Production of Industrial Materials in World Wars I and II

Production of Industrial Materials in World Wars I and II

Production of Industrial Materials in World Wars I and II

Production of Industrial Materials in World Wars I and II



I The total output of industrial materials has expanded more rapidly since the start of World War II than in the corresponding period of World War I, but the difference is not substantial. The rise from 1914 to 1917 was about 32 per cent; from 1939 to 1942, about 35 per cent.

II The similarity between the two wars with respect to the rate of expansion in the total output of industrial materials reflects a corresponding tendency on the part of many individual commodities or groups of commodities. Construction materials and products of foreign origin are exceptions: the former increased from 1939 to 1942 but declined from 1914 to 1917, the latter declined between 1939 and 1942 but increased from 1914 to 1917.

III In both wars the rate of increase in the total output of industrial materials diminished sharply after two or three years of expansion. In the current war this retardation occurred between 1941 and 1942. It seems unlikely that the total production of industrial materials will, in the near future, rise appreciably above the level reached in 1942.

IV In peacetime, over short periods, there is a close correspondence between changes in the output of industrial materials and in total industrial production (materials and finished products). It is not easy to say how, close this relationship is in wartime because of the difficulty of measuring total output. Hence it is uncertain in what degree our conclusions concerning the production of industrial materials apply also to total industrial production.

The purpose of this paper is to review the record of industrial production in the United States during the current conflict ( 1939 to date) in the light of our experience in World War I ( 1914-18), and thereby to get a more reliable basis for expectations as to its future behavior. There are several reasons for believing that our experience in World War I will prove instructive. In the first place, students of business cycles have observed that expansions in general business activity have certain elements in common; therefore any general expansion, such as that experienced during the first world war, may be expected to provide analogies useful to the understanding of the current expansion. In the second place, it is reasonable to suppose that the expansion during the first war is more closely analogous to the current expansion than any peacetime expansion would be.

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