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June 1983, Vol. 106, No. 6
The U.S. Employment Service at 50:
it too had to wait its turn
Henry P. Guzda
Like Tom Joad and his family, in John Steinbeck's classic narration of migrant life during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath, thousands of Americans searched desperately for employment in the parched agricultural valleys of the southern and western United States of the 1930s. They crossed paths with other itinerant and poverty stricken families, who were also searching for work, and exchanged job information via the "grapevine." Usually the information was inaccurate. Consequently, many families arrived at prospective job sites and found little or no work. Similar tragedies haunted the industrial sector as well, as factories with few jobs to offer found a multitude of people outside their gates who were seeking work. A nationwide cry went out for the government to help the estimated 12.8 to 15 million unemployed find some remunerative work. In an attempt to answer those pleas, the Wagner-Peyser Act of June 6, 1933, created a nationwide system of free public employment services.
Over the years, the employment service has evolved from a simple labor exchange to an extensive delivery service. There were only 42 offices in the Federal-State cooperative venture when it began in 1933, and, in the early years, the Federal half of that partnership assumed more responsibility than originally intended. The employment service's primary responsibility was to connect the jobless with jobs, especially in many of the public service programs created by the "New Deal." Last year, the 2,400 offices of the service placed almost 5 million people, including 50,000 former participants in public jobs programs who were placed in private sector jobs. In 1982, the service also administered the unemployment compensation program, work incentive programs, and veterans placement operations. A recent addition to its responsibilities was the certification of placements under the targeted Job Tax Credit Program for hiring the disadvantaged.1
This excerpt is from an article published in the June 1983 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 U.S. Department of Labor, Annual Report of the Secretary for 1981 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1982), pp. 4-11.
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