' the job.
Kansas City. 2d Annual Report of Board of Public Welfare, 1911,
The Massachusetts Commission of 1911 found that of 270 persons who had
actually been hired in a month through the Boston Public Employment
Agency 34.1 per cent secured temporary work, of 152 hired through the
REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT 133
Springfield agency 50.0 per cent secured temporary work, and of 48 hired
through the Fall River agency 45.8 per cent secured temporary work.
Massachusetts, Report of Commission to Investigate Employ-
ment Offices, 1911, pp. 73-75. No definition of "temporary" is given in
The Citizens' Free Employment Bureau, opened in Milwaukee for three
months in the winter of 1911, though not in the control of a public body,
was doing work very similar to that done by the public agencies, and there-
fore furnishes some evidence which is applicable; of 1,443 positions re-
ported filled by this agency, 65.6 per cent were reported as temporary.
Citizens' Free Employment Bureau, Bulletin of the Milwaukee
Bureau of Economy and Efficiency, 1911, No. 6, p. 8. No definition
of "temporary" is given in this report.
A few agencies report the number of different persons assisted in securing
positions, as well as the number of positions filled.
Massachusetts, 5th Annual Report of Free Employment Offices,
1911, p. 14; Citizens' Free Employment Bureau, Milwaukee, loc. cit.,
But this method, also, fails to indicate accurately the permanency of the
position secured, since the agency does not have a record of all the positions
secured by their individual applicants, and since the worker might leave a
position in a very short time for no reason inherent in the nature of the
position. The superintendent of the Minneapolis agency has stated that
many of the male applicants refuse to take any work other than the tem-
porary and casual jobs
Sargent, loc. cit, p. 93.
and the Massachusetts Commission of 1911 found that of 128 persons hired
through the Boston agency for permanent positions, 56.3 per cent worked for
one week or less, of 51 hired through the Springfield agency for permanent
positions 35.3 per cent worked for one week or less, and of 15 hired through
the Fall River agency for permanent positions 26.7 per cent worked for one
week or less.
Massachusetts, Report of Commission to Investigate Employment
Offices, 1911, p. 75.
Some public agencies have given estimates of the proportion of positions
secured which were temporary; for instance, it is estimated that 90 per cent
of the positions secured in the female department of the Minneapolis agency
are one-day positions.
Sargent, loc. cit., p. 93.
Similar estimates have been made by several other superintendents,
Conner, loc. cit., pp. 8, 9, 61, 69, 80; Sargent, loc. cit., pp. 50, 81-82.
but such estimates do not admit of any more accurate conclusion than that
in most of the offices there is a very large proportion of short-time and
temporary positions, of a casual nature.
Consequently, there is no means of determining accurately how large
a proportion of the positions secured through the public agencies are per-
manent. The reports, therefore, are completely valueless in giving an ac-
curate idea of the efficiency of the agencies. It is impossible to determine
whether the public agencies have been merely a means of promoting the
casualization of labor, or whether they have had some other more desirable
result. It is certain, however, that they have added principally to the agencies
which secure casual occupation for workers, and that the engagements made
through the assistance of these agencies are of temporary duration. Con-
sequently, it is not adequate to represent the efficiency of an agency in terms
of the absolute number of positions secured.
The absolute number of positions filled is an inadequate measure of
efficiency, also, because it fails to take into consideration the possible work
that might be done by such agencies, the number of positions open to be
134 REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT
filled. Some attempts have been made to secure a correction for this by
throwing the number of positions filled into relation to the size of the
city in which the agency is located.
Massachusetts, 34th Annual Report of Statistics of Labor, 1903,
p. 169; Kansas City, 2nd Annual Report of Board of Public Welfare,
1911, p. 122.
