Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Stanley Ruttenberg as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Manpower.

June 17, 1966

Mr. and Mrs. Ruttenberg and Family, Secretary Wirtz, members of the Cabinet, my friends in the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

One of the special joys of the Presidency is the occasional opportunity to improve the future by rewarding past achievements.

This is such an occasion.

Stanley Ruttenberg has been an architect of America's manpower policy. Now, as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Manpower, he will be one of its master builders. And, therefore, he has his work cut out.

We have been thinking small, instead of thinking big, about the use of our human resources. And we think that this has been one of the most serious of our failures at social policy.

Today we hear from many quarters that the advance of our economy ought to be slowed down in part because increasing manpower shortages threaten us with serious inflation.

Businessmen that I talk to frequently tell me that they can't get the workers they need.

Housewives write the President to say that they can't get help in the house or in the yard and that they have given up trying to get things repaired that need to be fixed.

But, last month's report shows that unemployment is up again--it is now 4 percent--and 3 million people are now looking for work and can't find it.

The recent door-to-door survey of three counties in the Mississippi Delta shows an unemployment rate there of over 50 percent.

We are going to line up almost a million extra jobs for young people in America this summer. But there will be another million that will still be unemployed.

More and more of our older Americans are retiring earlier and earlier--many of them want to work. And they are able to work.

Somehow this just doesn't seem to make sense.

I don't believe that there is really a manpower shortage in this country today. There is a very--in my judgment--serious waste of manpower. One of the ways, I think, to stop inflation is to stop the waste of the human potential.

If this is good economic policy, certainly it is even better human policy.

At least three things should be done to try to make this policy work:

First, we need to improve our research to show the reasons why people are out of work, not just how many are unemployed.

Our unemployment reports should show not only unemployment, but underemployment and the extent of involuntary "nonparticipation in the work force."

They have got to be expanded to show where the remaining unemployment is--so that we can move in on it. They may have to be expanded to show who the unemployed are--so that we can get to work on each situation.

So that is why I am asking the very distinguished Secretary of Labor and you to make these necessary changes in our unemployment reports.

I am also asking you to work with other interested agencies to extend immediately the manpower inventory that has already been undertaken in Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, and the Mississippi Delta area.

I should also like to have the fastest possible collection of complete manpower resources information in those 5,000 census tract areas with the greatest unemployment.

I am asking the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Commerce to submit soon a report on manpower in our construction industry.

It is time to do something about the fact that this industry continually reports the most serious manpower shortages--yet it appears that it has the second highest reported annual unemployment rate.

Now, second, we think there should be fuller coordination between public and private manpower programs; between those of Federal, State, and local agencies; and between those being developed within our own Federal Government. I want the steps outlined in the manpower report of March 1966--steps which will achieve this coordination-to be greatly speeded up.

Third, and finally, management and labor must each recognize that the public interest in manpower policy is as important now as price policy and wage policy. I cannot direct this, but I am going to try to encourage it. I am very hopeful that business and labor will respond.

Secretary Ruttenberg, you will have quite a lot to do in this new job. I hope these measures will help you. You assume your duties with an outstanding, distinguished record--a proven record--and your country's confidence that at least your President and the Secretary of Labor believe that you are the best possible man in this country to do this very important job.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:15 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Stanley Ruttenberg, former Special Assistant to the Secretary of Labor for Economic Affairs, his wife, and Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz, who administered the oath of office.

For the President's manpower report to Congress of March 8, 1966, see Item 111.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Stanley Ruttenberg as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Manpower. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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