WPA Today   

WPA Output



WPA Poster

***If you have trouble viewing the chart below, try using a different browser (I have problems viewing it with Firefox, but not with Google Chrome or Internet Explorer).  Or, you can download the data in Microsoft Excel format here.
WPA Output
Projects, Accomplishments, & Statistics
(National Figures)

See data chart and hyper-linked table of contents below!

     Below is a data chart of WPA projects, outcomes, and statistics.  There are 31 main categories of projects and topics (e.g, “Public Buildings,” “Environmental Work,” “Employment”) and over 350 different types of projects and accomplishments under those main categories (e.g., schools built, miles of firebreaks created, number of people employed).  I have provided hyperlinks for the main categories, so you can jump down to the sections you want to see. 

     There are two columns of information.  In the left-hand column are descriptions of the projects and topics, and in the right-hand column are usually one or more of the following: (a) A cumulative statistical amount, (b) a statistical amount for a described period of time, (c) the letters “EVU,” for “exact volume unknown” (“EVU” means that I—personally—do not know the exact volume of work; the exact volume may be known by someone, or perhaps can be ascertained by archival research or exploration of academic materials).  Sources of information are also noted in the right-hand column.        

     The majority of information & statistics comes from the “Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43” created by the Federal Works Agency and published in 1946, and is noted in the right-hand column as (for example) “p. 133 FR.”  Importantly, the information & statistics in the chart below are not just from the appendices in the back of the WPA report, but from the entire text.  I have pulled information from the entire report and put it into one cumulative chart.  (You can view or download a copy of the Final WPA report from the Library of Congress here.)  

     A small amount of information & statistics comes from other sources, and those sources are also noted in the right-hand column of the chart. 

     I hope this data chart serves five functions: First, I hope it will serve as a useful research guide to anyone interested in the WPA, or the New Deal, or labor history, etc.  Second, I hope it will raise awareness and interest about the enormous amount of work product of the WPA.  Third, I hope the chart will help dispel the myth that our jobless elders & ancestors were lazy, or merely “shovel-leaners” or “leaf-rakers.”  Fourth, I hope the chart inspires someone to expand upon it with research at the National Archives.  And fifth, I hope all this information and data will show that there are better methods to handle the problem of unemployment than our current methods of apathy, inaction, and perpetual armchair speculation & forecasting.

     As a final note, I tried to be as meticulous as possible (and double-checked my work), but remember that this chart was made by one person, and that mistakes are always possible with such a vast amount of information.  That is why I cited sources for every project and topic.  If you are working on an important project, you can go back to the source material and make sure that the information in the chart is accurate.  And please let me know if you see any errors or if you have additional information that I can put in the chart (wpatoday@gmail.com).

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 "EVU" in right-hand column of chart means "Exact Volume Unknown" (see narrative above)
 The reference "FR" stands for "Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43"
This data chart was last updated on July 18, 2012
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 (roads, bridges, culverts, sidewalks, traffic signs, etc.)
2. Public Building Construction
 (libraries, schools, hospitals, firehouses, etc., but not including airport and utility buildings)
3. Outdoor Recreational Facilities
 (stadiums, parks, athletic fields, tennis courts, etc.)
4. Recreation Projects
 (various recreational programs designed, supported, and marketed by local communities, e.g., arts & crafts, photography)
5. Public Utilities & Sanitation
 (electric power plants, storage tanks, sanitary privies, mosquito control, etc.)
6. Airport Work
 (landing fields, runways, hangars, lighting, etc.) 
7. Miscellaneous Infrastructure
(fences, tunnels, dams, water channels, etc.) 
8. Engineering Surveys
 (boundary, geodetic, maps, water, and underground) 
9. Environmental Work
(fish hatcheries, firefighting, oyster planting, retaining walls, etc.) 
10. Miscellaneous Beautification Projects
(landscaping, ornamental pools and fountains) 
11. Disaster Relief
(strengthening levees, delivery of emergency food & supplies, emergency repairs,post-disaster clean up, etc.)
12. National Defense Work
(airports, buildings, utility plants, combat training areas, etc., certified as national defense projects by the Secretary of War or the Secretary of the Navy)
13. Sewing Projects
(garments for men & women, garments for children, diapers, military articles, etc.)
14. Housekeeping Services
(housekeeping for low-income families during times of illness or emergency)
15. Nursery Schools
(nursery schools for working parents)
16. Health Care & Health Services
(health organizations operated & assisted, mobile health services, 
tests & immunizations, dental services, etc.)
17. History & Historic Preservation Work
(monuments & historic markers, historic site restoration, 
museum assistance, history writing, etc.)
18. Research & Records Projects
(nation-wide historical record survey, social & economic studies, 
state university research assistance, codifying municipal ordinances, etc.)
19. Writing Projects
(history & visitor guides for every state, local histories, folklore compilations, 
oral histories of former slaves, etc.)
20. Music
(concerts, radio broadcasts, music libraries, music teaching, etc.)
21. Art
(Index of American Design, murals, sculptures, art instruction, etc.)
22. Theater
(plays, marionette shows, circuses, light operas, etc.)
23. Food Services
(food canning & drying, school lunches, summer food program, gardening) 
24. Miscellaneous Welfare Projects
(mattresses, converting books into Braille, artificial legs for the disabled, toy-repair & lending, etc.)
25. Library Services
(libraries operated & assisted, library outreach services to rural areas)
26. Book Repair
(books rebound, missing & damaged pages restored, cleaning)
27. Legal Aid
(legal assistance to low-income Americans) 
28. Techniques, Methods, & Professional Standards Developed
(for recreation programs, nursery schools, adult education, engineering, and school lunch services) 
29. Education & Job Training
(adult education classes, vocational training, household worker training,
airport servicemen training, etc.)
30. Employment Outcomes
(direct hiring, indirect job creation, WPA-to-private sector transitioning)
31. Economic Effect
(unemployment rates, GDP, Dow Jones Industrial Average, post-war economy)