Though this gives some correction, it is a very rough and not entirely
adequate method. In the first place, it fails to take into consideration the
number of positions secured through the agency in districts* not within, the
city. Since the agencies differ in regard to the extent of such work, and
since there is no accurate indication of the extent of such work in the re-
ports of the agencies, it is" both impossible to compare the agencies with
each other, or the same agency at different times, and thus impossible to
correct for this error. Again, some cities which are in a process of develop-
ing new industries, even though smaller than other more static cities with
which they might be compared, are engaging more employes, and therefore
present a greater opportunity to the employment agency for placing appli-
cants for employment. Also, in other ways the size of a city is not an ac-
curate indication of the possible work that an agency might do; for in-
stance, the state employment agency in Kansas City, Missouri, furnished
1,210 harvest hands for Kansas farmers in 1910 on requests for that number,
but in 1911 they had no demands for harvest hands and could fill no posi-
tions of that kind.
Missouri, 33rd Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1911,
Such variations in the possibilities of an agency cannot be accurately repre-
sented in terms of the size of a city.
Evidently, therefore, the efficiency of a public employment agency in
dealing with unemployment should be measured in terms of the total amount
of unemployment within its area of operations. As shown above, the re-
ported number of applications for employment is not an indication of the
extent of unemployment. But, on the other hand, if there is no demand
for labor, an agency cannot be held inefficient if it fails to secure positions
for the applicants for employment; the efficiency must be determined, there-
fore, not only in terms of the amount of unemployment, but in terms, also,
of the demand for the workers who are unemployed. While the reported
number of applications for help is less inaccurate than the other figures
presented by the public agencies, it is evidently not an adequate representa-
tion of the entire demand of a community for labor, since the agency receives
only a small part of the employers' applications for labor. Consequently, it
may be concluded that the reports which are ordinarily presented to show
the efficiency of the public agencies are quite meaningltss in giving any in-
dication of the extent to which they have solved the problem of unemploy-
Much more concrete evidence of the efficiency of such public agencies is
furnished by the fact that agencies have been opened under the control of
a committee of citizens in Milwaukee and of the Board of Public Welfare in
Kansas City, and have done much the same kind of work that was done by
the state agencies located in those cities. The Citizens' Employment Bureau
secured positions for 1,443 persons during the three months in the winter
of 1911, while during the same time the state agency in Milwaukee regis-
tered and reported as "placed" about 800 persons.
Wisconsin, Bulletin of Industrial Commission, 1:218, Aug. 20, '12.
The employment agency which was maintained by the Kansas City Board
of Public Welfare secured positions for 13,835 persons during the eight months
ended May 31, 1911, while the state agency in Kansas City secured only 1,520
positions during the year ended September 30, 1911.
Missouri, 33rd Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1911,
p. 234; Kansas City, 2nd Annual Report of Board of Public Welfare,
1911, p. 147.
REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT 135
The comparative success of agencies in the same community operating at
the same time is evidence of the failure of the state agencies in the attempt
at organization of the labor market.
It is necessary, also, to attempt to determine the extent to which the
public employment agencies have been limited to various classes of appli-
cants, and thus have merely increased the series of distinct centers in the
There is little definite formal evidence in regard to the ideal field of
operations of the present public employment agencies. The laws of a few
states explain that the term "applicant for employment" is not confined to
manual labor, but that it includes all kinds of labor.
See statutes of Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island,
and the law in force in Wisconsin until 1911.
Moreover, the agencies generally advertise that they furnish both skilled
and unskilled help, and resent the accusation that they confine their efforts
to the unskilled
Illinois, 8th Annual Report of Free Employment Offices, 1906, p. 3.
' and frequently refer to the increase in the number of applications made by
Illinois, Annual Reports of Free Employment Offices, 4th, 1902, p.
55; 8th, 1906, p. 74; 10th, 1908, p. 2.
But in actual practice the assumption of those in charge of many of the
agencies is that such agencies are maintained primarily for the unskilled
and this has in some cases been frankly stated. The Secretary of the Bureau
of Labor Statistics of Illinois stated that "the primary purpose in establishing
these offices was to aid the common or unskilled laborer in getting work
without cost to him or her,"
Illinois, 7th Annual Report of Free Employment Offices, 1905,
and maintained that the special investigations required in assisting skilled
workers to secure positions would diminish the usefulness of the offices and
frustrate their purpose.
