One measure of this in "positive" terms is labor force changes (the sum of civilian employment plus military). The NBER measured this for four countries between 1939-1945. The results can be summed up as follows:
- U.S. Rose from 46.4 million in 1940 to 65.8 million in 1945.
- Britain. Rose from 21.7 million in 1939 to 24.5 million in 1945.
- Canada. Rose from 4.4 million in 1939 to 5.3 million in 1945.
- Germany. Barely rose from 40.5 million in 1939 to 41.4 million in 1944.
Three countries are noteworthy. The Soviet Union is conspicuous by its absence from this study (no reliable data).
Germany's "employment" barely rose during the war, in absolute terms by only as much as Canada's, even though Germany's labor force was ten times larger. Labor was shifted out of the civilian sector to the military on almost a one to one basis during the war, meaning that the civilian labor force dropped nearly 40%. Germany had been the first out of the Depression and was closest to full employment by 1939, but failed to mobilize the labor force, notably women, during the war. Efficiency gains meant that "positive" production (in total) did not drop, but neither did the labor situation allow for as much growth as in other countries. Small wonder that Germany could not afford a long war.
The U.S. was the polar opposite case. It was the most depressed, and had the highest unemployment rate in 1939. Its labor force expansion of nearly 20 million was divided about 60-40 between military and civilian. The country put its unemployed men in uniform, and mobilized a large number of women, more in percentage and absolute terms than any other country, with the possible exception of the Soviet Union, not reported.
This article details how the wartime employment of American women started during the First World War (even though America joined the war late), and suggests that the same happened in Britain (to a lesser extent). The idea never "caught on" in Germany, which relegated women to "Kinder Kuche und Kirche,", and handicapped Germany in both World Wars.
Because of the British blockade, there was also a greater "negative" mobilization in Germany during World War I. For instance the supply of nitrates from Chile was cut off, and Germany had to scramble to produce them artifically from nitrogen in the air (the Haber process).There were also food shortages that led to starvation at the end of the war. With the notable exception of Russia, the allies did not suffer to the same degree. Until the very end of the war, Germany did not suffer as much in World War II because the Nazis had taken care to stockpile (and plunder) a lot of essential items.