and 'Aircraft equipment'. Given that the total German workforce assembling airframes, including subcontractors, amounted to ​~385,000 at the time (3Q/43), this would suggest that the overall figure does include subcontractors more generally.

What I can't figure is if the U.S. category 'Subcontractors and parts suppliers' includes aircraft weapons production or, say, radios. Having read the accompanying text, my impression is that it doesn't.

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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by Richard Anderson » 11 Jul 2021 07:49

KDF33 wrote:
11 Jul 2021 07:26
The German figure of 935,000 accounts for 'Armaments final assembly incl. Specialized components', and is for 'Airframes', 'Aircraft engines' and 'Aircraft equipment'. Given that the total German workforce assembling airframes, including subcontractors, amounted to ​~385,000 at the time (3Q/43), this would suggest that the overall figure does include subcontractors more generally.
Why would subcontractors assemble airframes? Airframe assembly was a prime contractor responsibility done at the major assembly plants wasn't it?
What I can't figure is if the U.S. category 'Subcontractors and parts suppliers' includes aircraft weapons production or, say, radios. Having read the accompanying text, my impression is that it doesn't.
That is where it all gets very problematic. Radios were a Signal Corps responsibility and weapons were an Ordnance responsibility (the same applied to AFV). Those are a completely different set of procurement and were furnished "at Government expense" to the prime contractors as part of final assembly. However, whether or not that is included as "subcontractors" is iffy in the extreme, since those items were themselves produced by prime contractors using subcontractors for parts. So are the employees of a manufacturer producing .50 caliber BMG "aircraft subcontractors" when their product is installed in aircraft and "AFV subcontractos" when they are installed in tanks? Where does it end? Is a subcontractor producing MILSPEC washers an aircraft subcontractor when they are used in aircraft and a ship manufacturer if they go into a vessel? Was Bendix a tank manufacturer when they built brake assemblies for tanks and a truck manufacturer when they built them for trucks?

That is why I think we have to take the accepted categorization of the government labor departments at face value. It is also why I suspect the German data for aircraft employment is fundamentally the same as the American categorization of prime contractors versus a sub producing parts used in many different final assemblies.

BTW, you see similar productivity disparities when, say, comparing tank final assembly plants. Compare Daimler with DTA. Then add in the work week differential.
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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by KDF33 » 11 Jul 2021 07:58

Richard Anderson wrote:
11 Jul 2021 07:49
Why would subcontractors assemble airframes? Airframe assembly was a prime contractor responsibility done at the major assembly plants wasn't it?
I should have been clearer. Not just 'assemble', but 'build and assemble'. The USSBS is very clear that the figure includes subcontractors. It even has the breakdown for October 1944.

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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by Blackarrow » 11 Jul 2021 16:03

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 Jul 2021 06:56
TheMarcksPlan wrote:hold the thought for now
Not the exact cite I recalled but another showing higher British shipyard productivity than at the biggest American mass-producer:
Comparing Richmond and Thompson's, Ayre* claimed that output per person in the US was
28 tons per man per annum, whilst on the Wear [i.e. at Thompson's] it was 57 tons per man per annum "showing
that we are not down in this old country yet."
*Chairman of the Shipbuilding Conference, Sir Amos Ayre
Source

Richmond was the biggest US builder of Liberty Ships, centerpiece of the US cult of mass production. Yet labor at Thompson's (the designer of the Liberty Ship, an old-line craft/skilled worksite) was TWICE as productive.
The fact that there existed a shipyard in the UK which had better productivity than a particular shipyard in the US does not automatically imply that the entire British shipbuilding industry was more efficient than the US industry, surely?

In what time-frame was this assessment being carried out? If it is an assessment made following the The British Merchant Shipping Mission to the United States in October 1940 then it’s hardly a valid comparison, it would still be one year before the USA entered the war, its shipbuilding industry had not been fully mobilized for “mass production” at that time, while the UK had been at war 1 year already.

Not much point discussing Victory ship production, that wouldn’t start for another 10 months or so.

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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 11 Jul 2021 17:07

KDF33 wrote:German airframe + spare parts weight is given, on a monthly basis, here. This is what I used for Germany.
To be clear - you added up all airframe weight, used USSBS only for spares, right?
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by KDF33 » 11 Jul 2021 17:22

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
11 Jul 2021 17:07
To be clear - you added up all airframe weight, used USSBS only for spares, right?
I used the USSBS for both airframes and spares. For example, my table's figure of 8,377,000 pounds for Germany in January 1942 is the same as the USSBS total of 8,377,000, of which 6,707,000 is airframes and the rest, spares:

Image

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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 11 Jul 2021 17:34

KDF33 wrote:A further ~819,025 U.S. workers were employed in the engines, propellers and parts suppliers sectors, again including subcontractors. It is unclear whether that category matches the balance of ~550,000 German workers working on 'Aircraft engines' and 'Aircraft equipment'.
This is the big potential source of difference. Again, the 3Q data from Wagenfuehr's Gestamtplan only includes tied subcontractors, not parts suppliers.
KDF33 wrote:For the time being, the only sector where we have a clear idea of what we are comparing is the airframes industry, including subcontractors for both countries.
US labor stats for engines/propellers includes parts suppliers in addition to subcontractors. You're using the USSBS comparison of airframes industry, right, because as defined in that study it covers only firms+subs and not parts suppliers?
KDF33 wrote:plant dispersal also had adverse effects on productivity - perhaps more than through bombing directly.
Per Speer in a speech to Gauleiters, 30% production decline attributable to dispersal. Once the transport campaign began, significantly more than that likely attributable because dispersed plants couldn't be supplied.
KDF33 wrote:to bounce back only in the spring of 1944 under Saur's Fighter Staff.
And bounced back significantly more than the raw weight stats show, given the shift to fighters.
Richard Anderson wrote:So are the employees of a manufacturer producing .50 caliber BMG "aircraft subcontractors" when their product is installed in aircraft and "AFV subcontractos" when they are installed in tanks? Where does it end?
I would guess they apportioned suppliers workforce in proportion to revenue - a gun-maker whose guns went 20% to aircraft contributes 20% of its labor force to aircraft parts supply. That's how USSBS apportioned workers in several tables of, e.g., the Germany report.
Blackarrow wrote:In what time-frame was this assessment being carried out?
By context from the linked source, April-May 1942.

Presumably the two shipyards compared are representative of their industries. Richmond was the largest US yard, Thompson's one of the largest British. It's a rebuttable presumption of course.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 11 Jul 2021 17:45

KDF33 wrote:
11 Jul 2021 17:22
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
11 Jul 2021 17:07
To be clear - you added up all airframe weight, used USSBS only for spares, right?
I used the USSBS for both airframes and spares. For example, my table's figure of 8,377,000 pounds for Germany in January 1942 is the same as the USSBS total of 8,377,000, of which 6,707,000 is airframes and the rest, spares:
I'm confused. What role is your upthread (or other thread?) spreadsheet of German production by "empty weight" (as opposed to USSBS's "airframe weight) playing?
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Superior productivity of American industrial workers

Post by KDF33 » 11 Jul 2021 17:50

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
11 Jul 2021 17:45
I'm confused. What role is your upthread (or other thread?) spreadsheet of German production by "empty weight" (as opposed to USSBS's "airframe weight) playing?
The USSBS gave the same figures, in one table, as pounds, and in another table, as metric tons. However, the table here clarifies unambiguously that it is calculated in pounds, therefore indicating that the 'metric tons' table has a typo. Therefore, I can now use the USSBS data (in pounds) rather than having to recalculate everything using Wiki's 'empty weight' figures.

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