 

  
1. ROADWORK (including bridges)




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Highways, roads, and streets

651,087 miles of total new or improved highways, roads, and streets, p.131 FR

Bridges and viaducts

124,011 bridges and viaducts (77,965 new bridges and viaducts / 46,046 reconstructed or improved), p. 131 FR 

Culverts

1,178,933 culverts (1,052,612 new / 126,321 reconstructed or improved), p. 131 FR

Roadside drainage ditch and pipe

162,873 miles (78,526 new miles / 84,347 reconstructed or improved miles), p. 131 FR

Sidewalks and paths

30,579 sidewalks and paths (23,607 new / 6,972 reconstructed or improved), p. 131 FR

Curbs

28,514 curbs (25,073 new / 3,441 reconstructed or improved), p. 131 FR

Gutters

6,228 gutters (5,428 new / 800 reconstructed or improved), p. 131 FR

Guardrails and guardwalls

4,911 guardrails and guardwalls (3,367 new / 1,544 reconstructed or improved), p. 131 FR

Road and street lighting

100,030 light standards (e.g., light poles) along 2,479 miles of road (30,556 new light standards / 69,474 reconstructed or improved light standards), p. 131 FR 

Traffic signs erected

937,282 signs, p. 131 FR

Traffic lines painted

5,269 miles of traffic lines painted, p. 131 FR

Roadside landscaping

58,209 miles of landscaping, p. 131 FR

Car and railroad track removal

2,555 miles of track removed, p. 131 FR

  
2. PUBLIC BUILDING CONSTRUCTION (not including airport and utility plant buildings)



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Total

125,110 buildings worked on (35,064 new buildings constructed / 4,792 additions / 85,254 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR 

Libraries

1,074 worked on (151 new libraries built / 67 additions / 856 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Schools

39,397 worked on (5,908 new schools built / 2,173 additions / 31,316 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR 

Recreational buildings (e.g., auditoriums, gymnasiums)

15,252 worked on (8,696 new recreational buildings constructed / 657 additions / 5,899 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Office and administrative buildings

6,383 worked on (1,536 new buildings constructed / 323 additions / 4,524 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Hospitals

2,550 worked on (226 new hospitals built / 156 additions / 2,168 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR 

Penal institutions

762 worked on (181 new penal institutions built / 38 additions / 543 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Dormitories

7,483 worked on (1,473 new dormitories built / 59 additions / 5,951 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Firehouses

2,709 worked on (325 new firehouses built / 72 additions / 2,312 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Garages

4,789 worked on (2,522 new garages built / 231 additions / 2,036 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Storage buildings

6,297 worked on (2,368 new storage buildings built / 179 additions / 3,750 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Armories

910 worked on (357 new armories built / 65 additions / 488 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Barns and stables

6,176 worked on (1,930 new constructions / 81 additions / 4,165 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Other public buildings

31,328 worked on (9,391 new buildings constructed / 691 additions / 21,246 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

  
3. OUTDOOR RECREATIONAL FACILITIES



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Stadiums, grandstands, and bleachers

3,228 worked on (2,302 new constructions / 129 additions / 797 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Fairgrounds and rodeo grounds

337 worked on (52 new constructions / 5 additions / 280 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Parks

8,192 worked on, covering 542,361 acres  (1,668 new parks created, covering 75,152 acres / 189 additions, covering 7,214 acres / 6,335 reconstructions or improvements, covering 459,995 acres), p. 131 FR

Playgrounds (at schools and other locations)

12,773 worked on (3,085 new playgrounds constructed / 107 additions / 9,581 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Athletic fields

5,551 worked on (3,026 new athletic fields constructed / 68 additions / 2,457 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR 

Handball courts

1,974 worked on (1,817 new handball courts constructed / 157 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Horseshoe courts

2,414 worked on (2,261 new horseshoe courts constructed / 153 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR 

Tennis courts

13,156 worked on (10,070 new tennis courts created / 3,086 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Swimming and wading pools

2,073 worked on (1,653 new pools constructed / 420 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR 

Ice skating areas

1,185 worked on (1,101 new ice skating areas constructed /  84 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Ski trails

369 miles of ski trails worked on (310 new miles constructed / 59 miles reconstructed or improved), p. 131 FR

Ski jumps

80 worked on (65 new ski jumps constructed / 15 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Bandshells

302 worked on (228 new bandshells constructed / 74 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Outdoor theaters

170 worked on (138 new outdoor theaters constructed / 32 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR

Golf courses

632 worked on (254 new golf courses constructed / 378 reconstructions or improvements), p. 131 FR



  
4. RECREATION PROJECTS



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Recreation projects/initiatives developed & sponsored by local community committees included group dancing, indoor games, musical activities, photography, sketching, amateur dramatics, puppet shows, arts & crafts work, wildlife clubs, discussion groups, play centers for preschool children 




EVU, p. 62 FR



  
5. PUBLIC UTILITIES & SANITATION



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Electric power plants

237 worked on (49 new electric power plants constructed / 17 additions / 171 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Incinerator plants

202 worked on (137 new incinerator plants worked on / 2 additions / 63 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Pumping stations

1,773 worked on (1,394 new pumping stations built / 17 additions / 362 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Sewage treatment plants

1,505 worked on (1,021 new sewage treatment plants constructed / 69 additions / 415 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 

Water treatment plants

455 worked on (276 new water treatment plants constructed / 18 additions / 161 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Water mains and distribution lines

19,775 miles worked on (16,117 miles of new water lines installed / 3,658 miles reconstructed or improved), p. 132 FR

Water consumer connections

882,275 worked on (419,737 new connections installed / 462,538 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Water wells

5,939 worked on (3,985 new water wells constructed / 1,954 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Storage tanks, reservoirs, etc.

