During 1933 and 1934, FDR took unprecedented action to put Americans to work with new agencies like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Public Works Administration (PWA). Yet unemployment remained high.
FDR's response was to establish a new jobs agency that dwarfed all previous efforts - the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Created by Executive order on May 5, 1935, the WPA was the largest public works initiative in American history. At its height, it employed 3.3 million people. The WPA did not contract with private companies - it hired the unemployed directly. Conservative critics charged the agency wasted money on "make work" projects. But WPA workers built thousands of roads, bridges, tunnels, parks, airports, schools, courthouses, post offices, and other public buildings. Agency artists created nearly 500,000 works of public art and brought theater, literature, oral histories, music, and dance to communities around the nation.