Herbert Hoover photo

The President's News Conference

October 21, 1930


THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to make a public statement about the unemployment organization because it is entirely in the state of formulation. I can give you some background on it for your own use.

I am asking Colonel Arthur Woods to come to Washington and take charge of the development of an organization to handle the problem. Colonel Woods, as you know, was police commissioner of New York City at one time, and he organized the employment campaign for placing the veterans after the war, and he organized the unemployment work which we carried on in 1922.

We propose to develop an organization for cooperation with industry, and especially cooperation with the local welfare bodies, State authorities, but nothing as to method has as yet been worked out. On Federal public works we have had some limitation in the amount of money that we can expend in any given period under the law, and we shall probably ask Congress to remove those restraints so that we can develop our public works to the fullest extent--those works for which we have engineering and architectural design and other things complete. We are proceeding with those works and have been during the whole of the past year to the full extent of our annual limitations, which will probably increase if those limitations are taken off for purposes of the winter.

We have running parallel with the unemployment problem, the drought problem, which we have to develop coincidentally in cooperation with the other. In the main, the job is to secure the cooperation of the whole community--local, municipal, State, Federal--in working out systematic handling of the whole question.

There is one thing I would like to suggest to you just privately, and that is that all these things can be very much exaggerated. Exaggeration of them does not help the general situation of the country. The actual amount of unemployment, just for your own information, taking the base of the census of April 1 and applying to it the factor of employment as shown by the Department of Labor employment index, probably at the present moment is somewhere about 3 1/2 million. 1 But in handling those numbers there are a great many things to be borne in mind. There are always a million unemployed or thereabouts of general estimates of people shifting from one job to another. The people who had employment in July, about a million of them, or some portion of them, not a million, go out in August and come back in September. So that when you talk about 3 1/2 million unemployment you are not talking about people without some income, interrupted income. And furthermore, the census will show that there are an average of about 1 3/4 breadwinners per family in the United States. So that when you talk about 3 1/2 million, or reduce it to 2 1/2 million of people who are continuously out of employment, you are not talking about 2 1/2 million families; you are talking about a lesser number of families without breadwinners, and you have that in contrast to the entire population of the country with all of its strength.

1 Press accounts indicate that the President said 3 1/2 million, but in the surviving transcript the figure has been marked out and 4 1/2 substituted. Materials in the Presidential papers indicate that two types of computations were being made, and this may account for the confusion. One began with the census figures of April 1930 (listing 2,508,101 as unemployed), accepted a Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that overall employment in all industries had declined 5.6 percent since then, and arrived at a figure slightly in excess of 31/2 million. The other began with the same figures, applied the 10.5 percent decline in the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment index (based on reports from approximately 13,000 manufacturers), and arrived at a figure slightly in excess of 4 1/2 million. Critics at the time were quarreling both with the census count and with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates and data. The figures for 1930 now accepted by Historical Statistics of the United States are 4,340,000 or 8.7 percent of the labor force unemployed.

You also have another statistical factor in the problem and that is that our statistics of unemployment embrace unemployment in all the local communities, where the intimate personal associations are very much more potent than in the larger municipalities, and where the local communities have their own difficulties, so that the actual burden of the problem is nothing like even what the statistical numbers would indicate.

I am not minimizing the problem at all, but just endeavoring to avoid overexaggeration of it in your own mind. We have a substantial problem to undertake. I haven't any doubt about the capacity of the country to handle it. It amounts to a good deal less than half of that being borne by countries abroad, so that we shall get through with it and we shall get through without any actual suffering.

I think that is about all I have. There is one item on the--

Q. You mean without actual individual suffering ?

THE PRESIDENT. That is the object of the organization, to prevent individual suffering, and we ought to be able to accomplish it.

Q. Mr. President, may I ask about Colonel Woods ? He will work under the direction of Secretary Lamont and with the Lamont committee ?

THE PRESIDENT. The Lamont committee will act in an advisory capacity to coordinate Government agencies and Government participation.

Q. Mr. President, do you know when he will be here ?

THE PRESIDENT. I have asked him to come, and I think he will come, and I haven't gone further than that.

Q. Mr. President, has he definitely accepted your invitation ?

THE PRESIDENT. Not yet, but I have no objection to your announcing it because I am confident he will come.


The railways have most of them--not all have been heard from as yet-most of them have agreed to extend the half-rates on feed and livestock from the drought areas until the first of December; not necessarily having an ending of the rates at that time but to allow for an exhaustive inquiry by the railways and the Department of Agriculture in the situation and as to the methods which have been developed in handling it. The railroads feel that they should not be called upon to make substantial contributions to those people who do not need it. The object is to help the needy farmers, and they want to revamp the entire process to bring that aid to people who actually need it.

Note: President Hoover's one hundred and forty-eighth news conference was held in the White House at 12 noon on Tuesday, October 21, 1930.

On October 23, 1930, Colonel Woods issued the following statement about the goals and plans relating to unemployment relief:

Our main idea now is to intensify effort and stimulate renewed activity to get over the winter. I expect to continue the admirable policies and the organization set up a year ago by President Hoover with States and industries. The results accomplished in this way greatly reduced what would otherwise have been overwhelming unemployment during the past year, and they have prevented acute distress up to this time.

The problem embraces two phases: the first, is employment; the second, provision of relief in those cases where employment is not available. The first is obviously very much to be desired, but the last will be necessary also.

There are two directions in which more intensive organization can work. One is geographical, that is, through the Nation, the States, municipalities, and the counties. The other is by industries. I shall aim to cooperate in both ways, with the States, municipalities, and local committees on the one hand, and with leaders of the different industries on the other.

As far as the Federal Government goes, I find that the various agencies are making redoubled efforts at employment through the departments, and this work will be pushed to the utmost. This problem is one that can be answered only if the whole country takes a hand at it. National unity in action and organization is the only force that can bring the answer. With 120 million American people in the United States, with our resources, our ability for organization, and our loyalty, we can take care of the comparatively small fraction that are unemployed and may suffer from want and privation as cold weather comes on. What is needed is recognition of the obligation of every man and woman to his neighbor and to use this in teamwork to carry through the winter.

Herbert Hoover, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/212049

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