3,764 worked on, with a capacity of 26.4 billion gallons of water (3,026 new tanks,  reservoirs, etc., constructed, with a capacity of 2.3 billion gallons / 738 reconstructions or improvements for 24.1 billion gallons of storage capacity), p. 132 FR

Storm and sanitary sewers

27,635 miles of sewer worked on (24,271 miles of new construction / 3,364 miles of reconstruction or improvements), p. 132 FR

Sewerage service connections

638,583 connections worked on (595,675 new connections made / 42,908 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Manholes and catch basins

1,238,302 worked on (815,292 new manholes and catch basins constructed / 423,010 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Sanitary privies

2,349,137 worked on (2,309,239 new sanitary privies constructed / 39,898 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Mosquito control drainage (ditch and pipe)

37,840 miles worked on (15,268 miles of new ditch & pipes / 22,572 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Telephone and telegraph lines

6,256 miles worked on (3,904 miles of new lines installed / 2,352 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 

Police, fire alarm, and traffic signal systems

3,456 miles worked on (1,606 miles of new lines installed / 1,850 miles of reconstruction or improvements), p. 132 FR

Electric power lines

4,601 miles worked on (3,358 miles of new electric lines installed / 1,243 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Pipe lines, other than sewer and water

848 miles worked on (727 miles of new pipe lines installed / 121 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR



  
6. AIRPORT WORK



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Landing fields

953 worked on, covering 167,284 acres (353 new landing fields constructed, covering 64,124 acres / 131 additions, covering 11,772 acres / 469 reconstructions or improvements,  covering 91,388 acres), p. 132 FR 

Runways

5,925,000 linear feet worked on (4,763,000 linear feet of new runways constructed / 1,162,000 linear feet of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Airport buildings--Total

4,199 worked on (1,192 new airport buildings constructed / 180 additions / 2,827 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Administrative and terminal buildings

286 worked on (142 new admin. and terminal bldgs. constructed / 29 additions / 115 reconstructions and improvements), p. 132 

Hangars

624 worked on (244 new hangars constructed / 16 additions / 364 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 

Other airport buildings

3,289 worked on (806 new airport buildings constructed / 135 additions / 2,348 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Taxi strips

1,129,000 linear feet worked on (1,076,000 linear feet of new taxi strips constructed / 53,000 linear feet of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Aprons

4,765,000 square yards worked on (4,240,000 square yards of new apron constructed / 525,000 square yards of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 

Turning circles

1,365,000 square yards worked on (1,229,000 square yards of new turning circles constructed / 136,000 square yards of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Airport drainage

Drainage systems worked on at 348 airports (new drainage systems constructed at 266 airports / reconstructions or improvements at 82 other airports), p. 132 FR  

Airport drainage ditch and pipe

10,448,000 linear feet worked on (9,724,000 linear feet of new ditch and pipe work / 724,000 linear feet of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 

Landing areas floodlighted

Floodlight work at 110 airports (new floodlights installed at 88 airports / reconstructions or improvements of floodlight systems at 22 other airports), p. 132 FR

Boundary lights—light standards (e.g., light poles)

21,150 standards worked on (17,889 new light standards installed / 3,261 standards reconstructed or improved), p. 132 FR

Sea plane ramps and landing platforms

30 worked on (27 new sea plane ramps and landing platforms constructed / 3 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 

Airway markers

17,269 worked on (13,857 new airway markers installed / 3,772 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Airway beacons

108 worked on (90 new airway beacons installed / 18 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR



  
7. MISCELLEANEOUS INFRASTRUCTURE



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Drainage, other than road, airport, and mosquito control

24,639 miles of ditch and pipe (6,691 miles of new ditch and pipe work / 17,948 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 

Fencing

40,515 miles of fence (17,217 miles of new fence / 23,298 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 

Tunnels—Total

1,215 worked on (1,057 new tunnels constructed / 158 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Tunnels—vehicle tunnels

26, p. 53 FR

Tunnels—pedestrian tunnels

193, p. 53 FR

Tunnels—railway, sewer, or cattle tunnels

800, p. 53 FR

Dams

EVU, p. 53 FR.  The WPA created and worked on a lot of dams, but the final report, surprisingly, seems to omit a statistical count 

Docks, wharves, and piers

728 worked on (364 new docks, wharves, and piers constructed / 364 (not a typo) reconstructions and improvements), p. 132 FR

Artificial channels, other than irrigation and drainage (one example of this might be the inlet/channel at Ocean City, Maryland, known to locals as the Ocean City Inlet.  It’s a channel that connects Sinepuxent Bay to the Atlantic Ocean.  A powerful storm created a rough opening/connection in the early 1930s, and the WPA assisted in converting the opening to an actual, functioning sea channel which required widening, dredging, and rip-rapping)

297 miles of channels (98 new miles of artificial channels constructed / 199 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR



  
8. ENGINEERING SURVEYS



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Boundary Surveys


EVU, p. 54 FR

 

Geodetic Control Surveys

 

EVU, p. 54 FR

 

Maps

 

EVU, p. 54 FR

 

Riparian, Stream, and Hydrographic Surveys

 

EVU, p. 54 FR

 

Surveys of Underground Structures

 

EVU, p. 54 FR

 



  
9. ENVIRONMENTAL WORK



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Fish hatcheries

455 worked on (161 new fish hatcheries constructed / 135 additions / 159 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Construction of bird shelter houses, feeding stations, and sanctuaries

 

EVU, p. 54 FR

 

 

Destruction of noxious weeds

 

EVU, p. 54 FR

 

Protection of trees and crops from insects and diseases

 

EVU, p. 54 FR

 

 

Ranger station construction

 

EVU, p. 54 FR

 

Fire look-out tower construction

 

EVU, p. 54 FR

 

Firebreaks

7,251 miles worked on (6,337 miles of new firebreaks constructed / 914 miles of reconstructions and improvements), p. 132 FR 

Firefighting (cross-listed in disaster relief category)

EVU.  For example, see: “WPA Workers Called To Fight Forest Fires,” Associated Press article, in the Baltimore Sun, April 26, 1942, p. SS11.  Also see Nick Taylor’s book “American-Made,” pp. 330-337 (2009 paperback edition).

