Browse The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives Home Page

WPA Archives - Vintage Brochure - WPA Employment, Wages and Hours - 1939


  • Who is eligible for WPA employment?
    Any American citizen, or other person owing allegiance to the United States, who is 18 years of age or older, able-bodied, unemployed, and currently certified as in need.
  • What agency certifies that a worker is in need?
    A local public relief agency approved by the WPA, or, in lieu thereof, the local WPA.
  • Must an unemployed worker be a resident of a State or locality to be eligible for WPA employment there?
    State and local practice generally requires legal residence; the WPA itself makes no restrictions.
  • Are farmers eligible for WPA employment?
    Yes; and there are other Federal programs for the special benefit of farmers.
  • How many members of a family are eligible for WPA employment?
    Only one, usually the head of the family. The mother or a grown son or daughter is regarded as the economic head of the family if the father is unable to work.
  • If two families live together, is a member of each family eligible for WPA employment?
    Yes, if both families are in need and otherwise eligible.
  • How are workers assigned to WPA projects?
    The local public relief agency certifies, to the WPA, workers in need and eligible for WPA employment; and from this group of persons the WPA Division of Employment selects, according to their previous experience or training, the workers who can be placed at work on the various local projects. (See next question.)
  • Are workers assigned to WPA projects in any order of preference?
    Congress has directed that eligible war veterans must be given first preference in assignments.
  • Does the WPA ever employ project workers who have not been certified as in need?
    Yes. Noncertified workers with special skill or training necessary to the conduct of a project may be employed if qualified relief workers are not available. Such nonrelief workers are secured through the United States Employment Office in the State. At least 95 percent of all project workers, however, must be certified as in need of relief.
  • How many workers in all has the WPA employed?
    About seven million individuals, at one time or another, since the start of the program in 1935.
  • How many workers are employed at one time by the WPA?
    The number has fluctuated, from as low as 1,450,000 in October 1937 to as high as 3,250,000 in November 1938. There were about 3,000,000 WPA workers in March 1939.
  • What percentage of WPA workers are men? Women?
    Men, 87 percent; women, 13 percent (December 1938).
  • What percentage of WPA workers are doing unskilled work? Other kinds of work?
    In December 1938:
    1. Percent Unskilled 70%
    2. Semiskilled 13%
    3. Skilled 11%
    4. Professional and technical 3%
    5. Unclassified 3%
  • Do WPA workers do the same kind of work they did in private industry?
    This is not always possible. An effort is made, insofar as this is consistent with prompt employment, to provide work at the worker's usual occupation or related work.


  • What is the average WPA wage?
    The average monthly WPA wage is about $52.50. (See next question.)
  • Do all WPA workers receive the same monthly wage?
    No. The monthly earnings vary according to the degree of skill required by the job, and also according to the region and size of community in which the work is done. In large Northern cities the wages run from $55 a month for unskilled work to $94 for professional and technical work, while in Northern rural districts the range is from $40 to $60. In the South the range in large cities is from $40 to $79, in rural districts from $26 to $48.
  • Do WPA workers get the same wages as workers in private industry?
    They are paid at approximately the same rate per hour, but their monthly earnings are below the general level of private industry. (See Questions 26 and 28.)
  • How many hours do WPA workers work?
    They average about 110 hours of work a month. Each employee works a sufficient number of hours each month (at the prevailing hourly rate for the occupation in the locality) to permit him to earn his monthly security wage. WPA workers are not permitted to work more than 8 hours in any day, 40 hours in any week, or 140 hours in any month, except to make up lost time or in emergencies involving the public welfare or the protection of work already done.
  • Can a WPA worker's job classification be changed?
    Yes, if on the basis of experience and ability he is qualified to do work in a different classification, and if such work is available.
  • Are WPA workers eligible for promotion?
    Yes. On the basis of occupational qualifications and ability they can be promoted to foreman, supervisor, or administrative employee, where such positions are available.
  • Do the families of WPA workers (like those on direct relief) receive food and supplies from the Surplus Commodities Corporation, or food canned on WPA canning projects and clothes made by WPA sewing projects?
    All such commodities are distributed through local relief agencies to families on direct relief; and it is the local relief agency, not the WPA, that decides whether these commodities shall be given also to the families of WPA workers.
  • Does the WPA provide for transportation to and from a project?
    WPA workers are expected to provide their own transportation within reasonable limits. How-ever, transportation to a distant project is sometimes furnished by the WPA or by the project sponsor.


Return to Top of Page

WPA / Works Progress Administration
GG Archives

Updates and Social Media

  • Visit our Facebook Page for the Latest News About the Activities of the Archives.

Support This Site Directly - Leave a Tip

Copyright © 2000- Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives. All rights reserved. See Terms of Use.