Irregular Production and Time-out-of-Work in American Manufacturing Industry in 1870 and 1880: Some Preliminary Estimates
NBER Historical Working Paper No. 69
This paper makes use of hitherto untabulated data from the censuses of manufacturing for 1870 and 1880 to investigate the extent to which firms operated at less than their full capacity year round in these census years and thus provides some evidence of the extent to which workers may have faced temporary or permanent lay-off. We conclude that firms nationwide operated for the equivalent of 254 days (out of, perhaps, 309 working days) during the 1870 census year from the end of May, 1869 to the beginning of June, 1870 and 261 days during the 1880 census year from the beginning of June 1879 to the end of May, 1880. Workers put in the equivalent of slightly more days of work in each of these years in their customary industrial employment because larger firms were more likely to operate for more days per year. There were, however, significant regional and industry differences. Although our estimates are broadly consistent with independent estimates and are generally in accord with expectations, they raise important questions about economic performance in the late nineteenth century which remain unanswered here.