Celebrating 80 Years of Re-Employment Services

When Amy Gilthorpe lost her job during the housing market crash several years ago, she knew where to turn to for help: her local American Job Center in Dover, N.J. The center helped sharpen her skills to find a new job. Gilthorpe took courses on interviewing skills, resume writing and how to network. Career counselors at the center helped her polish her “30-second elevator speech” and focus her search on jobs that most closely matched her skill set.

Those efforts landed Gilthorpe a job in two months. She now works for a large real estate company, helping people who are being relocated by their employers. Her story is one that millions of Americans can identify with, thanks to the Wagner-Peyser Act.

Signing of Wagner-Peyser Act

Rep. Theodore Peyser, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins and Sen. Robert Wagner look on as President Roosevelt signs the Wagner-Peyser Act into law June 6, 1933.

The Wagner-Peyser Act came out of another period of high unemployment – the Great Depression. In the early 1930s, the need to develop a system in which unemployed workers could find and connect with employers looking to hire became increasingly important. With the support of Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the act into law on June 6, 1933, establishing a nationwide system of public employment offices known as the Employment Service.

For the past years 80 years, the act has funded employment services that have helped millions of job seekers, Unemployment Insurance recipients, veterans, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, and people with disabilities find work – and businesses find a qualified workforce – throughout the country.

Today, as the nation recovers from the Great Recession, the act continues to serves a vital tool to help the unemployed get back into the workforce. Nearly 20 million Americans every year are provided with universal access to jobs through the resources of the American Job Center network, including state and national job banks, job search assistance, staff-assisted career services, labor market information, and referrals to employment and training.

While we still have much work to do on the road to recovery, that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Gerri Fiala is the acting assistant secretary of labor for employment and training.


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  1. Joyce Cummings says:

    Very interesting article and always fun to see FDR, and Francis Perkins et al. I did check out American Job Center, which I’d never heard of before! I was curious about its location in a couple of munis I’m familiar with. Then I was very surprised to discover I’d landed on my state’s Job Service website. So: what is the relationship between the federal center and the states’ set-ups. It was very interesting, by the way, to see the services which are and are not provided at the state office website I looked at. A lot more “no’s” than “yes’s”. But I guess my main reaction is: why have I never heard of American Job Center? Anyway, glad I know about it now. Thanks, and “thanks for the memories” of the days of FDR et al.

  2. Bruce Cowan says:

    JUNE 19, 2015 – WHERE IS EMPLOYMENT/Interview for Disability College Graduates?
    I cannot receive a nice career due to barriers, discriminations, and weakness of Special Disability Employment Programs.

    Since 1990 Cal State University, Northridge graduation with B.S. degree in Environmental Science, I have been trying to use Federal and State Special Disability Employment Programs of Schedule A and Calif. LEAP with no success. Federal Schedule A and Calif. LEAP Special Disability Employment Programs noncompetitive do not have to be used for agencies on qualified individuals and hiring authority only use promote the hiring of individuals with disabilities. My complaint is on Federal and State Agencies that perform barriers/discriminations to applicants on Special Disability Employment Programs.

    I have concluded Special Disability Employment Programs must be upgraded to must hire individuals with qualified disabilities.

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