United States Department of Labor

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) is one of the executive departments of the U.S. federal government. It is responsible for the administration of federal laws governing occupational safety and health, wage and hour standards, unemployment benefits, reemployment services, and occasionally, economic statistics. It is headed by the Secretary of Labor, who reports directly to the President of the United States and is a member of the president's Cabinet.

United States Department of Labor
Seal of the U.S. Department of Labor
Flag of the U.S. Department of Labor

The Frances Perkins Building, which serves as the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Labor
Agency overview
FormedMarch 4, 1913 (1913-03-04)[1]
HeadquartersFrances Perkins Building
200 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., U.S.
38°53′33.13″N 77°0′51.94″W
Employees16,855 (2022)
Annual budget$14.2 billion (FY 2022)[2]
Agency executives

The purpose of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the well being of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights. In carrying out this mission, the Department of Labor administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws and thousands of federal regulations. These mandates and the regulations that implement them cover many workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers. Marty Walsh is the current secretary, having been confirmed by the United States Senate on March 22, 2021.

The department's headquarters is housed in the Frances Perkins Building, named in honor of Frances Perkins, the Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945.


The former flag of the U.S. Department of Labor, used from 1914 to 1960

In 1884, the U.S. Congress first established a Bureau of Labor Statistics with the Bureau of Labor Act,[3] to collect information about labor and employment. This bureau was under the Department of the Interior. The Bureau started collecting economic data in 1884, and published their first report in 1886.[4] Later, in 1888, the Bureau of Labor became an independent Department of Labor, but lacked executive rank.

In February 1903, it became a bureau again when the Department of Commerce and Labor was established. United States President William Howard Taft signed the March 4, 1913, bill (the last day of his presidency), establishing the Department of Labor as a Cabinet-level department. William B. Wilson was appointed as the first Secretary of Labor on March 5, 1913, by President Wilson.[5] In October 1919, Secretary Wilson chaired the first meeting of the International Labour Organization even though the U.S. was not yet a member.[6]

In September 1916, the Federal Employees' Compensation Act introduced benefits to workers who are injured or contract illnesses in the workplace. The act established an agency responsible for federal workers’ compensation, which was transferred to the Labor Department in the 1940s and has become known as the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs.[7]

Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet member, was appointed to be Secretary of Labor by President Roosevelt on March 4, 1933. Perkins served for 12 years, and became the longest-serving Secretary of Labor.

During the John F. Kennedy Administration, planning was undertaken to consolidate most of the department's offices, then scattered around more than 20 locations. In the mid‑1960s, construction on the "New Labor Building" began and construction was finished in 1975. In 1980, it was named in honor of Frances Perkins.

President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Congress to consider the idea of reuniting Commerce and Labor.[8]

He argued that the two departments had similar goals and that they would have more efficient channels of communication in a single department. However, Congress never acted on it.

In the 1970s, following the civil rights movement, the Labor Department under Secretary George P. Shultz made a concerted effort to promote racial diversity in unions.[9]

In 1978, the Department of Labor created the Philip Arnow Award, intended to recognize outstanding career employees such as the eponymous Philip Arnow.[10] In the same year, Carin Clauss became the department's first female solicitor of the department.[11]

In 2010, a local of the American Federation of Government Employees stated their unhappiness that a longstanding flextime program reduced under the George W. Bush administration had not been restored under the Obama administration.[12] Department officials said the program was modern and fair and that it was part of ongoing contract negotiations with the local.[12]

In August 2010, the Partnership for Public Service ranked the Department of Labor 23rd out of 31 large agencies in its annual "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government" list.[13]

In December 2010, then–Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was named the chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness,[14] of which Labor has been a member since its beginnings in 1987.

In July 2011, Ray Jefferson, Assistant Secretary for VETS resigned due to his involvement in a contracting scandal.[15][16][17]

In March 2013, the department began commemorating its centennial.[18]

In July 2013, Tom Perez was confirmed as Secretary of Labor. According to remarks by Perez at his swearing-in ceremony, "Boiled down to its essence, the Department of Labor is the department of opportunity."[19]

In April 2017, Alexander Acosta was confirmed as the new Secretary of Labor. In July 2019, Acosta resigned due to a scandal involving his role in the plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein.[20] He was succeeded on September 30, 2019, by Eugene Scalia. Scalia served until the beginning of the Biden administration on January 20, 2021. The present Secretary is Marty Walsh.[21]

Freedom of Information Act processing performance

In the latest Center for Effective Government analysis of 15 federal agencies which receive the most Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, published in 2015 (using 2012 and 2013 data, the most recent years available), the Labor Department earned a D by scoring 63 out of a possible 100 points, i.e., did not earn a satisfactory overall grade.[22]

Agencies, boards, offices, programs, library and corporation of the department


See also

Notes and references

  1. "Chapter 1: Start-up of the Department and World War I, 1913-1921". History of the Department of Labor. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  2. "FY 2022 Department of Labor Budget in Brief" (PDF). U.S. Department of Labor. U.S. federal government. 2022. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-10-22.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  4. Bls.gov
  5. William Bauchop Wilson
  6. "Iga.ucdavis.edu" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  7. Bls.gov
  8. Lowi, Theodore J. (July 1967). "Why Merge Commerce and Labor?". Challenge. 15 (6): 12–15. doi:10.1080/05775132.1967.11469948. ISSN 0577-5132.
  9. Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 243. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.
  10. "PER 00-00-001 - ADM 2.1 - Employee Recognition Program | Occupational Safety and Health Administration". www.osha.gov. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  11. HISTORY, WISCONSIN WOMEN MAKING. "Carin Clauss (1939-present)". madison.com. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  12. Kamen, Al (2010-04-23). "AFGE pushes for flextime at Labor Department". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
  13. "Best Places to Work > Overall Index Scores". Partnership for Public Service. 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
  14. About USICH | United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). Usich.gov (1987-07-22). Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  15. All.gov
  16. "Raymond Jefferson leaves Labor Department after ethics finding". The Washington Post. 2012-07-25. Retrieved 2014-02-07.
  17. "McCaskill criticizes Labor Department contracting 'boondoggle' : News". Stltoday.com. 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2014-02-07.
  18. United States Department of Labor. Dol.gov. Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  19. "Remarks By Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, Swearing-In Ceremony". United States Department of Labor. 2013. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  20. Wu, Nicholas; Jackson, David (July 12, 2019). "Trump's Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigns amid Epstein plea fallout". USA Today. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  21. Puzzanghera, Jim (March 22, 2021). "Senate Confirms Walsh as Labor Secretary". The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 22, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. Making the Grade: Access to Information Scorecard 2015 March 2015, 80 pages, Center for Effective Government, retrieved 21 March 2016


  • Goldberg, Joseph P., and William T. Moye. The first hundred years of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (US Department of Labor, 1985) online
  • Laughlin, Kathleen A. Women's work and public policy: A history of the Women's Bureau, US Department of Labor, 1945-1970 (Northeastern UP, 2000). online
    • Boris, Eileen. "Women's Work and Public Policy: a History of the Women's Bureau, US Department of Labor, 1945-1970." NWSA Journal 14#1 (2002), pp. 201-207 online
  • Lombardi, John (1942). Labor's Voice in the Cabinet: A History of the Department of Labor from Its Origins to 1921. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Ritchie, Melinda N. "Back-channel representation: a study of the strategic communication of senators with the us Department of Labor." Journal of Politics 80.1 (2018): 240-253.
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