Federal Jobs Programs

December 24, 1982

Report Outline
Unemployment Dilemma
History of Jobs Programs
Current Debate in Congress

Unemployment Dilemma

Growimg Pressure on Congress to Respond

The Debate over whether the federal government should create jobs to ease unemployment during economic downturns dominated the stormy lame-duck session of Congress. Motivated by unemployment statistics that had reached double digits for the first time since the Great Depression, congressional Democrats and many Republicans supported a variety of jobs bills introduced during the four-week special session. They even went so far as to attempt to attach a jobs bill to the continuing resolution needed to keep the government running. President Reagan's threat to veto such a resolution, which would have led to a partial shutdown of the government, caused jobs-bill advocates to back down at least until the 98th Congress convenes in January. But even the president supported passage of a 5-cent increase in the federal gasoline tax, which was touted for its job-creating potential.

In keeping with his conservative philosophy, Reagan has long been opposed to federal job-creation programs. In a Dec. 16 interview with Washington Post reporters Lou Cannon and David Hoffman, Reagan said: “All of our past experience shows that make-work jobs programs in the past, whatever they did in creating eventually some employment, usually it was so late that recovery had already taken place or was well under way…. Also, the taking of those funds from the economy to be used by government in that way resulted in uncounted unemployment in other sectors of the economy…. You simply shifted the jobs from one group to another.”

For the first 22 months of the Reagan administration, Congress generally went along with the president's opposition to “make-work” programs. But Republican losses in the mid-term congressional elections last November, which many political analysts attributed at least in part to opposition to Reagan's economic policies, seemed to light a fire under the legislators.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mar. 06, 2020  Universal Basic Income
Mar. 18, 2016  The Gig Economy
Mar. 06, 2012  Youth Unemployment
Jul. 31, 2009  Straining the Safety Net
Apr. 10, 2009  Business Bankruptcy
Mar. 13, 2009  Vanishing Jobs
Apr. 25, 2003  Unemployment Benefits
Jan. 21, 1994  Worker Retraining
Sep. 09, 1988  Help Wanted: Why Jobs Are Hard to Fill
Mar. 18, 1983  The Youth Unemployment Puzzle
Dec. 24, 1982  Federal Jobs Programs
May 28, 1982  America's Employment Outlook
Jun. 27, 1980  Unemployment Compensation
Oct. 14, 1977  Youth Unemployment
Jul. 11, 1975  Underemployment in America
Dec. 16, 1970  Unemployment in Recessions
Mar. 05, 1965  Unemployment Benefits in Times of Prosperity
Apr. 03, 1964  Overtime Pay Rates and Unemployment
Feb. 01, 1961  Unemployment and New Jobs
Jan. 07, 1959  Lag in Employment
Apr. 16, 1958  Emergency Jobless Aid
May 16, 1956  Lay-Off Pay Plans
Nov. 12, 1953  Jobless Compensation in Boom and Recession
Feb. 25, 1949  Defenses Against Unemployment
Jul. 30, 1945  Full Employment
Nov. 25, 1940  Unemployment Compensation
Jul. 10, 1939  Problem of the Migrant Unemployed
May 19, 1936  Unemployment and Recovery
Sep. 02, 1931  Public Employment Exchanges
Aug. 19, 1929  The Stabilization of Employment
Feb. 21, 1928  The Employment Situation in the United States
Jan. 23, 1926  Unemployment Insurance in the United States
Economic Development
Unemployment and Employment Programs