Unemployment's Massachusetts Roots

New unemployment figures for August reveal that nearly one in 10 U.S. job-seekers can’t find work. On this Labor Day, we trace the history of modern-day unemployment back to its Massachusetts beginnings.

Historian Alex Keyssar says the focus on the unemployed really began not with the Great Depression, but with a different economic crisis. The financial panic of 1873 had led to the widespread belief that a quarter-million people were jobless in Massachusetts. Incredulous of that figure, the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics and Labor went on the hunt for a better — more politically tolerable — figure.


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Host Meghna Chakrabarti introduces us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and brings us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.

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