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1957–58 may in fact be seen as an extension of the longer term decline which began in the latter half of 1955, when the money market tightened. It is well illustrated in chart 4, which smooths erratic monthly fluctuations by presenting the data in terms of 12-month moving totals. It is apparent also that the rise in conventionally financed housing during periods of credit stringency, when Government-assisted mortgages with relatively fixed return lose attractiveness, was fully as great during the last half of 1957, when the recession was underway, as in 1951-53 when the economy was booming.

The decline since 1955 in residential building, and, consistent with this, the downtrend in the

physical volume of all new construction put in place, is reflected in the U. S. Department of Commerce composite index of construction-materials production. Between the summer of 1957 and early 1958, that index fell from a short plateau. but this downswing appears to have been the continuation of one which began in the spring of 1956, following the reversal in housing activity. However, in the case of the production of iron and steel products used most extensively in industrial and other heavy construction, the trend has more closely followed movements in industrial expansion and the economy generally, revealing the ups and downs of boom, recession, and recovery. In contrast, the general decline in cement production since mid-1956 was much less than for most other materials, because of the strength of the highway expansion since 1956.7

Seasonal Adjustment of the Construction Materials Output Indexes (in Construction Review, January 1959, pp. 9–14).

Chart 4. New Private Nonfarm Dwelling Units Started, 1951-58

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The Up Phase


Preceded by rising contract awards, buildingpermit activity, and housing starts, the value of new construction put in place began to increase strongly in May 1958, along with most other economic indicators, and contributed substantial momentum to the business upturn. The Federal Reserve System index of industrial production, which by October 1958 had regained over 60 percent of the ground lost since the peak month in 1957, was extensively supported, beginning in the spring, by industries responding to the rise in construction-for example, furniture and fixtures; lumber and products; and stone, clay, and glass products. The index of construction materials production rallied in March and has proceeded upward. Even the tone of wholesale prices as measured by the BLS Wholesale Price Index was maintained to a considerable extent by the strength of prices for construction materials and machinery. In fact, in reviewing the effect on the total economy, it can be said that the forceful upward trend in construction helped greatly to offset the weakness still manifest in the automobile industry during the fall of 1958.

Contract construction employment in October 1958 was within 2 percent of the October 1957 level, and had recovered more than any other industry group, in terms of aggregate weekly man-hours. The value of new construction put in place was at record levels during the latter months of 1958,8 and by the close of the year, private housing starts had catapulted to 1,300,000 dwelling units, on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis-the highest since 1955.

Almost all types of construction except private industrial plant and office building, were heading up in the latter half of 1958, but construction of new housing and highways were chiefly responsible for the over-the-year gain in the dollar value of new construction put in place. Both were spurred by legislative action early in 1958—the Emergency Housing Act of 1958 and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1958.

Supported by easing credit conditions as well as by provisions of the Emergency Housing Act, applications for FHA-insured private mortgage

loans soared to levels reached in the very active housing years, 1954–55. These loans had the

. advantage not only of a special assistance fund under the Federal National Mortgage Association, at attractive prices, but of a reasonably competitive interest rate. Applications for VA appraisals also rose substantially, but not as spectacularly as the FHA applications. Private housing starts moved sharply upward in response. Public housing for military personnel begun under the Capehart provisions of the National Housing Act jumped 50 percent in 1958. Together, all new private and public housing accounted for a $1-billion rise in the value of new construction put in place between 1957 and 1958, almost offsetting the more than $1-billion decline in private industrial building.

Effects of the 1958 Federal-Aid Highway Act as an antirecession measure were not as clear as those of the Emergency Housing Act. Only about $135 million that was spent in 1958 is traceable to the special Federal-aid program authorized by the 1958 act.10 Nevertheless, this sum was large enough to account for one-third of the rise in expenditures for new highways in 1958, since broad extension of work on the interstate system, and on other Federal-aid highway work during the year was substantially counterbalanced by the sharp drop in toll-road construction. Actually, through the Federal-aid highway


• In general, man-hours have lagged behind the rise in production, but in the case of construction, it should be emphasized also that the measures for employment and new construction activity cover different segments of construction activity. See Noncomparability of Statistics on Contract Construction Employment and the Value of New Construction Put in Place (in Construction Review, March 1955, pp. 7-9).

