Maryland has decided the state can no longer afford to investigate reports of child labor law violations.
The Employment Standards Service in the Division of Labor and Industry was abolished in two stages beginning in July, and nearly all of the 28 employees lost their jobs.
A recorded message at the state office refers callers to the federal Wage and Hour Division office.
"It's certainly increased our workload. Our telephone traffic has increased at least 25 percent since mid-October," said Travis Campbell of the U.S. Labor Department's Baltimore office, which enforces federal wage, hour and child labor laws. "We've tried to service the calls the best we can, but we have gained no more employees to handle it."
The federal Wage and Hour division cut its own nationwide staff by about 10 percent over the past year, as a result of budget restrictions.
Mr. Campbell said Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia maintain separate state enforcement programs.
Henry Koellein Jr., state commissioner of labor and industry, said the decision to abolish the agency was "a matter of plain economics."
The unit did not bring in revenues for the state (although it collected more than $1 million a year for workers who were due wages) and the federal laws covered many of the same areas, he said.
Maryland and the federal agency avoided overlap of investigations, Mr. Campbell noted.
Last year, the state agency reported child labor violations involving 172 employers and 488 minors, about the same level of activity as in 1989.
Unlike the federal government, the state cannot fine employers but must take them to court.