Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and MuseumVirtual Tour
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America 1932, A Nation in Fear:  Mass Unemployment

Mass Unemployment

When the Depression began in 1929 the unemployment rate was 3.2 percent. By late 1932, it had soared to almost 25 percent. Another 25 percent of workers could only find part-time employment. Those lucky enough to have a job endured wage cuts and lived in fear of a sudden layoff. One statistic helps captures the scale of the devastation - in 1929, the U.S. Steel Corporation had 100,000 full-time employees. By late 1932, it had none.

In an era before unemployment insurance, many jobless people became destitute. Shack cities - nicknamed "Hoovervilles" - sprang up in communities across the nation. Another common sight were "breadlines" - long lines of hungry people waiting outside charity institutions for bread or a bowl of soup.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Home Page   National Archives and Records Administration
Lobby Foundations of a Public Life A New Deal FDR's "Act of Faith" The Promise of Change America, 1932: A Nation in Fear Temporary Exhibit Gallery War!  Lower level FDR's Death and Legacy First Lady Behind the scenes Legacy