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December 1982, Vol. 105, No. 12
The office furniture industry:
patterns in productivity
J. Edwin Henneberger
Productivity growth (as measured by output per employee hour) in the office furniture industry1 has been low, in large part because of relatively short production runs engendered by product proliferation. Between 1958 and 1980, the industry posted an average annual productivity gain of 1.8 percent, substantially below the 2.8-percent rate for all manufacturing industries. The gain resulted from growth in output of 5.5 percent, annually, and employee hours of 3.6 percent.
In many industries, declines or small gains in output are associated with reduced or even negative growth in productivity. This seems to be true of the office furniture industry as a whole. (See table 1.) Thus, in the 9 years in which output either declined or grew at a less than average rate, productivity either fell or grew at a less than average rate in 5 of these years.
The trend in productivity for the overall office furniture industry must be viewed in light of the underlying trend movements of the two component industrieswood office furniture and metal office furniture. Metal furniture is the dominant industry in the office furniture group, employing about two-thirds of the 53,000 workers and accounting for roughly the same percent of shipments. Although both industries exhibited nearly the same growth in productivity between 1958 and 1980 (1.7 percent for wood furniture and 1.8 percent for metal furniture), the growth in output and employee hours was more diverse, with both output and hours growing at much higher rates in the wood component (7.2 percent and 5.5 percent) than in metal (4.6 percent and 2.8 percent).
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1 The office furniture industry is classified as SIC 252 in the 1972 Standard Industrial Classification Manuel and its 1977 supplement, issued by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. The subindustries within the office furniture group include establishments that are primarily engaged in manufacturing furniture commonly used in officeswood (SIC 2521) and metal (SIC 2522).
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