The United States Department of Labor (DOL) is a cabinet-level department of the U.S. federal government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, reemployment services, and some economic statistics; many U.S. states also have such departments. The department is headed by the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
The purpose of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the wellbeing 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.
The U.S. Congress first established a Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1884 with the Bureau of Labor Act, 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. Later, the Bureau of Labor became an independent Department of Labor but lacked executive rank. It became a bureau again within the Department of Commerce and Labor, which was established February 15, 1903. President William Howard Taft signed the March 4, 1913 (the last day of his presidency) bill, 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. Secretary Wilson chaired the first meeting of the International Labour Organization in October 1919, even though the U.S. was not yet a member.
The Federal Employees' Compensation Act, signed Sept. 7, 1916, provided 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 is today known as the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs.
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 in doing so made her 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. Construction on the "New Labor Building" began in the mid‑1960s and finished in 1975. It was named in honor of Perkins in 1980.
President Lyndon Johnson asked Congress to consider the idea of reuniting Commerce and Labor. 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.
During 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. Department officials said the program was modern and fair and that it was part of ongoing contract negotiations with the local. 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. In December 2010, then-Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was named the Chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, of which Labor has been a member since its beginnings in 1987.
On March 4, 2013, the Department began commemorating its centennial.
Tom Perez was appointed as Secretary of Labor on July 23, 2013. According to remarks by Perez at his swearing-in ceremony, "Boiled down to its essence, the Department of Labor is the department of opportunity."
In the latest Center for Effective Government analysis of 15 federal agencies which receive the most Freedom of Information Act (United States) (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.