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Seasonal Trades

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SEASONAL TRADES Among the conspicuously seasonal industries, some are necessarily of this character, and it is difficult to see how they can be made more regular. Canning and preserving, for instance, to consider only certain manufacturing pursuits, must be done when the fruits and vegetables are ripe. It is not surprising that only thirteen per cent as many per sons were employed at this work in January as in September, and that most of these thirteen per cent were probably not identical with the Sep tember employees in the same industry, as they were mainly occupied with fish and oysters. Sugar and molasses must be made when the beets and sugar-cane are ready and when the sap runs in the maple trees. Logs must come out of the woods when streams are open. Rice must be cleaned and polished after the crop is in. Less than half as many people are making artificial ice in January as in July. Bricks should not be laid in freezing weather, and building operations are affected, though not entirely determined, by weather con ditions. The building trades are seasonal, but are subject to most erratic fluctuations, depending upon general prosperity, housing laws, the money market, real estate speculation, and the foresight of builders.

Other seasonal industries owe their irregularity to fashion, to the prevailing desire, for example, which seems the one fixed principle of fashion, for an entire change in the style of clothing at least twice a year, and to other habits and customs against which the economist and the hygienist may rail and which subtle psychologists only can ade quately expound. Manufacturers must wait until styles have been decided upon and then they must get out their samples and early stocks in time for the opening of the retail season. And so only two fifths of the maximum force employed in making straw hats is needed in July, in which seemingly untimely month the felt-hat makers are entering on their busy season. Confectionery is at the height of its season in November; "statuary and art goods" in September—both no doubt to be forehanded for the Christmas trade. The number

of persons employed in providing some of the per manent and fundamental needs of human life— such as bread, boots and shoes, hosiery and knit goods, coffins, firearms and ammunition, printing and publishing and steel pens, silk goods and cotton goods—does not vary greatly from month to month in the aggregate, though even among these indus tries individual establishments no doubt see serious fluctuations.

Irregularity in those seasonal trades in which the disturbances are due to fashion and custom might, within narrow limits, be influenced by educa tion; but it is not a high social ideal that would adapt man to industry rather than industry to man, and so if it satisfies, as it seems to, an ine radicable and not very much modifiable want of man to wear the uncomfortable stiff felt hat in January, and the inadequate stiff straw hat in August, we shall have to say, as we say of seed-time and harvest, that it is a question of planning to meet things as they are.

Within narrow limits again something can be done by governments—national, state, and munici pal—to carry on public construction of various kinds at such times and in such ways as to com pensate the more extreme fluctuations of ordinary trade conditions. But if very much were at tempted in this direction, an impossible burden of expense would be added to taxes, for governments in industry, after all, are subject to much the same conditions of weather and finance as private in vestors.

The chief hope of a better adjustment in essen tially seasonal trades lies in that more flexible adaptability in the worker which has already been urged on educational grounds, and which stands him in good stead in the ups and downs of pros perity in his particular occupation; and in deliber ate preparation by individual workers in seasonal trades for an alternative supplementary trade whose seasons may be expected to dovetail. In this direction vocational guides and employment bu reaus can help.