Pre-War Changes in the Volume and Character of Production in the United States
IN describing productive processes during a given period two matters are of immediate interest. These are the degree of change in the total physical volume of production in an economy, and the regularity or stability of this change. The flow of real income and the stability of economic processes in general rest upon these fundamental conditions of production. But even more valuable information may be gained by a study of the working of the productive mechanism in detail. The rates of exploitation and the stability of growth (or decline) among the various extractive industries, agricultural and non-agricultural, are of obvious concern. The relations between extraction and fabrication help to reveal the direction in which an economy is moving. Again, the relation between the output of goods destined for human consumption and of goods destined for use as capital equipment serves as an index of the manner in which human effort is being expended -- toward the direct satisfaction of wants, or toward that indirect satisfaction of wants which involves the construction of ever more elaborate equipment for the roundabout production of consumable goods. For other purposes a classification of output by industries is significant. Measurements of changes in these various categories, measurements based upon accurate and comprehensive production statistics, record the story of a nation's development and trace the persistent tendencies of an era.
The statistical record of the physical volume of production in the United States during the years preceding the World War is not as complete as is the corresponding post-war record. In constructing the present series of index numbers of productive activity use has been made of available annual data, supplemented by census statistics of manufacturing production. Technical details are given in Appendix I.