In addition, the methods of operation show a strong tendency to special-
ize on the unskilled workers. Some superintendents attempt to use discrimi-
nation in selecting persons who are fitted for positions,
Conner, loc. cit., p. 37; Sargent, loc. cit., p. 97; Massachusetts, 38th
Annual Report of Statistics of Labor, 1907, pp. 451-52; Michigan, 1st
Annual Report of Department of Labor, 1910, p. 421; Ohio, 22nd An-
nual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1898, p. 275; Oklahoma, 2nd
Annual Report of Department of Labor, 1908-09, p. 314; Washington,
2nd Biennial Report of Labor Commissioner, 1899-1900. p. 21.
but there are various other principles of selection which would be conceivable
only with unskilled workers; the following are some of the principles on the
basis of which applicants are selected for available positions; the number
of persons dependent on the applicant,
Sargent, loc. cit., pp. 40, 119.
age of applicant, degree of need of work,
Sargent, loc. cit., p. 97.
priority of registration,
Sargent, loc. cit., p. 40; Kansas, 1st Annual Report of Director of
Free Employment Bureau, 1901, p. 18; Massachusetts, 38th Annual
Report of Statistics of Labor, 1907, p. 451.
priority of application after a position is announced,
Conner, loc. cit., p. 78.
length of waiting period in the office,
Sargent, loc. cit., p. 97.
136 REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT
ability to go to the position immediately,
Conner, loc. cit., pp. 66-67.
residence in the state;
Statutes of public agencies in Massachusetts and Rhode Island,
in some cases the person who has a telephone is selected because he can
be notified most easily;
Sargent, loc. cit., p. 40.
and some agencies send several applicants to an employer and permit him
to make the selection.
Massachusetts, Report of Commission to Investigate Employment
Offices, 1911, p. 78.
An attempt is being made in Wisconsin to register those who do casual
work and to send only such registered casual workers to those positions,
so that, even though they are engaged in casual occupations, they may be
regularly employed; this is the only recorded case of an attempt in the
United States to decasualize the labor market.
Letter written by W. M. Leiserson to the Chicago Commission on
Unemployment in 1912.
Some agencies attempt to determine the efficiency and character of those
who come repeatedly to the office, or even to grade them on the basis of
efficiency in the performance of work secured previously through the public
Connecticut, 17th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1901,
p. 209; Illinois, 9th Annual Report of Free Employment Offices, 1907,
p. 70; Michigan, 1st Annual Report of Department of Labor, 1910, p.
421 ; New York, 7th Annual Report of Free Employment Bureau, 1902, p. 4.
Some of the agencies require references and testimonials from all appli-
cants, even the unskilled; others require no testimonials, even from those
who claim very technical skill; and the ordinary practice seems to be either
to require no references, or else not to investigate references that are re-
quired. The Commissioner of the Massachusetts Bureau has defended this
practice on the ground that references and testimonials are of slight intrinsic
value, that, if thorough, the investigation would be very expensive, and that
the state is not in a position to guarantee employes, even after a most thor-
Massachusetts, 38th Annual Report of Statistics of Labor, 1907, pp.
Still another element in the technique of the public agencies may be
presented as an indication of specialization on the unskilled workers; in
none of the public agencies, with the exception of Boston, is there any
separation of the unskilled from the skilled workers; even in the Boston
office all applicants enter by the same door and stairs; there is only a parti-
tion reaching part way up the room between the skilled and unskilled fe-
males, while the unskilled males are separated from the other male appli-
cants only by a railing, and the boys under eighteen years of age are in the
same office with the skilled, differentiated from them only by reason of
applications at different desks.
Sargent, loc. cit., p. 62.
