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Down and Out (Again): America's Long Struggle with Mass Unemployment

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Hundreds of people who lost jobs when freezing weather hit California in January 2007 line up to register for the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
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FEMA photo by Michael Raphael

1857, the 1870s, the 1890s, 1907, 1914, 1919, 1921: The United States faced widespread joblessness in all of these years, well before the Great Depression, not to mention today's Great Recession. As legislators in Washington prepare to debate another round of stimulus spending, and as unemployment reaches record highs, historian Daniel Amsterdam looks back at how the United States has tackled major spikes in unemployment throughout its history and how American efforts have compared with those of other countries.

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