• The features of this law which had the most influence on construction in 1958 were those (1) extending the VA home loan program for 2 years, (2) raising interest rates on VA-guaranteed and FHA-insured military (Capehart) home mortgages, (3) lowering downpayments on FHA-insured sales-housing loans, and, most particularly, (4) setting up a $1 billion special assistance fund under the Federal National Mortgage Association for purchase at par of Government-backed loans of $13,500 or less on new houses. In addition, the former 2-percent minimum downpayme it on VA loans was eliminated by administrative regulation.

For more detail on this and other legislation and for information on regulations affecting construction in 1958, see various issues of Construction Review, Vol. 4. See also Review of 1958 Legislation and Regulations Affecting Construction (in Construction Review, November 1958, pp. 43-44).

10 The chief features of the 1958 legislation were: (1) Authorization of substantial increases for the regular Federal-aid program, with the Federal Government bearing the major share of the cost of projects for which work on contracts, awarded by December 1, 1958, were to be completed by December 1, 1959; and (2) suspension, for fiscal years 1959 and 1960, of the limitation of Federal expenditures for Federal-aid highways to moneys in the Highway Trust Fund.


program alone, Federal funds accounted for most of the 1958 rise in expenditures for new public construction ($750 million out of $873 million).

The chief public works measures passed during 1958 were: (1) The 1958 Supplemental Defense Appropriation Act (February) which authorized expenditures for Air Force installations, especially aircraft warning facilities, aircraft dispersal bases, and missile installations; (2) the Senate Concurrent Resolutions (March), calling for acceleration of civil and public works and military construction programs; (3) the Public Works Appropriation Act (September) which provided record funds for the Corps of Engineers; and (4) the omni

bus rivers and harbors legislation (July). Much of this legislation reflected the 1958 policy of expanding needed public construction to help stem the tide of unemployment. Federal contract awards rose markedly, but because of the long lead time in getting work underway, 1958 expenditures on federally owned military and civil projects barely exceeded those in 1957. The most that can be said is that the resurgence of Federal contract awards in mid-1958, in addition to substantial increases in 1956 and early 1957, prevented a slide in 1958 Federal construction on account of contract cutbacks in the latter half of 1957.

Clerical Salaries in New York City Since 1948


that the real salaries of women clerical workers have significantly increased.

There was little correspondence between the movements of the New York City CPI and the salary index for women clerical workers in that area during the decade. The CPI was relatively stable except during the Korean conflict, and in the period between mid-1956 and the summer of 1958. The salary index, in contrast, followed a steady upward trend, with year-to-year changes ranging up to 5.8 percent. The smallest increase, 3.4 percent, took place between February 1949 and February 1950, a period when business activity generally was slack.

The advance in the salaries of women clerical workers has approximated the movement of wages for blue-collar workers in New York City since 1952, the first year for which comparisons can be made. The nature of the available data makes comparisons valid only within fairly broad limits. From 1952 to 1958, the level of average straighttime hourly earnings 3 for skilled plant maintenance workers and unskilled plant workers in the New York City area, based on the occupational wage surveys, increased by 30 and 31 percent, respectively. The index of women's clerical salaries, for the same period, rose 31 percent.


THE UNIQUE IMPORTANCE of New York City as a labor market for office employees and the increasing proportion of such workers in the Nation's labor force give trends in salaries and working conditions of office workers in that area particular significance. The preeminence of the New York labor market is such that it accounted for 26 percent of the office clerical workers in the 19 major labor markets in which the Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted occupational wage and salary surveys in the winter of 1957–58." This is due partly to the city's being the locale of a disproportionately large share of corporate headquarters and consequently having an unusual concentration of clerical workers (30 percent of all employees within the scope of the survey in New York City). This article brings together some of the principal findings from annual surveys of office salaries and related practices by the Bureau in the New York area since 1948. These reveal the major changes and movements that have occurred over the decade, even though direct year-to-year comparisons cannot in all instances be made, particularly for the years prior to 1951.

• Of the New York Regional Office, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I The Bureau surveyed occupational earnings and related wage benefits on an areawide basis in these 19 areas: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Newark-Jersey City, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland (Oreg.), St. Louis, San Francisco-Oakland, and Seattle. The results of the surveys were published as BLS Bull. 1224-1 to 19 (for the individual areas, with New York City being 1224–15) and 1224-20 (the forthcoming summary for all areas).