Trees planted--reforestation

176,636,000 trees planted, p. 132 FR

Oyster planting

8,210,967 bushels of oysters planted, p. 132 FR

Levees and embankments

1,674 miles worked on (591 miles of new levees and embankments constructed / 1,083 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Jetties and breakwaters

200 miles worked on (193 miles of new jetties and breakwaters constructed / 7 miles of reconstructions and improvements), p. 132 FR

Bulkheads

228 miles worked on (169 miles of new bulkheads constructed / 59 miles of reconstructions and improvements), p. 132 FR

Retaining walls and revetments

1,955 miles worked on (1,820 miles of new retaining walls and revetments constructed / 135 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Riprap (large stones and rubble used to protect shorelines)

19,314,000 square yards of surface worked on (17,323,000 square yards of new riprap laid down / 1,991,000 square yards of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 

River bank and shore improvement

4,419 miles improved, p. 132 FR

Streambed improvement

8,262 miles improved, p. 132 FR 

Erosion Control, various activities

 

EVU, p. 54 FR


 

Irrigation systems (pipe and flume installation)

6,690 miles worked on (1,351 miles of new pipe and flume installed / 5,339 miles of reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR  

Sealing Old Mines

 

 

EVU.  187,000 mines sealed in Penn. and Ohio alone, pp. 53-54 FR

 



  
10. MISCELLANEOUS BEAUTIFICATION PROJECTS



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Landscaping, other than roadside and parks (this probably means around public buildings and public areas like hospitals, schools, government administration buildings, cemeteries, etc.)

211,240 acres, p. 132 FR

Ornamental pools and fountains (probably at parks, government buildings, airports, etc.)

905 worked on (819 new ornamental pools and fountains constructed / 76 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR 



  
11. DISASTER RELIEF



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Construction of dykes and strengthening of levees

 

EVU, p. 55 FR

 

 

Delivery of food, clothing, and bedding for people in disaster area

 

EVU, p. 55 FR

 

 

Emergency repairs to infrastructure (e.g., roads and bridges)

 

EVU, p. 55 FR

 

 

Evacuation of people and property

 

EVU, p. 55 FR

 

Post-disaster clean up

 

EVU, p. 55 FR

 

Rescue operations

 

 

 

 

EVU.  For example, see “Troops Act To Avert Looting In Flood-Torn Cumberland,” by Ralph L. Wallace, Baltimore Sun, March 19, 1936, p. 1



 

Temporary reestablishment of utilities (e.g., water, electricity)

 

EVU, p. 55 FR

 

 

Firefighting (cross-listed in “environmental work” category)

EVU.  For example, see: “WPA Workers Called To Fight Forest Fires,” Associated Press article, in the Baltimore Sun, April 26, 1942, p. SS11.  Also see Nick Taylor’s book “American-Made,” chapter “WPA Fights the ‘Ferocious Fire Demon,’” pp. 330-337 (2009 paperback edition).

Emergency clothing from sewing projects

EVU, p. 67 FR



  
12. NATIONAL DEFENSE WORK—Projects certified by the Secretary of War or the Secretary of the Navy



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Access roads, strategic highways, and other transportation facilities certified as national defense projects

EVU, p. 85 FR

Airports certified as national defense projects —landing fields

378 worked on (141 new airports—landing fields constructed / 76 additions / 161 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Airports certified as national defense projects —runways

450+ miles of new or improved runways, p. 85 FR (linear feet shown on p. 86 FR) 

Airport buildings certified as national defense projects —Total

2,363 worked on (623 new airport buildings constructed / 80 additions / 1,660 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR 

Airport buildings certified as national defense projects —administrative

98 worked on (49 new administrative buildings constructed / 6 additions / 43 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Airport buildings certified as national defense projects —hangars

136 worked on (39 new hangars constructed / 6 additions / 91 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR 

Airport buildings certified as national defense projects —other

2,129 worked on (535 new buildings constructed / 68 additions / 1,526 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Airport—seaplane ramps and landing platforms certified as national defense projects

1 new construction, p. 86 FR

Airport—landing areas floodlighted certified as national defense projects

29 (24 newly floodlighted and 5 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Airport—boundary lights (light standards) certified as national defense projects

9,630 worked on (8,309 new light standards / 1,321 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Buildings certified as national defense projects, other than airport or utility plant buildings—Total

14,493 worked on (2,716 new buildings constructed / 408 additions / 11,369 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR 

Administrative buildings certified as national defense projects

394 worked on (63 new administration buildings constructed / 16 additions / 315 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR 

Hospitals and infirmaries certified as national defense projects

414 worked on (45 new hospitals and infirmaries constructed / 48 additions / 321 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Garages certified as national defense projects

588 worked on (187 new garages constructed / 24 additions / 377 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Storage buildings certified as national defense projects

1,674 worked on (308 new storage buildings constructed / 42 additions / 1,324 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Armories certified as national defense projects

278 worked on (102 new armories constructed / 20 additions / 156 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Equipment maintenance shops at military installations certified as national defense projects

212 worked on (31 new equipment maintenance shops constructed / 7 additions / 174 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Officers’ residences certified as national defense projects

