An inexpensive solution to getting more Americans back to work
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Although the latest U.S. jobs report showed an increase in employment, more than 7.5 million Americans remain out of work and still more are struggling to make ends meet. Policymakers need to know about effective strategies for helping these people.

The federally funded Adult and Dislocated Workers Program aim to assist job seekers by providing a range of employment-focused services to about 6.5 million Americans each year. An ongoing evaluation of these programs sheds light on what is working to help Americans get back to work and provide key insights for policymakers. An interim report released last November provides early findings from the first five quarters (15 months, after enrollment in the study.

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These new research findings highlight that assistance provided by employment counselors at American job centers is effective at not only helping workers find jobs but also boosting their earnings. Employment counselors under the Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs provide assessments, workshops, help looking for a job, and one-on-one assistance with career and service planning.

 

These services improved employment rates in the fifth quarter after study enrollment by about 8 percentage points and increased the chances of working in a job that offered health insurance, a pension, and other fringe benefits. Moreover, the services increased quarterly earnings by about $600, or 17 percent, in the fifth quarter after study enrollment. These services are inexpensive, so the benefits of providing the services likely outweigh their costs.

The report additionally examined the impacts of training funded by the programs, finding no effects on earnings or employment at the end of the 15 months compared to other WIA services and services available elsewhere in the community. At this early point in the study, this was expected. At the time data were collected, more than one-third of workers who enrolled in training were still enrolled and many others had only recently completed a training program. Fifteen months is probably too early to conclude that training is effective. A follow-up report will examine the longer-run impacts and cost-effectiveness of program services, including services provided by employment counselors and training.

This report is part of the Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs Gold Standard Evaluation, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, an independent research organization, in partnership with Social Policy Research Associates, the MDRC, and the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce. This nationally representative, rigorous evaluation assesses the implementation, impacts, and costs of the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs. The evaluation randomly assigned customers at American job centers throughout the U.S. to groups eligible to receive different sets of services.

All customers could receive a core set of informational services, but a second group could also meet with an employment counselor, and a third group could both meet with an employment counselor and participate in training. Conducting the study at randomly selected sites across the country means that the evaluation produces results representative of the effects of the programs nationwide. Random assignment of customers — the “gold standard” for an impact evaluation — means the results are highly credible.

As policymakers consider strategies for helping Americans find jobs, this emerging body of research can help them determine what works.

Dana Rotz is a senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research. She is an author of the report Providing Public Workforce Services to Job Seekers.


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