Unemployment peaked in 1932 when thirteen million persons or 25 percent of the labor force was out of work, not including those left out of the official count because they had already given up ever finding a job. Depending on the city, the black unemployment rate exceeded that of whites by 30 to 60 percent. 1
With so many families' survival now tied to market wages, unemployment caused widespread personal and social distress. Always a serious threat for the working class, unemployment became a massive disaster during the Depression, wiping out jobs and any small economic cushion that families had managed to create. Pervasive joblessness destabilized the functioning of families, the efficiency of the market, the foundations of patriarchy, and the overall political equilibrium. As early as 1914, John Andrews, the well-known Progressive Era economist, concluded that, "The time is past when the problem of unemployment could be disposed of either by ignoring it, as was the practice until recent years in America, or by attributing it to mere laziness and inefficiency. We are beginning to recognize that unemployment is not so much due to individual causes...as social and inherent in our present method of industrial organization." 2 But only after the devastation and unrest of the 1930s did the federal government respond. In 1935, Unemployment Insurance was included in the Social Security Act to protect workers against the loss of income due to temporary or involuntary joblessness.