2,941 worked on (77 new officers’ residences constructed / 12 additions / 2,852 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR 

Barracks certified as national defense projects

3,003 worked on (470 new barracks constructed / 10 additions / 2,523 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Dining halls, mess halls, etc. certified as national defense projects

1,726 worked on (438 new halls constructed / 154 additions / 1,134 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Barns and stables certified as national defense projects

112 worked on (23 new barns and stables constructed / 3 additions / 86 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Other military buildings (e.g., guardhouses, latrines, tent floor & frames, range houses, observation posts) certified as national defense projects

3,151 worked on (972 new buildings / 72 additions / 2,107 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Electric power plants certified as national defense projects

23 worked on (6 new electric power plants constructed / 2 additions / 15 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Incinerator plants certified as national defense projects

31 worked on (21 new incinerator plants constructed / 10 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Heating plants certified as national defense projects

32 worked on (6 new heating plants constructed / 2 additions / 24 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR 

Pumping stations certified as national defense projects

61 worked on (41 new pumping stations constructed / 1 addition / 19 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Sewage treatment plants certified as national defense projects

23 worked on (18 new sewage treatment plants constructed / 1 addition / 4 reconstructed or improved), p. 86 FR 

Water treatment plants certified as national defense projects

11 worked on (7 new water treatment plants constructed / 1 addition / 3 reconstructions or improvements), p. 86 FR

Miscellaneous constructions certified as national defense projects —firing zones, target ranges, parachute landing fields, gun emplacements, combat training areas, trails,  service roads, sidewalks & curbs, recreational areas, tunnels, sandbag revetments, barbed-wire fencing, alarm systems 

EVU, pp. 85-86 FR

Malaria control around military bases certified as national defense projects (e.g., draining swamps & ponds, clearing underbrush that obstructed draining, spreading larvicide) 

EVU, p. 86 FR

Engineering survey(s) certified as national defense projects

EVU, p. 86 FR

Salvage activities certified as national defense projects —collecting metal and rubber

EVU.  “In the period from April 21, 1942  through March 2, 1943, WPA workers collected from agricultural and urban sources more than 376,000 tons of scrap metal and 10,000 tons of rubber.” p. 86 FR 

Salvage activities certified as national defense projects —equipping salvage yards with cartways, inspection facilities, observation towers, electric lighting, and water lines

EVU, p. 86 FR

Salvage activities certified as national defense projects —collecting abandoned streetcar rails

148,000 tons, pp. 86-87 FR

Miscellaneous projects to serve military needs certified as national defense projects —education classes of various types (e.g., literacy), assistance with records, library services, sewing projects, various recreational activities, concerts performed, art projects (e.g., posters, maps, models, charts, other visual aids, camouflage experiments, decorations in military buildings), collecting weather statistics, health care services, nursery schools    

EVU, p. 87 FR



  
13. SEWING PROJECTS



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Garments and articles—Total

500,550,000+, p. 133 FR 

Men’s garments

76,407,000+, p. 133 FR

Women’s garments

86,425,000+, p. 133 FR

Boys’ garments

67,325,000+, p. 133 FR

Girls’ garments

78,117,000+, p. 133 FR

Infants’ garments

45,344,000+, p. 133 FR

Diapers

29,138,000+, p. 133 FR

Other articles (e.g., household articles, hospital gowns, military articles like canteen covers and blankets)

117,794,000+, pp. 67-68, 133 FR



  
14. HOUSEKEEPING SERVICES



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Visits made (housekeeping by WPA workers was provided to needy families during times of illness or emergency) 









32,171,000+ visits, pp. 69, 133 FR



  
15. NURSERY SCHOOLS



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Nursery schools.  The WPA operated nursery schools for the children of working parents.  This became especially important during the early years of the war, as many people entered the armed forces or defense industries.  Many nursery school programs were continued by local communities after the WPA was terminated.

EVU.  1,255 schools operated, with 35,299 children enrolled, for the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

 



  
16. HEALTH CARE & HEALTH SERVICES



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Health agencies operated

EVU.  99 during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR (see pp. 69-70 FR for types of health care provided)

Mobile health services for schools and rural areas

EVU, p. 69 FR

Tests and immunizations (e.g., vision tests, hearing tests, immunizations for diphtheria/typhoid fever/whooping cough/other diseases, cardiac tests for children  

EVU.  73,570 during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Health institutions assisted

EVU.  225 during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Custodial institutions assisted

EVU.  66 during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Clinics assisted

EVU.  314 during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Other health agencies assisted

EVU.  501 during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Dental exams for children

EVU, p. 69 FR

Health and medical services for children and WPA nursery schools

EVU, p. 61 FR



 
17. HISTORY & HISTORIC PRESERVATION WORK 



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Monuments and historic markers

1,385 worked on (1,238 new monuments and historic markers constructed / 147 reconstructions or improvements), p. 132 FR

Special federal project to preserve historic sites and structures (not much information is given in the Final Report on the WPA, but examples in Maryland include the Charles Carroll Mansion, Fort McHenry, and Antietam National Battlefield) 

EVU, p. 52 FR

Archaeological excavations

EVU.  See Nick Taylor’s book “American-Made,” chapter “Kentucky Archaeology,” pp. 368-374, 2009 paperback edition (there is also a photo of WPA workers at an archaeological dig site in Mr. Taylor’s book, in the second set of photos, courtesy of the National Archives)

Oral histories of former slaves (the “Slave Narratives,” cross-listed in the “writing projects” category)

A WPA Federal Writers’ project, now stored at the Library of Congress Manuscript Division (no cite for this information, popularly known collection)

History writing/compilation: The WPA’s federal writers’ program wrote history and visitor guides for every state, as well as folk, and local histories for some areas (cross listed in the “writing projects” category)

EVU, p. 65 FR and various other sources

Museum assistance, e.g., dioramas, models, maps, lantern slides, other visual aids, exhibit creation, classification and indexing

EVU, p. 63 FR

Historic American Buildings Survey: “started under the (Civil Works Administration), was continued by the WPA under the sponsorship of the Department of the Interior, with the technical assistance of the National Park Service, and with the guidance of the Library of Congress and the American Institute of Architects.  This work consisted of making photographs, measurements, and standard architectural drawings of buildings of historic importance for transmission to the Fine Arts Division of the Library of Congress.”  

