Wage Rates and Workers' Incomes

January 20, 1938

Report Outline
Levels of Wages and Business Activity
High Wage Theory in Prosperity and Depression
Annual Earnings and Wage Stabilization
Special Focus

Levels of Wages and Business Activity

Advance of Wage Rates to New High in 1937

While production, prices, employment, and payrolls were declining during the latter part of 1937, ware rates were moving upward to levels well above those of 1929. A substantial body of opinion among economists holds last year's rapid advance in labor costs to have been a primary cause of the business recession. This view was expressed by Leo Wolman, labor economist of Columbia University and former chairman of the Automobile Labor Board, and by several other leading economists, at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association last December 30 at Atlantic City.

Statistics of average hourly earnings afford the best available information on general movements of wage rates. Average hourly earnings in 25 manufacturing industries, as reported by the National Industrial Conference Board for the period 1914–1937, are shown in the table below.

Hourly earnings in manufacturing industries averaged 69.1c for the first 11 months of 1937, as compared with 60.6c in 1920, 59.0c in 1929, and 61.7c in 1936. Hourly earnings averaged 71.7c in November, 1937, the last month for which figures are available. This is the highest average ever recorded by the N. I. C. B. The November figure represents an advance of 12.4 per cent over the average for January, 1937, and is 21.5 per cent higher than the average for 1929.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Cost of Living and Wages
Apr. 17, 2020  Inequality in America
Sep. 08, 2017  Universal Basic Income
Apr. 08, 2016  Future of the Middle Class
Apr. 18, 2014  Wealth and Inequality
Jan. 24, 2014  Minimum Wage
Jun. 19, 2009  Rethinking Retirement
Mar. 06, 2009  Middle-Class Squeeze
Mar. 14, 2008  Gender Pay Gap
Dec. 16, 2005  Minimum Wage
Sep. 27, 2002  Living-Wage Movement
Apr. 17, 1998  Income Inequality
Oct. 27, 1978  Wage-Price Controls
Jun. 16, 1978  Military Pay and Benefits
Mar. 23, 1966  Rising Cost of Living
Oct. 25, 1961  Price-Wage Restraints in National Emergencies
Jun. 21, 1961  Wage Policy in Recovery
Jun. 11, 1958  Prices and Wages in the Recession
Sep. 18, 1957  Control of Living Costs
Nov. 02, 1955  Wages, Prices, Profits
Jan. 26, 1954  Minimum Wage Raise
Jan. 02, 1954  Cost of Living
Jan. 21, 1953  Guaranteed Annual Wage
Dec. 17, 1952  Future of Price and Wage Controls
Nov. 19, 1951  Fringe Benefits and Wage Stabilization
Dec. 06, 1950  Wage Control
Jun. 13, 1949  Wages in Deflation
Jun. 04, 1947  Guarantees of Wages and Employment
Oct. 29, 1946  Decontrol of Wages
Dec. 01, 1945  Minimum Wages
Sep. 29, 1945  Wage Policy
Oct. 27, 1944  Wage Security
May 17, 1943  Incentive Wage Payments
Aug. 25, 1941  Prices, Profits, and Wage Control
Apr. 28, 1941  Wartime Changes in the Cost of Living
Sep. 21, 1940  Two Years of the Wage-Hour Law
Nov. 01, 1938  Industry and Labor Under the Wage-Hour Act
Jan. 20, 1938  Wage Rates and Workers' Incomes
Apr. 11, 1935  The Cost of Living in the United States
Sep. 01, 1930  Wages and the Cost of Living
May 24, 1930  The Anthracite Wage Agreement
Feb. 20, 1925  Measure of Recovery in Profits and Wages Since 1920–21 Depression
Economic Crises