How much did the Liberty Shipbuilders learn? New evidence for an Old Case Study

Peter Thompson

Productivity: Includes USMC hull number; builder’s hull number; vessel’s original name; vessel type; round of way; way number; date of keel laying; launch date; delivery date; production time in days (on ways, in outfitting, and total); labor requirements (direct, indirect and total); unit production costs (yard costs, procurement cost, facilities cost, and administrative cost); fracture class (if any) and date of first major fracture; date of war loss (if applicable). Note that the cost data were produced 1946 to provide benchmarks for post-war auction bids. Total wartime yard expenditure on capital was allocated to each vessel produced according to the time spent in production. The data on facilities costs therefore do not measure contemporaneous flows of capital services used in production.

Employment: Includes monthly data for number of wage earners (total and direct labor); number of salaried employees, total employees; total employees engaged on USMC construction; labor turnover rates (total hires per 100 employees, total separations per 100 employees; separations decomposed into quits, fires, layoffs, military and other reasons); average hours per week worked, wages per hour, absentee rate, distribution of employment by shift (Mon-Fri shifts 1,2,3; Saturday employment and Sunday employment). Researchers can find monthly employment data for the remaining yards in G.J. Fischer, “A Statistical Summary of Shipbuilding Under the US Maritime Commission During World War II,” [Washington DC: Government Printing Office, USMC, 1949], which is easy to obtain on ILL.

Strikes: Each strike listed by start date, end date, duration, number of workers involved, person days lost, BLS code for cause, BLS descriptor for cause
Inventories: Provides monthly estimates of steel plate inventories in tons and ships worth. Even when available for a yard, the data for the period late 1942 to early 1943 are missing. This makes the data all but useless, as it was precisely during this period that steel shortages may have been affecting productivity.

Capital: Provides data on authorizations for capital investment: contract number, date of approval, date of contract, purpose of investment, and amount.

The data are contained in a zipped set of Lotus-123 files (the download link is at the bottom of this page). Each major yard has its own file. Documentation of sources can be found as footnotes to each table.

Download Data Set

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