EVU, p. 67 FR

Historic Records Survey: “The work of this project consisted of locating, arranging, and cataloging historical records; of preparing and publishing inventories of these records for the use of historical and other students; and of transcribing, photographing, or otherwise preserving records of special historical value that were in danger of loss or destruction.  These records were chiefly the archives of State, county, city, and town governments; but they also included church archives and other manuscript materials and early American imprints (books and newspapers).” (Cross-listed under “research & records projects” category) 

EVU.  “More than a thousand volumes of inventories of Federal, State, county, city, town, and church archives were published,” p. 67 FR  

Historic American Marine Survey: “measured drawings of early American vessels from original plans, models, and remains, supplementing these with photographs and historical material.  This record of the development of American marine architecture was deposited with the National Museum (Smithsonian Institution).” 

EVU, p. 67 FR

Index of American Design plates (the Index of American Design “was a series of portfolios of faithful drawings, in color, illustrating the rise and development of the decorative and applied arts in (America), form earliest colonial times to the end of the nineteenth century.” 

Cross listed in the "Art" category
 21,765+, pp. 64, 133 FR 


  
18. RESEARCH & RECORDS PROJECTS



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Nation-wide Historical Records Survey project

(see description under “history & historic preservation” category; cross-listed there) 

EVU, pp. 59, 60 FR

Research and records projects, e.g., surveys and studies (social science, economics, health, housing, land use, industrial accidents, diseases, juvenile delinquency, vehicle traffic, governmental organization), research assistance in state universities (technical, clerical, & manual assistance, scholarly research), land records, indexing deeds and mortgages, mapping, tax records, fingerprint files, codifying municipal ordinances, selecting safe routes for children going to school in conjunction with the traffic surveys    

EVU, pp. 59, 65-67



  
19. WRITING PROJECTS



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Writing projects included history and tour guides for every state, local histories, local folklore compilations, science readers for children, and “various other types of books and pamphlets,” e.g., American Wildlife Illustrated and A Guide to the United States Naval Academy (cross-listed in the “history & historic preservation” category)

EVU, p. 65 FR and various other sources.  276 full-length books and 701 pamphlets, see Nick Taylor’s book “American-Made,” p. 524, citing scholarly and news sources (2009 paperback edition)

Oral histories of former slaves (the “Slave Narratives,” cross-listed in the “history & historic preservation” category)

A WPA Federal Writers’ project, now stored at the Library of Congress Manuscript Division (no cite for this information, popularly known collection)



  
20. MUSIC



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Concerts performed

5,974 concerts performed, and 2,423,217+ persons attending, during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR.  225,000 total concerts performed for 150 million audience members, See Nick Taylor’s book “American-Made,” p. 523, citing scholarly and news sources (2009 paperback edition)

Radio broadcasts

EVU.  112 broadcasts during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Music projects, e.g., symphony orchestras, small orchestral ensembles, string quartets, chamber music ensembles, opera concerts, vocal ensembles, solo vocalists, dance orchestras, theater orchestras, music teaching, copying of music, music libraries, music tours, radio programs, new compositions and performances by young musicians, performances for the armed services, music therapy experiments in psychiatric hospitals  

EVU, pp. 63-64 FR  

Index of American Composers and Compositions (not completed, but information sent to Library of Congress)

EVU, p. 64 FR



  
21. ART



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Index of American Design plates (the Index of American Design “was a series of portfolios of faithful drawings, in color, illustrating the rise and development of the decorative and applied arts in (America), form earliest colonial times to the end of the nineteenth century.” 

Cross-listed in the "History & Historic Preservation" category.

21,765+, pp. 64, 133 FR

Easel works

108,099+, p. 133 FR

Fine print designs

11,285+, p. 133 FR

Murals

2,566+, p. 133 FR

Sculptures

17,744+, p. 133 FR

Various other art projects, e.g., graphic arts, plastic arts, handicraft work, posters, art exhibits for educational work, art instruction, oil paintings, water colors, etchings, sculptures, mosaics, stained glass, decorating public buildings (schools, libraries, hospitals, etc.), murals in public buildings, lithographs, woodcuts, galleries & exhibitions, and decorative tapestries, curtains, rugs, ceramics, ironwork, and furniture 

Almost 475,000 total works of art (including the above works of art).  See Nick Taylor’s book “American-Made,” p. 524, citing scholarly and news sources (2009 paperback edition).  Also see p. 64 FR.



  
22. THEATER PROJECTS



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Theater Projects included regular theater plays, marionette shows, circuses, musical comedies, light operas, African American productions, foreign language productions

EVU, p. 65 FR.  Performances for 30 million people, See Nick Taylor’s book “American-Made,” p. 524, citing scholarly and news sources (2009 paperback edition). 

