3,000,000 idle in U.S.; situation growing more acute, reports show
Nineteen states along show more than 2,000,000 unemployed, with New York’s total jobless 450,000 – experts predict more wage cuts coming with May Day
Slightly more than 2,000,000 men will be unemployed in nineteen states of the union when May Day is ushered in tomorrow, according to estimates given to the Associated Press by government, state, labor and industrial officials.
A large percentage of those unable to obtain work are in the big industrial sections of the eastern and central states included in the figures for the nineteen states. But reports from the other twenty-nine states, where figures were unobtainable, all show that unemployment exists, and the estimated unemployment of the country, made by experts, including labor leaders. ranges from 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 persons.
Reports of much unemployment come from New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, while virtually every state east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason and Dixon line is seriously affected by the wave that has swept over the country during the past year. The reports indicate that the situation in these more densely populated states is growing more acute daily.
The report of the United States Government Employment Service showed that on January 1 of this year the leading cities of the country, with a population of 32,560,953, had a total of 1,802,755 unemployed, and subsequent bulletins issued by this service indicate that this number has increased.
While the unemployment extends to the west and south, yet in the reports from the former a decided tone of optimism prevails for a resumption of business activity that would speedily do away with the unemployment. In the south the situation does not appear to be of a serious nature and reports state that when the agricultural work is in full swing the surplus of labor will be small.
New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland stand out as the centers of the unemployment wave.
In the country’s largest city, reports from experts indicate that 250,000 men and women are out of work. The remainder of the state, however, has not gone unscathed by any means, for the reports from Albany show 364,000 of the state’s factory workers, including New York City, are unemployed. Other New York State cities report unemployed on about the same scale.
100,000 unemployed in city of Chicago
The United States Employment Service figures for Illinois show a somewhat similar condition. While 86,000 were unemployed in Chicago in January, the rate of increase since would indicate more than 100,000 are out of work today. In the state of Illinois, however, the figures move upward. The government reports a reduction in employed workers during 1920 of 414,087. Chicago firms were included in this survey. An estimate based on 107 concerns shows a decrease in employment of about 3 percent on April 1 as compared with Jan. 1, 1921.
Pennsylvania probably ranks next with 250,000 estimated unemployed by the State Bureau of Employment. Members of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce recently issued a statement contending this figure was too low.
In a number of states the reports gave no estimate of the number of unemployed, but the officials noted unemployment was large. In Massachusetts, for instance, the estimate was lacking, although figures compiled from two trades alone showed 32,000 out of work.
James H. Maurer, President of the Pennsylvania State Federation of Labor, estimates that about 5,000,000 are employed in the United States. Government statistics and individual reports from almost all states, however, do not quite bear out this figure, although they do indicate the total is somewhere between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000.
Condensed reports from the various centers show:
Approximately 364,000 of New York State’s 1,500,000 factory workers will be unemployed May 1. Factory wages average 10 percent lower than in October, 1920, when the high point was reached. Wage reductions are expected all along the line May 1.
May Day finds the employment situation in Pennsylvania improving. Robert J. Peters, Director of the State Employment Bureau, estimated the total number of unemployed in Pennsylvania early in April did not exceed 250,000.
High tide in Philadelphia not yet reached
The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce recently gave out a statement that the high tide of unemployment in Philadelphia had not yet been reached. It also said the number of persons unemployed in Philadelphia was larger than the figures of the State Bureau show.
Industrial employment in West Virginia has fallen off within the last two months so that of 100,000 persons normally employed it is estimated that 50 percent are idle, according to the latest statistics of the State Bureau of Labor. The most important industry in the state, coal mining, was the first to suffer, owing to the “no market” condition. It is estimated that at least 60 percent of the miners have no steady employment.
An canvass made by John S.B. Davie, State Labor Commissioner of New Hampshire, indicates that one-third of the normally employed were idle early in the year, and Mr. Davie finds many of the 844 plants from which returns were received still below normal production but improving slowly. The figures of the canvass showed that of 91,267 usually employed 34,824 were idle, while 18,374 were working part time, a total of 53,198 affected.
Information from the State Department of Labor and Industries in Massachusetts indicates that unemployment is still considerable but has been relieved slightly in recent weeks by pick-ups in the textile, shoe, metal and machinery industries.
Reports received by manufacturing, industrial and commercial agencies in Delaware in April do not give promise of general improvement of conditions this May Day. Estimates of the number of unemployed in the state generally agree upon about 11,500, more than three-fourths of the idle persons being in Wilmington.
In Vermont, about 50 percent of the 5,000 men normally employed in the various branches of the granite industry are working.
On Jan. 1 the Industrial Employment Survey of the government estimated there were 21,300 unemployed in Rhode Island.
Charles Fox of the Indiana Industrial Board, in charge of the Free Employment Service, estimated 250,000 unemployed in Indiana at present.
Labor conditions in Maine improved materially during March, but there remained a large number of unemployed early in April. Official estimates were that at least 50 percent of the building tradesmen and a much larger percentage of the common laborers were idle. The percentage of unemployed shoe workers was placed at 40. In the cotton mills there are normally 12,000 operatives. In April officials estimated 75 percent were employed. Conditions in the woolen industry were near normal. Pulp and paper mills were running about 90 percent, but a strike is threatened tomorrow.