It seems evident that the skilled workers would not be inclined to pat-
ronize offices in which there is no differentiation of the skilled and unskilled,
and that an agency which is attempting to secure the patronage of skilled
workers would not in this way make patronage difficult.
There is little definite information in regard to the actual success in
securing positions for the skilled as compared with the unskilled, or the
proportion of skilled to unskilled applicants for employment. Some reports
make no occupational classification of the applicants or the positions secured,
See reports of agencies in Colorado, Ohio, Oregon and West Vir-
REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT 137
and the reports which do contain such classifications offer no definition or
explanation of the basis of classification, and there is no possibility of differ-
entiating the skilled from the unskilled or of securing uniformity of classi-
fication. In so far as judgment may be passed on the basis of such inad-
equate classifications, it is clear that a very large proportion of the applica-
tions and of the positions secured are in the inferior labor market common
labor for males and domestic service for females. In addition, some of the
superintendents have made estimates of the proportion of the applicants
who are skilled, these estimates varying from 3 per cent to 25 per cent.
See, for example, Conner, loc. cit., pp. 79, 80.
Some of the agencies are of service almost exclusively to unskilled
males, others to domestic servants, such, for example, as the Newark Muni-
cipal Agency and the agency which was maintained by the State of New
York from 1896 to 1906. A special committee appointed in 1905 to investi-
gate the work of the New York agency reported that it was practically an
intelligence office for domestic servants.
New York, 5th General Report of Department of Labor, 1905,
Other agencies are maintained almost exclusively for agricultural labor-
ers; this is the obvious purpose of the agencies maintained in Wisconsin and
New York by the state departments of agriculture. And the Director of
the Kansas Free Employment Bureau stated that "the great and all-important
duty of the Bureau is to furnish hands to gather our immense crops."
Kansas, 12th Annual Report, 1912, p. 5.
The agencies operated by the Bureau of Immigration limit their activities
definitely to farm labor, common labor, domestic labor and settlers, and,
also, largely to immigrants.
United States, Annual Report of Commissioner of Immigration, 1909,
These facts would indicate that the public employment agencies have
limited their activities in actual practice to a comparatively small part of
the labor market, being confined in most cases to the inferior labor market,
frequently confined, also, to one sex in the inferior labor market.
There has been a slight degree of co-operation, however, between the
public agencies and some of the other kinds of agencies. This co-operation
is most apparent in the relationship between philanthropic agencies and
the public agencies. It is reported that there is active co-operation between
agencies of these types in Minneapolis,
Sargent, loc. cit., p. 98.
but in Chicago and Boston the co-operation has seemed to* be unsuccessful.
Kellor, loc. cit., pp. 246-50; Massachusetts, Report of Commission
to Investigate Employment Offices, 1911, p. 76.
The agency maintained in New York City by the Bureau of Immigration co-
operates with the charitable societies and the immigration associations, as
well as with the agency of the State Department of Agriculture.
United States, Annual Report of Commissioner of Immigration,
1910, p. 239.
Again, some of the employers' associations maintain agencies through which
they secure the skilled help, and patronize the public agencies for their un-
Sargent, loc. .cit., pp. 44, 46.
The public agencies in Chicago have in some cases sent skilled men
whom they were unable to assist to private employment agencies which
were judged to be honest and efficient, and which had more knowledge of
This has given rise to suspicions, as expressed by the representative
of one of the trade unions of Chicago, that the public agencies not only
138 REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT
specialize in casual employments, but that when they secure applications
from skilled workers they send them to private agencies which then
divide the fees with the superintendents of the public agencies. This is,
at least, indicative of a popular attitude, though there may be no truth
in the accusation.
