United States Economic Activities

In 1940 the population was divided as follows by professions (%): 29.3 industry, 20.6 commerce; 17.6 agriculture, livestock, fishing; 8.5 domestic services; 7.7 liberal professions; 6.6 merchant marine; 3.0 public administration; 2.1 extractive industries; 0.6 military services and 4.0 different ones.

Agriculture. – Recent statistics (1945) from year:

The exceptional needs of the war period forced the US economy to undergo a rapid transformation, designed and implemented by the state, on the one hand to increase production as much as possible, in view of the ever-increasing demand (within and outside the borders of the Union), on the other hand, to regulate it according to the most urgent needs, which suggested that it should certainly not be left to the disordered game of individual or collective speculation. The first aim was achieved by relying more on the proper choice and distribution of crops than on their greater extension; the second, keeping an eye on the possibility of industrially treating production to ensure better use.

No less considerable efforts were devoted to industrial crops; eg. to that of peanuts (which went from 5 to 12 million q. between 1939 and 1943) or to that of soya (from 24 to 56 million q. in the same period), also through the use of varieties refractory to epidemics or capable of higher unit yields. On the whole, even in this category of agricultural products, the general technical progress achieved in all crops, and therefore the higher production indices per hectare, is more surprising than the increase, albeit conspicuous, in harvests.

Breeding. – The consistency of the livestock patrimony underwent, after 1930, various alternatives, in relation, rather than with the increased demand for animal products, with the tendency to develop industrially and commercially more profitable farms. At the end of the fifteen-year period 1930-45, the most notable result was the increase in cattle and pigs, and the decrease in poor livestock and horses, due, the latter, to the ever greater diffusion of mechanical means.

These trends are clear from the increased production of foodstuffs of animal origin, as emerges from the following mirror:

Fishery products also increased by approximately 40% between 1930 and 1945 (19,848 t. In 1945), while the number of employees remained the same, and the number of vessels employed decreased (71,528).

Forests. – Current condition of the wooded areas of the US:

Mines. – Even in the extractive industry, after the crisis of 1930-36, the quantity and value of production resumed their upward march, which the war has stimulated and accelerated, but which did not end with this, as can be seen from the following table with the data of the global value of mining production:

The loss of markets in the Far East and the crisis in shipping made it difficult at first to procure certain commodity raw materials (tin, bauxite, chromium, etc.), but, while new means are required from technology, and a more exact reconnaissance of the country’s resources is carried out (especially in the less explored desert areas), the less rich fields have been put back into operation, even where cultivation appears scarcely profitable, and all possible substitutions of the scarce minerals are sought on the internal market. More than in the sector of fuels and metals used by domestic and traditional industries, the increase in production, in the five-year period 1941-45, marks its peaks where it was affected by the war economy.

Iron ores (see table below) in 1942 reached maximum levels which represent roughly double the pre-war average (1936-40) and largely exceed the production, albeit exceptional, of 1929. The same can be repeated steel, cast iron and alloys, the quantities of which have decreased relatively little in the two years that have followed the end of hostilities. Production drew, as in the past and in roughly the same proportions (80-85% of the total), from the generous reserves of Minnesota and Wisconsin. But the current of imports of iron ores has also intensified (Chile, Venezuela, Sweden), which in 1946 by now exceeded the pre-war average.

A similar development shows, on the whole, the production of fuels. After 1940, all coalfields recorded more or less strong increases, but the quantities fluctuated, essentially, around the average of 1916-20, reaching their maximum in 1944 with 620 million tons. The primacy of production has now passed from Pennsylvania to West Virginia: the two states total about one half of the entire quantity.

Even more grandiose was the effort made in the extraction of oil, almost fivefold after 1940 compared to the war period I 916-20: the increase continued at a constant rate until the absolute maximum of 1947 (250,000,000 metric tons over 60% of the total world production), which represents a quantity ten times the average of 1906-10. In this way, the Union has not only maintained but strengthened its position in the world oil industry: the results of the new surveys have, at least for the moment, dispelled the recurrent fear of a more or less imminent crisis due to the exhaustion of national reserves.. The wells of the Appalachian region, almost abandoned in 1935, have been restored, and the production of some areas – eg. of Louisiana – has grown to unexpected proportions. Both for oil (44% of total production) and for natural gas (which rose from 5.5 to 120.1 billion cubic meters between 1930 and 1947) Texas is today the leading producer. see alsopetroleum, in this second App., II, especially p. 532 ff.

The network of oil pipelines has also thickened: between 1940 and 1946 their length increased from 161,180 km. to 187,555. The new plants allow the joining of Louisiana with North Carolina, and Tennessee with Florida. From Texas, two large pipelines lead to New Jersey and Illinois. New, grandiose refineries have been erected, inter alia, in Philadelphia, in Beaumont and Port Arthur, Tex. (where an urban agglomeration of over 150,000 residents has developed). However, production remains unequal to demand: imports (12.4 million tons of crude oil and 7.9 of refined oil in 1946) exceed exports (6.0 and 12.6 respectively, in the same year). Consequently, the production of substitutes has had a notable development.

Industries. – The industrial census of 1939 showed an evident stop, if not a certain decline, in industrial activity, as shown by these overall data, if compared with the corresponding data of 1929 (data in thousands): number of factories 184, 2, number of workers 7886.2.

The crisis affected, to a substantially similar extent, all the regions of the US, so that the geographic distribution of the industries did not undergo notable variations.

With 1940 the crisis began to resolve itself and the war set an accelerated pace to the recovery, so that the indices relating to all, without exception, the branches of industry more or less largely exceeded the average of 1935-39, and soon returned to the level of the period between the two world wars, exceeding it in several cases. It is remarkable that, despite the evident reflection produced by the demobilization of the war superstructures, the development process does not stop. (For the indices of industrial production see below).

The demands of the war also led to the research and preparation of substitutes in North American industry (in the field of textiles and rubber), some of which gave rise to new grandiose plants. A real revolution was then established in the US industry by plastics, for which the most disparate raw materials are profited.

United States Economy and Finance

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