  
23. FOOD SERVICES



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Food canning

84,987,000+ quarts of food canned, p. 133 FR

Food drying

11,448,000+ pounds of food dried, p. 133 FR

School lunches served

1,237,133,000+, p. 133 FR 

Schools serviced

EVU.  During the selected statistical time period July 1, 1942 through December 31, 1942, 79,281,000 school lunches were served to students at 17,533 schools, p. 133 FR

Lunches for malnourished school children during summer break

EVU, p. 68 FR

Gardening for food production: Gardens were created for needy families to grow their own vegetables

EVU, pp. 59, 68 FR



  
24. MISCELLANEOUS WELFARE PROJECTS



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Cotton surplus used to create mattresses for needy families

EVU, p. 68 FR

Copying books into Braille

 

EVU, p. 68 FR

Artificial legs for needy persons

EVU, p. 68 FR

Furniture designed for children enrolled at WPA nursery schools

EVU, p. 68 FR

Surplus commodity distribution: “Surplus supplies of food, clothing, and other commodities donated or purchased by Federal, State, or other agencies were transported, warehoused, and distributed through the assistance of WPA projects to needy persons, public institutions, or other WPA projects.” 

EVU, p. 69 FR

Toys for the children of low-income families: The WPA made toys, repaired toys, created toy-lending libraries, and periodically gave away toys

EVU, p. 70 FR and various other sources.  A 1940 Associated Press article reported that WPA workshops would distribute 2 million toys to underprivileged children for Christmas.  “WPA To Distribute Toys,” Baltimore Sun, December 15, 1940, p. 11. 

Other welfare services: Shoe-repair, matron service for schools, cleaning and renovating buildings 

EVU, p. 70 FR



  
25. LIBRARY SERVICES



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Library service systems operated

EVU.  270 during the selected statistical period of April 1, 1942 through June 30, 1942, p. 133 FR 

Library service system units operated

EVU.  1,253 during the selected statistical period of April 1, 1942 through June 30, 1942, p. 133 FR

Independent libraries operated

EVU.  1,669 during the selected statistical period of April 1, 1942 through June 30, 1942, p. 133 FR

Libraries assisted (e.g., clerical work, cataloging, indexing, bibliographical work)

EVU.  4,383 during the selected statistical period of April 1, 1942 through June 30, 1942, pp. 62, 133 FR

Library service to rural areas, by bookmobile and horseback

EVU, p. 60 FR;  also see Nick Taylor’s book “American-Made,” chapter “Kentucky’s Packhorse Library,” pp. 221-227 



  
26. BOOK REPAIR



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Books repaired (e.g., rebinding, missing & damaged pages restored, cleaning)

94,706,000+, pp. 62, 133 FR

 



  
27. LEGAL AID



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“…free legal advice was given by lawyers to relief clients and to other persons who could not afford to pay for such services; advice was given on attachment and garnishment, the rights of landlord and tenant, civil rights, and other legal matters exclusive of trial work.” 

EVU, p. 70 FR



  
28. TECHNIQUES, METHODS, & PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS DEVELOPED
(Because some WPA projects delved into somewhat new programmatic areas, it was inevitable that innovations would occur over time—innovations that would be of use long after the WPA program was terminated)



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Recreation program and professional standards developed

p. 59 FR

Nursery schools standards developed

p. 59 FR

Adult education methods developed

p. 59 FR

New engineering techniques and equipment developed in WPA programs

 

p. 54 FR

 

 

Standards developed for operating school lunch rooms (e.g., sanitation)

p. 68 FR



  
29. EDUCATION & JOB TRAINING



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Literacy and naturalization classes

EVU.  98,646 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR 

Vocational training classes, e.g., business English and arithmetic, accounting, bookkeeping, stenography, typing, office machine use, carpentry & woodworking, tool making, welding, radio & telegraphy, mechanical drafting, electrical work 

EVU.  55,412 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, pp. 90, 133 FR

Correspondence classes

EVU.  8,700 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Homemaking and parent education classes

EVU.  87,218 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Other classes (e.g., workers’ education, biology, economics, literature, public speaking, parliamentary procedure)

EVU.  165,746 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, pp. 61, 133 FR

Lectures and forums

EVU.  59,985 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Special instruction to institutionalized and handicapped persons

EVU.  6,719 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Special instruction to isolated persons

EVU.  103 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Music instruction

EVU.  174,917 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, pp. 63-64, 133 FR

Art instruction

EVU.  25,068 persons enrolled during the selected statistical month of January 1942, p. 133 FR

Education in avocational and leisure-time activities

EVU.  p. 61 FR

Placement in appropriate WPA jobs: Where possible, the WPA tried to assign workers to jobs that would maintain their existing skills  

EVU.  p. 90 FR

Foreman and supervisor training:  Sometimes the WPA would hire foreman and supervisors from the general public, and not from the relief rolls.  Other times, WPA workers would be promoted to foreman and supervisor jobs.  For the latter group, training was provided to teach them project planning skills, safety standards, measurements techniques, etc. 

By 1939, 46,000 WPA foremen had completed such training, p. 90 FR

Household worker training, to teach cooking, cleaning, child care, etc.

From July 1, 1935 through March 31, 1942, 22,000 people had completed the WPA household workers’ training, and 17,000 found private sector jobs, p. 90 FR

National defense-type job training, e.g., automobile services, aviation services, construction, drafting, electrical services, forge, foundry, machine shop, pattern making, radio services, riveting, sheet metal, ship & boat building & repair, welding, woodworking  

“In the period from July 1, 1940 through December 15, 1942, more than 330,000 WPA workers received training on the vocational training school projects…”, p. 91 FR

In-Plant preemployment training: WPA workers were placed in factories, producing items such as parachutes and Diesel engines, for job training; and many were hired by the factories after their training period was over 

EVU, p. 92 FR

Women trained for national defense work: As demand for labor increased, women were trained to operate various machinery (e.g., lathes, drill presses, tool grinders), electrical assembly, motor testing and repair, blueprint reading 

EVU.  As of August 18, 1942, “more than 8,200 women were employed on WPA training projects,” p. 92 FR

The physically disabled were trained for national defense work, e.g., machine operation, sheet metal work 

EVU, p. 92 FR

Airport servicemen training, e.g., maintenance of airports, hangar care, servicing or airplanes and airport equipment, aircraft and engine mechanics 

2,000+ WPA workers rec’d training in this program, p. 92 FR

Hospital training, e.g, ward helpers, orderlies, housekeeping, kitchen work, first aid, care of children, care of the aged, care of the mentally disabled 

EVU, p. 93 FR



  
30. EMPLOYMENT OUTCOMES



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Employment—direct

8.5 million different Americans obtained work in the WPA between 1935 and 1943, p. III FR

Employment—indirect 

EVU.  Many times, the WPA hired private contractors to assist with certain projects.  Also, there was increased demand for local building products, since the WPA’s policy was to purchase construction materials from local businesses.  Further, since people employed in the WPA now had paychecks, they could buy more goods and services (assuming, of course, that their paychecks were higher than any relief payments they may have been getting before).