Thus, though there are few cases of co-operation between the public
agencies and the other types of agencies, this is not the kind of co-operation
necessary for the organization of the labor market in accordance with the
ideal of the students of unemployment. The public agencies have not become
central, in the sense that all demands and supplies are represented in them,
and that they are places into which all surplus demands and supplies can
be poured. So far as a local community is concerned, the public agencies
have, therefore, merely added to the series of distinct and non-co-operating
centers. They have not secured an organization which includes all occupa-
tions and the characteristic specialization on unskilled workers means that
they have merely duplicated the work of the private and other types of
These public agencies have, also, been as inadequate in the organization
of the larger labor market, extending over an area including several cities
or states, as have the non-public employment agencies. In fact, they show
very much less efficiency in this respect than is displayed by some types
of the non-public agencies, such, for instance, as the trade union or em-
ployers' association agencies. In Massachusetts, by the statute of 1906, and
in Rhode Island and Montana, applications for employment could be made
only by citizens of the state. In 1908, however, the Massachusetts statute
was changed so that the preference was given to citizens, but others were
not absolutely debarred. In Seattle, also, from 1893 to 1895, preference was
given, according to the city charter, to citizens in the selection of applicants
for available positions. The governmental bodies which have established
public employment agencies have been interested primarily in their own
labor markets. Consequently, there has been a minimum of inter-communal
and interstate placements. Evidently, if there is a surplus of labor in a
community or a state, efforts would be made to secure employment for
them elsewhere in order to solve the local problem of unemployment; and
if there were an unsatisfied demand for labor in a community or state, efforts
would be made to secure laborers from outside.
On the other hand, there have been many provisions which indicate an
ideal of an area of operations more extensive than a single community or
city. Some states have attempted to secure a state-wide distribution of
labor by the establishment of "mail order" employment agency systems,
in which applications for employment or help are made by mail, and informa-
tion is returned t from the agency by mail. The first law of this type was
advocated in Iowa in 1893, but failed to pass. Montana adopted such a law
and for two years maintained an agency of that kind. In Maryland this
method of distribution was used in the extra-legal agency for a short time
in 1896, and it has been used since the establishment of the state agencies in
Kansas, Nebraska and Maryland, and to a certain extent in Indiana. This
plan of distribution has been based generally on the desire to assist the
farmers in securing help, and has been developed in Kansas more systemat-
ically than in any other state.
The original plan in Kansas was to have a public employment agency
in each city of 2,000 or more, with the control divided between the
municipality and the state. A few agencies were established in the
smaller cities, but they appear from the reports to have been abandoned,
leaving only the one agency in the capitol.
In Kansas information in regard to the probable demand for harvest hands
is secured from voluntary correspondents in each county; such information,
revised from time to time, is prepared by the state office and furnished to
the associated press, the railroads, the philanthropic employment agencies
and the public employment agencies in the neighboring states.
Proceedings of Conference of State Immigration, Land and Labor
Officfels, 1911, p. 14.
REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT 139
Those who desire such employment can secure information through any
of these sources. Such information is secured in Wisconsin on a smaller
scale, but with much better control of the distribution, through local bankers.
Wisconsin, Bulletin of Industrial Commission, 1:220, Aug. 20, '12.
The existence of such a technique shows very plainly that the purpose of
such agencies is to cover an area larger than one city. .
This purpose is apparent, also, in the form of organization of the
agencies operated by the state departments of agriculture in Wisconsin and
New York and by the Division of Information of the Bureau of Immigra-
tion. The work of these agencies is in its essence inter-communal and inter-
state work. The Massachusetts agencies in 1911 were authorized by special
statute to provide for the better distribution of immigrants within the state.
In several states attempts have been made to secure co-operation between
the agencies of the state by means of regular and frequent interchange
of reports and to secure a more extensive knowledge of the labor market
by the publication and distribution of such reports. The laws of Colorado,
Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Rhode Island provide for weekly reports of the
number of applications for employment and help and the number of positions
'secured in each office, thus showing the number of positions still available;
but the laws have not been enforced in several of these states.
New York, Commission on Unemployment. 1911, p. 114; Ohio, 20th
Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1896, p. 399.
In New York the first law of 1896 required weekly reports to be sent to