Approximately 100,000 persons out of a normal employment of 662,653 in Michigan will be unemployed May 1, according to an estimate by W D Kirby, chief assistant to the State Labor Commissioner.
Nearly a quarter million out in Ohio
Approximately 210,000 are reported by the government survey to be out of work in Ohio. George F Miles, Director of the United States Labor Service in the state, says resumption of outside construction work and lake traffic will absorb some of the unemployed, but unless industry is speeded up within a few months the situation we become acute.
Approximately 18,000 persons will be idle in Oklahoma on May 1, according to Claude E Connally, State Labor Commissioner.
Mrs M B Bowe of the Federal State Employment Bureau of North Dakota estimates there are probably 1,500 men idle in the state.
The total unemployed in Kentucky is estimated at from 5,000 to 10,000 by Sigmund A Lee, editor of the Labor Journal, a union labor organ published here.
Frank A. Kennedy, Secretary of the Nebraska Department of Labor, characterized as “too high” the statement of State Attorney General Davis that there are 14,000 men out of work in Omaha.
Basing his opinion on reports from 293 concerns on March 31, T.A. Wilson, State Labor Commissioner, said that he estimated about 38 percent of the normal number of workers, not including railroad employees, were idle in Arkansas.
The government report for Missouri on Jan. 1 showed 60,000 unemployed, while B.T. Woods, President of the State Federation of Labor, states 25 to 40 percent of the 160,000 union men in the state, exclusive of railroad men, are out of jobs.
Farm labor requirements in Iowa are 92 percent of normal at the present time, and the supply is 99 percent of normal, according to Frank S. Pinney, United States Agricultural Statistician for Iowa. Fred A. Canfield, President of the Iowa Federation of Labor, declared there are more than 50,000 employees of factories out of work. Of the 25,000 railroad men normally employed 25 percent are out of work now, he said.
Charles McCaffery, Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce of Sioux Falls, estimates not more than 100 men out of employment in South Dakota.
Henry Ohl Jr., General Organizer for the Wisconsin State Federation of Labor, reports approximately 140,000 unemployed in Wisconsin at the present time.
Situation is improving in California
Unemployment in California, which at no time during the winter was acute, is improving, according to John P. McLaughlin, State Labor Commissioner, who puts the unemployed at 30,000.
Labor conditions in Idaho as represented in the three big industries of the state, mining, lumbering and agricultural, are far below normal, according to O.H. Barber, State Commissioner of Immigration, Labor and Statistics. Of the 5,000 men normally employed in the mining industry only 2,000 are employed at the present time. There is practically no employment in the lumbering industry.
While the unemployment situation in Wyoming is worse than it has been at any other time since before the World War, it is now being alleviated to some extent.
In Nevada in the copper industry alone 2,000 men have been discharged since last year. Silver producers say they see some light ahead, but must lower wages. Railroads report reduction of 30 percent of their forces since last October.
Four thousand men are unemployed in Utah, according to reliable estimates.
Conditions in Arizona are so uncertain it is impossible for any man to predict the employment situation, according to John D. Patty, Director of State Labor and Examiner in Charge of the Federal Employment Bureau here. In March, there were 6,000 out of employment.
The unemployment situation in Oregon has been gradually improving since the first of the year, according to C.H. Gram, State Labor Commissioner. There has been a decrease of 5,000 unemployed since the January estimate of 16,000.
Many mines shut down in Montana
Unemployment in Montana, which has been growing in volume since November, is due principally to the curtailment by mining companies, said Charles D. Greenfield, acting State Commissioner of Labor and Industry. Butte mines have reduced their forces from 60 to 70 percent.
Washington shows little improvement, according to W C Carpenter, Federal Employment Agent for the pacific northwest, with headquarters at Spokane, Wash. He estimated 20,000 men in the state are out of work.
Farm labor in Georgia is plentiful and working for less wages than a year ago, according to Hal M. Stanley, Georgia Commissioner of Labor. Statistics Jan. 1 showed an 80 percent reduction in employment from January, 1920.
The general labor situation throughout Louisiana was on a better footing April 1 than for several years, according to Frank E Woods, State Labor Commissioner.
In Mississippi more than 50 percent of the mills are closed down.
For every 100 farmhands needed on Alabama plantations this year there are 118 available, according to an estimate made public by F W Gist, Agricultural Statistician of Alabama. At the mines in the Alabama coal fields there is a large surplus of labor.
Conservative, unofficial estimates of labor authorities place the unemployment at about 30 percent of the skilled and unskilled workers in Baltimore. As Baltimore possesses nearly half the population of the state and about 85 percent of its industries, this estimate is taken to represent the situation state-wide.
Top photo: Herbert Hoover and Secretary of Labor James J Davis, half-length portrait, at a labor conference on unemployment; September 26, 1921
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Publication: The Evening World (New York, N.Y.)
Publication date: April 30, 1921