By Jeanne Mirer and Marjorie Cohn, November 7, 2010, Huffington Post
On May 6, 1935, with the country in the midst of the Great Depression, and with indirect efforts to create jobs having not moved the needle of unemployment rates, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7034 and appropriated $4.8 billion for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA put millions of Americans to work constructing buildings, painting murals to decorate them, and performing plays for audiences that had never before seen a dramatic production. In the process, many were saved from poverty and starvation and the economy began to revive..
Although Congress, as part of the New Deal, had appropriated money specifically for relief, FDR decided to use the money for a direct jobs program by issuing a Presidential executive order. This Executive Order described the agencies to be involved in the program, its structure and procedure for application and allocation of jobs.
The WPA was quickly implemented. By March 1936, 3.4 million people were employed and an average of 2.3 million people worked monthly until the program ended in June 1943. During its existence the WPA employed more than 8,500,000 different persons on 1,410,000 individual projects, and spent about $11 billion. The average yearly salary was $1,100, a living wage at the time. During its 8-year history, the WPA built 651,087 miles of highways, roads, and streets. It constructed, repaired, or improved 124,031 bridges, 125,110 public buildings, 8,192 parks, and 853 airport landing fields.