In sum, the hiring of private contractors, and the increased demand for construction supplies, and the increased demand for consumer goods and services led to some degree of increased hiring.  This is basic labor economics.  This is also evidenced by the fact that the unemployment rate—even excluding Americans in work programs (mainly the WPA and CCC)—dropped every year of the WPA’s existence (compared to the previous year) except for 1938, when the federal government prematurely reduced funding for the WPA (the so-called “Roosevelt Recession”).

In any event, the amount of indirect job creation by the WPA is not currently known. 

Employment—WPA-to-private sector transitioning.  By various methods (see category “education & job training”) the WPA assisted its workers in finding private sector employment.  

EVU, pp. 90-93 FR



  
31. ECONOMIC EFFECT
(It’s difficult—perhaps even impossible—to completely isolate the economic effect of the WPA, from all the other factors that affected the economy during the Great Depression, e.g., other work programs like the CCC, other New Deal policies, private sector innovations or mistakes, global happenings, etc.  Still, the WPA was an enormous work program that had some influence on the economy by (a) putting money in workers’ pockets, (b) purchasing local construction supplies, (c) creating new roads, bridges, and airports for the expansion of business and the movement of goods and services, (d) getting people “out and about” for music performances & theater—which spurred consumer spending at nearby businesses—and so forth.  Thus, it is worthwhile to look at some of the key economic indicators during some of the years of the WPA’s existence.

 

I chose 1930 as the start year, to show some economic numbers after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  I chose 1940 as the end year—the year before war production really “kicked-in” and started to boost the economy in an exaggerated manner.)



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Unemployment rates

Key happenings:




1929: Stock market crash





1933: New Deal begins; work and building programs begin (CWA, PWA, CCC, TVA)


1935: WPA begins operations in July  



1937: As positive economic signs develop, work programs are cut back.  The cutbacks are premature and in 1938 the economy enters into what becomes known as the “Roosevelt Recession.”  In 1939, enrollment in work programs is increased and the economy begins to recover again.

**************************************

1929: Stock market crash





1933: New Deal begins; work and building programs begin (CWA, PWA, CCC, TVA)


1935: WPA begins operations in July  



1937: As positive economic signs develop, work programs are cut back.  The cutbacks are premature and in 1938 the economy enters into what becomes known as the “Roosevelt Recession.”  In 1939, enrollment in work programs is increased and the economy begins to recover again.

Data from Robert A. Margo, “Employment and Unemployment in the 1930s,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 7 No. 2 (Spring 1993), pp. 41-59.

Counting people in government work programs as employed:

1930:    8.7%

1931:  15.3%

1932:  22.9%

1933:  20.6%

1934:  16.0%

1935:  14.2%

1936:    9.9%

1937:    9.1%

1938:  12.5%

1939:  11.3%

1940:    9.5%


Counting people in government work programs as unemployed:

1930:     8.7%

1931:   15.9%

1932:   23.6%

1933:   24.9%

1934:   21.7%

1935:   20.1%

1936:   16.9%

1937:   14.3%

1938:   19.0%

1939:   17.2%

1940:   14.6%

Gross Domestic Product (% increase or decrease from the previous year, in current dollars)

Key happenings:

1929: Stock market crash





1933: New Deal begins; work and building programs begin (CWA, PWA, CCC, TVA)


1935: WPA begins operations in July  



1937: As positive economic signs develop, work programs are cut back.  The cutbacks are premature and in 1937-38 the economy enters into what becomes known as the “Roosevelt Recession.”  In 1939, enrollment in work programs is increased and the economy begins to recover again.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, http://www.bea.gov





1930:    12.0%

1931:    –16.1%

1932:    –23.2%

1933:     –3.9%

1934:   +17.0%

1935:   +11.1%

1936:   +14.3%

1937:     +9.7%

1938:    – 6.3%

1939:     +7.0%

1940:   +10.0%

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Key happenings:

1929: Stock market crash





1933: New Deal begins; work and building programs begin (CWA, PWA, CCC, TVA)


1935: WPA begins operations in July  



1937: As positive economic signs develop, work programs are cut back.  The cutbacks are premature and in 1938 the economy enters into what becomes known as the “Roosevelt Recession.”  In 1939, enrollment in work programs is increased and the economy begins to recover again.

Data from Dow Jones & Co.,  http://djaverages.com



1930:  163

1931:    78

1932:    60

1933:    99

1934:  104

1935:  143

1936:  181

1937:  122

1938:  154

1939:  150

1940:  131

Post-war economy

After World War II America experienced an economic boom.  Private businesses made use of (among other things) WPA built roads, bridges, and airports to expand operations and move goods & services.  WPA-educated citizens helped provide a productive workforce for America.  WPA-built schools helped educate successive generations of Americans.  WPA-created parks, stadiums, and athletic fields provided a steady flow of customers to nearby businesses.  Like the pre-war economy there were numerous factors affecting the economy, but certainly the work of the WPA played a substantial role in America’s post-war prosperity.      


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