U.S. Department of Labor

What It Does for You

••• The DOL protects workers' rights. Photo: Access/Getty Images

The Department of Labor is a complex Federal government agency that protects the rights of  workers and retirees, provides job training, and provides statistics related to working, prices and income.

The DOL has 27 agencies within it. Here are the five most important ones to you:

  • The Employee Benefits Security Administration (ESA) is the largest agency. It enforces and administers child labor laws, workers, compensation and 
  • The enforces the U.S. minimum wage.
  • The (ETA) provides job training programs through state and local agencies. 
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly referred to as OSHA, enforces workplace safety standards.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides statistics on the labor force.
  • The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) pays your pension (if you're lucky enough to have one) if your employer goes bankrupt or can't pay the benefits. (Sorry, this only applies to private companies, not state or local government pensions.)

The DOL was created on March 4, 1913, by President William Howard Taft. Its creation gave workers a seat in the President's Cabinet for the first time.

What It Does

The Department's goal is to provide a productive workforce for the U.S. economy. It creates an attractive work environment by enforcing labor and pension laws. This keeps the U.S. competitive by keeping one of the most important components of supply available and functioning. By protecting the rights of workers, it attempted to replace the role of labor unions.

Labor Statistics - The BLS measures the performance of the labor force by providing important statistics. These include the jobs report,  which includes the current number of unemployed and the unemployment rate as well as wages. It also provides data on prices, a closely-watched measure of inflation.  

Here are the most important current statistics published by the BLS.

How It Affects the Economy

The DOL increases the productivity of businesses by keeping their employees relatively happy and preventing strikes. It thereby increases U.S. competitiveness and the growth of the economy.

Surprisingly, one of the most important things it does is provide the monthly Jobs Report. You wouldn't think boring statistics could be so exciting, but just watch CNBC or other financial news channels on the first Friday of the month. Billions in the stock market are won or lost depending on how many jobs are added. 

How It Affects You

If you're working : It protects your rights as a worker.

If you're looking for a new job -  The American Job Center Network connects you to employers, helps you see what you're good at, and helps veterans find jobs. .

If you're a veteran - The Veterans Employment and Training Service will train you and help you find employers that are looking to hire vets. .

If you think you're being cheated on overtime pay - You should receive time and a half if you work more than 49 hours a week. .

If you want to know whether the job situation is improving - The BLS provides quick links to the following data.