June 2003

IZA DP No. 799: General Human Capital and Employment Adjustment in the Great Depression: Apprentices and Journeymen in UK Engineering

published in: Oxford Economic Papers, 2005, 57 (1), 169-189

The relationship between training and firm-level employment adjustment given an unanticipated fall in product demand has been central to human capital theory. The most cataclysmic negative output shock occurred in 1929/30. At this time, easily the most important source of United Kingdom general training was the apprenticeship system. Using data collected by the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF), this paper examines the impact of the Great Depression on numbers of apprentices and skilled journeymen. Statistics cover eight skilled engineering occupations in 38 local labour markets over the period 1928- 1938. Relative employment adjustment responses of apprentices and journeymen accord well with general human capital arguments.