Labor Market Politics and the Great War: The Department of Labor, the States, and the First U.S. Employment Service, 1907-1933

By William J. Breen | Go to book overview

epilogue
Keeping the Federalist Faith, 1920-1933

T he postwar depression at the beginning of the 1920s briefly focused public attention on unemployment and on the role of public employment offices, but this interest soon waned. The USES and its parent body, the Department of Labor, faded into obscurity under successive Republican administrations during the decade. Those outside the national administration who had been advocating a federalist style of national employment service tried to keep the issue alive, but without much success. Congress remained skeptical about the value of such an organization in spite of lobbying efforts. It was not until the economic collapse of the Great Depression that interest in the problem of unemployment and in the role of a national public employment system revived. Even then, it was not until 1933, with the return of the Democrats to power in Washington, that the USES was finally given formal legal status by Congress and the long struggle between the nationalists and the federalists over the structure of that body was finally resolved.

If the Department of Labor had lost all ability to influence events during the postwar decade, the employment experts located in the states did not give up hope of securing congressional support for a revived USES structured along federalist lines. Shortly after the armistice, the Russell Sage Foundation announced that it would conduct a detailed survey of public employment offices in order to learn from their wartime experiences what kind of employment system was best suited to American conditions. In early 1919 a small group of advisers, consisting of William M. Leiserson, Charles B. Barnes, Louise C. Odencrantz, Bryce M. Stewart, and Mary

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