One, when Henry Robinson proposed an "Office of Addresses and Encounters" that would link employers to workers. The British Parliament rejected the proposal, but he himself opened such a business, which was short-lived.
The idea to create public employment agencies as a way to fight unemployment was eventually adopted in every developed country by the beginning of the twentieth century.
In the United Kingdom, the first labor exchange was established by social reformer and employment campaigner Alsager Hay Hill in London. This was later augmented by officially sanctioned exchanges created by the Labour Bureau (London), which subsequently went nationwide, a movement prompted by the Liberal government through the Labour Exchanges. The present public provider of job search help is called Jobcentre Plus.
In the United States, a federal programme of employment services was rolled out in the New Deal. The initial legislation was called the Wagner-Peyser and more recently job services happen through one-stop centers established by the Workforce Investment.
In Australia, the first public employment service was set up, called the Commonwealth Employment Service.
The first known private employment agency, Gabbitas & Thring, was founded by John Gabbitas who recruited schoolmasters for public schools in England. In the United States, the first private employment agency was opened by Fred Winslow who started an Engineering Agency. It later became part of General Employment Enterprises who also owned Businessmen's Clearing House. Another of the oldest agencies was developed by Katharine Felton as a response to the problems brought on by the San Francisco earthquake and fire.
Many temporary agencies specialize in a particular profession or field of business, such as accounting, health care, technical, or secretarial.
Status from the International Labour Organization
The International Labour Organization's first ever Recommendation was targeted at fee-charging agencies. The Unemployment Recommendation, Art. called for each member to,
"take measures to prohibit the establishment of employment agencies which charge fees or which carry on their business for profit. Where such agencies already exist, it is further recommended that they are permitted to operate only under government licenses and that all practicable measures be taken to abolish such agencies as soon as possible."
The Unemployment Convention, Art. instead required the alternative of, a system of free public employment agencies under the control of a central authority. Committees, which shall include representatives of employers and workers, shall be appointed to advise on matters concerning the carrying on of these agencies."
In the Fee-Charging Employment Agencies Convention formally called for abolition. The exception was if the agencies were licensed and a fee scale was agreed in advance. In a new revised Convention was produced. This kept the same scheme but secured an ‘opt out’ for members that did not wish to sign up. Agencies were an increasingly entrenched part of the labor market. The United States did not sign up to the Conventions. The latest Convention, the Private Employment Agencies Convention, takes a much softer stance and calls merely for regulation.
In most countries, agencies are regulated, for instance in the UK under the Employment Agencies Act, or in Germany under the Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz Employee Hiring Law of.