The Labor Force in the United States, 1890-1960

The Labor Force in the United States, 1890-1960

The Labor Force in the United States, 1890-1960

The Labor Force in the United States, 1890-1960

Excerpt

Many labor market problems are affected in important degree by the size and demographic composition of the labor force. It is obvious, for example, that the bargaining position of employers and employees depends in part on how rapidly the labor force is increasing as compared with employment opportunities. Less obvious (but more complex) in its effect on labor market problems is a rate of growth of the labor force which differs from that of the population as a whole. If the former is increasing more rapidly than the latter, will unemployment rise or will the tendency to greater production per person in the entire population be balanced in other ways? In the latter case will hours of work per year be decreased, the age of entering the labor force raised, the retirement age lowered, or per capita consumption enlarged?

Changes in the composition of the labor force also have an impact on the labor market. The sharp increase in the ratio of females to males in the labor force during the war gave greater weight to problems recognized during the more gradual but long-time prewar rise in the ratio, e.g,. differences in rates of pay for men and women doing the same or similar work, and the role of women in unions. Changes in the age composition of the labor force go on more slowly, are less obvious, but merit attention nevertheless. The past rise in the median age of labor force members has meant not only that the proportion in the older age groups was increasing, but also that the ratio of new recruits as a group to the force as a whole was declining. During the next fifteen years we may expect not only a continuation of these trends, but in addition a decline in the number of persons entering the labor market. Among the consequences will be the increased dependence of rapidly expanding industries on persons already in the labor force, and the greater necessity of using to advantage the services of persons middle-aged or older. It is among such persons that problems of employability tend to be serious, hence the growth of this segment of the labor force relative to the remainder will call for the expan-

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