Overall WPA Impact

From its launch in 1935 and until it ended in 1943, the WPA—along with all its subordinate programs—employed a total of 8.5 million workers. At its height, 3 million people worked for the massive organization, roughly 20 percent of the American workforce. It built 650,000 miles of highways and roads, 125,000 public buildings, 8,000 parks, and various other projects. WPA jobs intentionally paid less than the prevailing wage, so as to create an incentive for program participants to seek employment in the private economy. The massive scale of the program and its ability to benefit individuals and communities allowed the Roosevelt Administration to please its allies, but also drew criticism. Since WPA projects were administered locally, money flowed through state and municipal offices for management and distribution, but those local connections were to draw obvious accusations of graft and waste from discontented conservatives.