The surveys covered 6 broad industry divisions: Manufacturing; transportation (except railroads), communications, and other public utilitieshereinafter referred to as public utilities; wholesale trade; retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate--hereinafter referred to as finance; and selected service industries. Municipally owned utilities were excluded, as well as other government-operated establishments. Coverage was limited to establishments with 51 or more workers, except in 10 of the largest areas where the minimum size was 101 employees for manufacturing, public utilities, and retail trade.

: See chart footnote for time periods used as reference points.

The change in salaries is based on indexes of salaries for a standard work. week, computed as a byproduct of the BLS occupational wage surveys. For a detailed explanation of the method used, see Occupational Wage Sur vey, New York, N. Y., April 1956, BLS Bull. 1188-17 (p. 3). Men clerical workers are included in the surveys but not on a sufficiently comprehensive basis to justify the preparation of a separate index.

3 Excluding premium pay for overtime and for work on weekends, holidays, and late shifts.

* These plant worker groups consist of employees in maintenance, power plant, custodial, and material movement occupations.

all establishments in the sample are asked to provide information for both plant and office workers. However, some establishments have office workers only; others, plant workers only; the remainder, varying combinations of both.

Earnings Trends

From 1948 to 1958, average salaries of women clerical workers in New York City rose 60 percent.? (See chart.) For the same period, the New York City Consumer Price Index advanced 18 percent. Although the CPI relates to a much broader population group than the salary data, the wide disparity in the rates of change clearly indicates

Each year,

cal salaries have moved ahead at a more rapid rate than hourly earnings of factory production workers, particularly those in the apparel industries.

Variations Among Industries

Considering the many differences in the nature and conditions of employment between manual workers and women clerical workers, this degree of parallelism is striking.

A considerably broader comparison can be made by utilizing the Bureau's regular series on gross average hourly earnings for production and related workers in manufacturing. For the period 1948 through April 1958, gross average hourly earnings in the New York City area increased 39 percent, compared with 60 percent for the women clerical workers, as shown on the chart. Part of the difference in movement lies in the nature of the series. The clerical worker index is based on straight-time earnings of workers in a constant list of selected occupations and data from large establishments only. The factory worker index, in contrast, is based on the gross earnings of all production workers on the payrolls of establishments of all sizes. A larger part of the lag in factory earnings in the New York labor market can be traced to New York City's vast garment industry, which in April 1958 employed about 253,000 workers (29 percent of the city's factory employment). It employs relatively few office clerical workers and is largely composed of small units which are categorically excluded from the wage surveys. This industry showed only a 22percent increase in gross average hourly earnings from 1950 (when industry data became available) to April 1958, compared with 34 percent for all factory production workers in the area over the same period. But even excluding the garment industry, the increase in hourly earnings in manufacturing (in the 1950-58 period) would have been only 41 percent, whereas clerical worker salaries rose 46 percent.

Two broad generalizations can tentatively be advanced on long-term changes in the wage position of clerical workers relative to other employee groups in New York City. First, within the framework of the Bureau's series of community wage surveys, the trend in salaries of clerical workers and that in wages of selected groups of plant workers are strikingly alike. Second, cleri

Pay levels for office workers are generally higher in manufacturing than in nonmanufacturing industries in New York City, as in most areas. The April 1958 occupational wage survey in New York showed the nonmanufacturing levels to be consistently lower for all 10 occupations presented in table 1. Within the nonmanufacturing segment they were by no means homogeneous, however. The salary level in public utilities was close to or above manufacturing in 9 of the 10 occupations. This situation was also true for wholesale trade in most occupations. Retail trade and finance were consistently below manufacturing, in the approximate magnitude of 10 percent in a majority of occupations. The pattern of service industries was mixed, due in part to the extremely broad scope of this category, which includes businesses as diverse as power laundries and advertising agencies.

Comparable data on industry variations are not available over the 10-year period. A somewhat similar analysis based on the 1954 survey revealed about the same relationships.


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The 7 numerically most important occupations for which data for women were obtained and 3 representative occupations in which substantial numbers of men were employed.

• Wage Differences and Establishment Practices, 17 Labor Markets, 1953-54, BLS Bull. 1173 (p. 15). See also Wage Differences Among Labor Markets, 1953-54 (in Monthly Labor Review, October 1954, pp. 1090-1096).

1 Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, and Richmond Counties, N. Y.

: Transportation (excluding railroads), communications, and other public utilities.

3 Finance, insurance, and real estate.

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