Unemployment's Massachusetts Roots
New unemployment figures for August reveal that nearly one in 10 U.S. job-seekers can’t find work. On this Labor Day, we trace the history of modern-day unemployment back to its Massachusetts beginnings.
Historian Alex Keyssar says the focus on the unemployed really began not with the Great Depression, but with a different economic crisis. The financial panic of 1873 had led to the widespread belief that a quarter-million people were jobless in Massachusetts. Incredulous of that figure, the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics and Labor went on the hunt for a better — more politically tolerable — figure.
- Alex Keyssar, historian at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; author of “Out of Work: the First Century of Unemployment in Massachusetts”
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