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March 27, 1937


Mr. Myers


Dean R. B r i m h a l l

Age Groups of t h e Unemployed

As you know, I have bothered you for data on the age groups
of the workers on W.P.A. Below you will find a simple table showing the various percentages of age groups which I have derived from
different sources. You will find a description of the sources on
an attached sheet.
Age group

New Hampshire
by its State
Employment Divs (Stead)



Other agencies
New Hampshire


Under 25Trg


























45 - 64
65 and over





My interest in the matter has been stimulated for three reasons:'>

(1) The general impression has grown up that such
figures for W.P.A. alone represent a fair
picture of unemployment in general.
I know you have warned readers of your studies
against this supposition but the Information
Service has recently made a collection of publicity on age groups of the unemployed and it
is clear from editorials, columns,, and the like
that the public thinks that the older age
groups represent our most difficult problem.


-2(2) You also know of my interest which has arisen
out of the correspondence between this
Administration and the Department of Labor, and
(3) Local and national planning is likely to
be affected by whatever conception is built
up, however valid or invalid it may be.
The State Administrator of New Hampshire, for example, was
so impressed by the data collected by his Director of the Division
of Employment that he had a summary mimeographed and widely distributed. If we compare the age groups that he finds as representative of the unemployed in his state and then compare it with
the age groups after adding tha CCC and NY A people, we find some
dramatic differences.
The New Hampshire officials probably forgot, or if they did
not forget, they disregarded the large number of young people em|k>yed by other government agencies in their own State. While it
is true that not all of the CCC boys and the NYA boys and girls are
from relief families, nevertheless, the government has removed a
large number of young people from the labor market. If these government agencies suddenly ceased functioning, the State of New Hampshire
would learn quickly enough that the unemployment problem in their
state is not one primarily of the old age groups.
I think the Employment Service suffers from the same misconception.
They report, as you will note by the table above, a relatively small
number of workers under 25 years. Therefore, the unemployed who are
on relief, according to their judgment, are of an inferior lot. They
point out that their applicants for work who do not come from relief
rolls have a much larger percentage in the age group under 25. The
only way I can explain their distribution is by assuming that they
do not register workers who have been certified as eligible for relief
who ultimately get on CCC and NYA. Were it not for federal agencies
other than the W.P.A., the labor market would certainly be very different from what it is now and I think all people who are employed on
government projects should be taken into consideration in any discussion
of the problem of the older workers.
If we do not do this we will be following the practice of various
European countries who reduce unemployment statistically by putting men
in the army. The general assumption is that these people will be absorbed
into private industry because of their age and physical condition. This
may be true in the future but it is not true now. Even the United States
Employment Service, as you know, reports that it is this young group below
the age of 25 that is the most difficult to place.



There is one further observation I cannot help making,
though it is not strictly a statistical one, and that is that
innumerable naive people who have recognized the youth problem,
are recommending training for the younger group. There is only
one way by which young people have obtained training in the past
and that is by being on a job. The best evidence that I have been
able to obtain shows that 95% of the skilled vyorkers of the country
learned their skills on the job and are trained by other workers.
If these observations are supported by fact it appears to me
that our problem is not one of the older workers, even of the unskilled older workers, but one of youth.


March 27, 1937


The New Hampshire data were derived from the findings of a
survey conducted by James P. Quinn, Director of Employment. The total
number of cases surveyed as of February 1, 1937 was 9,071 (In addition to those above 4 5 years of age it was found that 870 workers,
or 9«6 of the total, had infirmities which would make them unemployable so far as private industry is concerned)
The U.S.E.S. report was prepared by William H. Stead for the
Secretary of Labor. It is an analysis of the active registrants on
its files as of July 1936 and represents only those with a relief
The 7fPA distribution by Howard Myers was submitted by him in a
memorandum to Dean R. Brimhall dated January 19, 1937. The data were
obtained as of June 1936 but "the figures have been adjusted to indicate a distribution as of present age of the workers."
The distribution supplied by Berman Is for persons employed on
WPA projects, enrolled in the CCC and aided by NYA as of May and June
My estimate is based on the total number employed by all government
agencies under the Works Program, which includes WPA, CCC, NYA and other
government agencies. The ages of the latter were unknown and this
accounts for the large per centum of "unknown" in the break-down. All
totals were as of February 27, 1937, as furnished in the confidential
tabulation sheet, excepting those for NYA, which are as of January 31, 1937.
These figures were furnished by the NYA Statistical Division. I y New
Hampshire estimate was made by adding CCC enrollees from New Hampshire
and those receiving NYA aid to the total given in the WPA State survey.