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PinkMonkey Study Guide - American History

11. 12 The Economy in the 60s

Though the nation saw a relatively low percentage of economic growth rate at the end of Eisenhower’s tenure and the beginning of Kennedy’s administration; the industry was making giant strides in terms of productivity and in the development of new products. Several industries were increasing productivity through automation. With computers, both businesses and government were able to work with greater speed and efficiency. Due to the application of computers in industry, a whole series of machines could be operated and co-ordinated from a single control panel. Thus, one operator in front of a screen and a push-button panel could operate huge machines producing an enormous strip of steel.

While automation increased productivity, it was bringing about drastic changes in the work force. This is because, with automation, more white-collar workers and technicians were now required, while fewer unskilled and semi-skilled workers were getting jobs. In 1961, employers were hiring 65 per cent more professionals and technical workers than perhaps in the 1950s. In an automated industry like that of automobiles, the number of workers on the production line fell by 10 percent since 1947 and in the textiles the drop was 35 percent.

The rise in unemployment or the fall in demand for workers in industries like automobiles, textiles and bituminous coal was creating a serious crisis at a time of boom in production and recession in the market. The Kennedy government tried to bring new industries in the areas of high unemployment through the Area Redevelopment Act and to retain unemployed workers for other jobs through the ManPower Training Bill. The process was rather difficult and in 1962, when the economy had recovered from recession, about 6 per cent of the American work force was still unemployed. This was at a time when the total number of unemployed was much larger than ever before in American history; and the weekly wage levels had touched a new height of over $100.00.

At the same time the population of the country had grown rapidly. The wartime prosperity and an increase in birth rate made the population cross the 180,000,000 mark.

Simultaneously, the middle class family incomes also rose sharply. Though there was a "hard core of poverty" the average middle class person’s annual income was around $4600. In other words: 96 out of 100 Americans (in 1960) families had refrigerators; four out of 5 had television sets; 3 out of 5 had at least one car; 3 out of 5 had their own houses and one out of 10 had air conditioning in their homes.

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Table of Contents

11.0 - Chronology of Major Events in this Period
11.1 - Conditions at Home
11.2 - The Employment Act
11.3 - The Taft-Hartley Labor Management Relations Act
11.4 - The Truman's Civil Rights Program
11.5 - The McCarthy Period
11.6 - The Cold War Abroad
11.7 - The Korean War
11.8 - The Eisenhower Administration
11.9 - The Civil Rights movement and the question of Desegregation
11.10 - The Labor Reform act
11.11 - The Budget
11.12 - The Economy in the 60s
11.13 - The Communist Threat Abroad
11.14 - The Threat of Nuclear War
11.15 - The Exploration of Outer Space
11.16 - The Geneve Conference on Disarmament
11.17 - Our WorldToday


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