A Sad Homage to the Great Depression
The Great Depression was the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world, lasting from the stock market crash of 1929 to 1939. During this time, millions upon millions of Americans struggled to find work. A labor market analysis of the Great Depression finds that many workers were unemployed for much longer than one year. Of those fortunate to have jobs, many experienced cutbacks in hours (i.e., involuntary part-time employment). Men typically were more adversely affected than women. This was especially true for older and black men at a time when age- and race-based job discrimination were not unlawful and when occupational shifts in labor demand were operating against them. Higher-skilled workers fared better than lower-skilled workers. Those who toiled on farms and in factories were displaced in very large numbers. States whose economies were dependent on agriculture and manufacturing reported high unemployment rates.
In 1933, at the depth of the Depression, one in four workers was unemployed. The number of jobs on non-farm payrolls fell 24.3% between 1929 and 1933. In the middle part of the US, when the depression occurred during the drought season, farmers quickly lost their lands and many became migrant workers. They travel around the country, hoping to find work for all members of the family in exchange for a meal or a place to sleep. One of the first actions taken by Franklin Roosevelt when he became President of the United States in 1933 was to declare a bank holiday that lasted from March 6-13, 1933. His administration was also responsible for introducing legislation to insure banks. Additionally, Roosevelt’s government was responsible for passing laws to give mortgage relief to farmers and people who owned homes. As a result, government loan guarantees became available to new homeowners and millions of people were given government assistance.