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Jack Ranger

Tapping the Wall St. Wire

(29 March 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 13, 29 March 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A Slight Touch of Unemployment

Employment dropped 798,000 in January, the Census Bureau reports, carrying the total number of persons holding jobs down to 57,149,000, lowest level since April 1946. The number of jobless rose to more than 2,000,000. In February the trend continued, adding an additional 600,000 to the jobless total to bring: it to 2,600,000. While the general level of the economy remains high, a few soft spots are showing up here and there. In Cleveland, for instance, approximately 4,600 workers in four major companies have been laid off since the first of the year. As a result of a reduction in the work week from five to four days at the American and Cuyahoga works of American Steel & Wire, some 2,000 workers got the gate. White Motor in Cleveland laid off 600, eliminating a third shift and cutting back its second shift to a four-day week. Electric Vacuum Cleaner, a GE subsidiary, knocked off 300 workers in January and an additional 200 on February 26. A sharp decline in orders for both domestic and industrial cleaners was the reason given. Approximately 1,500 persons, or 38 per cent of the working force, have been laid off by Jack & Heinz. The supply of motors has caught up with the demand, the company said ... In Akron, Goodyear has reportedly cut back production 30 per cent at two of its tire plants. Several of the other rubber companies have many of their workers on part time. The Union Pacific Railroad has announced the lay-off of many hundreds of workers as the result of a general decline in business. “Business is falling off. There’s just nothing for the men to do,” a company spokesman said.

A recent N.Y. Journal of Commerce survey reports that business developments in March “tended to strengthen the view that a slow process of erosion is under way as far as business activity is concerned ... Layoffs were reported by a number of important companies – in industry as well as in distribution. Overtime operations are being cut by others. All is not well in such lines as electrical goods, automobile parts, radios, soap, women’s dresses, and some household appliances.”

As business falters slightly in the United States, sentiment for the European Recovery Plan – with its nice juicy orders for thousands of U.S. firms – mounts. And so does the sentiment for war with Russia. Not only because of a slackening in business, of course. But this gives an added fillip to the feelings of business men about aid to Europe and about getting tough with the main imperialist rival, Russia.

A Bad Case of Profititis

Now that the yearly corporation statements are being published, one begins to realize the truly enormous extent of big business profiteering in 1947. Nothing like it has ever been seen before, in war or, in peace. Let’s run through a dozen companies.

Remember Union Pacific (see above) which quickly laid off hundreds of workers at the first sign of a falling off in traffic. UP consolidated net income in 1947 totaled nearly $56 million, equal to $23.40 a common share, compared with about $34.2 million in 1946, or $13.60 a share in 1946. Not bad, not bad.

Shell Oil enjoyed a net income in 1947 of $60 million, equal to $4.44 a common share compared with a net of $33 million or $2.44 a share in 1946. Remember how Shell, together with all the other oil companies, upped oil prices about 30 per cent this winter. It paid off.

Net profit – after taxes – of Pittsburgh Plate Glass rose to a record $27 millions in 1947, compared to $17 millions in 1946.

Net income of Yale & Towne more than doubled in 1947, amounting to $2.8 million compared with $1 million the previous year.

Coca-Cola announced record earnings in 1947 of $31.2 millions, from $23.5 millions in 1946.

Electric Auto-Lite’s earnings rose 163 per cent in the year to $10.7 millions, compared with $4.0 in 1946.

Earnings of the P. Lorillard Co., manufacturers of Old Golds, were the best in ten years;

Earnings of Win. Wrigley Jr., Co., rose 30.5 per cent to $8.5 millions, compared with $6.5 millions in 1946.

Celanese Corporation profits in 1947 showed a 50 per cent increase in net income, to $24.1 millions compared with $16 million a year earlier.

That company spent $36.4 million in 1947 for expansion and plant modernization.

Eastman Kodak reports 1947 output, sales and earning all at new highs. Earnings amounted to $3.46 a common share, against $2.85 a year more than 250 per cent above the 1946 earnings of $8.8 millions.

General Electric’s net profits last year were the largest in its 56-year history. (This was the company that patted itself so resoundingly on the back for paring prices on a few items.) Net profits of GE totaled $95.2 million, compared with $43 million In 1946.

Net income of Colgate-Palmolive-Peet last year totaled $19 million, compared with $14.4 the previous year. The net income was AFTER appropriation of $3.7 million for the reserve against inventory price declines. Indeed, the. profits reported from other companies also DO NOT INCLUDE THE ENORMOUS SUMS SET ASIDE TO HELP THE FIRMS WEATHER HARD TIMES A-COMING.

Economic Notes

Despite Doctor Kildare and his professional colleagues, a 40-year-old man’s life expectancy has lengthened only four years since 1789, the Northwestern National Life Insurance. Co. reports. “However, the life expectancy of the average male child at birth has increased from only 28 years in American revolutionary times to over 64 years today ...”

More American families are living “doubled up” this year than ever before, the Institute of Life Insurance has reported. Surveys made some months ago show that 2,764,000 married couples, or 8.3 per cent of all couples in private households, were sharing the living accommodations of other persons in April 1947. This is a new high and represents a gain of 918,000 couples living “doubled up” since April 1940, when the number was 1,844,000 or 6.5 per cent of all married couples in private households. These figures give the lie to the real estate interests who claim that the housing shortage is due to more people “spreading out” in more rooms ...

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