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People Like Ourselves: Forecast for Survey Graphic

by Paul Kellogg

November 1935

Work and Employment Planning

The four billion dollar works program of 1935 is the largest undertaking of the sort in the world. The idea of throwing in public works to take up the slack in hard times is not new. Nonetheless, in scope no less than scale, the exertions of the Roosevelt administration to create public employment have been our distinctive contribution to the technique of dealing with industrial cycles. This is true in spite of shortcomings and unevenness of performance by the administration, the slogging pace of much made-work, and the hectic waste and bruised spirits that have marked installation and abandonment at different stages.

With workers on relief eagerly lining up for jobs, the implications of this emergent experience outrange the emergency. Clearly we face not only an overhang of mass unemployment but forces that will augment it. Such is the spread of mechanization during the hard times and such are the efforts made by industries to stabilize their work and substitute a steady force for a mass of partially employed workers living on the margin of subsistence. But this may mean cutting down a payroll from 75,000 to 50,000; and what becomes of the other 25,000 is laid right at the public doorstep.

Looking ahead, the establishment of a federal-state system of employment services gives us a base for employment planning. Old age pensions and child labor laws will cut the working span and by so much ease the competition for jobs. Unemployment compensation will carry the worker over short periods of worklessness. But these only define the remaining charge on our civilization if the chance to earn a living is to become universal.


Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2001-2003