Unemployment Insurance:

More Guidance and Evaluation of Worker-Profiling Initiative Could Help Improve State Efforts

GAO-07-680: Published: Jun 14, 2007. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 2007.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Kay E. Brown
(202) 512-7003
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Changes to the U.S. economy have led to longer-term unemployment. Many unemployed workers receive Unemployment Insurance (UI), which provided about $30 billion in benefits in 2006. In 1993, Congress established requirements--now known as the Worker Profiling and Reemployment Services (WPRS) initiative--for state UI agencies to identify claimants who are most likely to exhaust their benefits, and then refer such claimants to reemployment services. To assess the implementation and effect of the initiative, GAO examined (1) how states identify claimants who are most likely to exhaust benefits, (2) to what extent states provide reemployment services as recommended by the Department of Labor (Labor), and (3) what is known about the effectiveness of the initiative in accelerating reemployment. To answer these questions, we used a combination of national data; review of seven states, including visits to local service providers in four states; and existing studies and interviews with Labor and subject matter experts.

Forty-five of the 53 states and territories use statistical models that facilitate the ranking of claimants by their likelihood to exhaust benefits, while 7 states use more limited screening tools that do not facilitate a ranking. Florida delegates the selection of profiling tools to local areas in the state. Factors used to determine the probability of exhaustion include a claimant's education, occupation, and job tenure. Many states have not regularly maintained their models, and as a result, the models in some states may not be accurately identifying claimants who are likely to exhaust benefits. Although Labor data provide a limited picture of states' implementation of the worker-profiling initiative, 6 of the 7 states we studied did not provide the in-depth approach to services as recommended by Labor. Overall, an average of 15 percent of profiled UI claimants were referred to reemployment services, and 11 percent completed these services between 2002 and 2006. Six of the 7 states we contacted referred claimants to services, held them accountable for attending the services, and provided an orientation. However, only 1 of the 7 states provided individualized needs assessments, and developed service plans, as recommended. Little is known about the effectiveness of the worker-profiling initiative as it is currently operating. Although studies using data from the 1990s generally indicated that claimants who were referred to services had reduced reliance on UI, there are no more up-to-date studies. Further, some of the program data collected by Labor are not reliable, and the data are not being used by Labor or states to evaluate the initiative.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To better ensure that claimants who need and could benefit from reemployment services are referred, and to ensure that resources are not unnecessarily expended on claimants not needing them, the Secretary of Labor should encourage states to adhere to Labor's vision for in-depth reemployment services, such as conducting individualized needs assessments and developing individual service plans, or issue updated guidance if this original vision would be too burdensome for the states.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Labor has held conferences, hosted webinars, provided technical assistance, and developed a virtual community of practice in order to encourage states to adhere to Labor's vision for in-depth re-employment services. According to Labor, the Employment Training Administration (ETA) has held a national re-employment conference, six regional re-employment conferences, and a re-employment summit. During the summit, Labor rolled out a new vision for re-employing unemployment insurance claimants and reports that the Department has since provided funding to pilot the use of worker profile data to support decisions about service delivery and inform customer career decisions. Labor reports that the Department has plans in place to evaluate these pilots. According to Labor, ETA has hosted webinars to describe best practices for targeting re-employment services to claimants and best practices in providing those re-employment services. Labor also states that ETA provides technical assistance to support states' implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Re-employment Services programs, works with the National Association of State Workforce Agencies to obtain information from states about re-employment service delivery models and best practices, and has issued training employment guidance. ETA has developed a virtual re-employment community of practice which promotes peer to peer learning, knowledge sharing, and ongoing technical assistance focused on re-employment services. According to Labor, this site serves as a space for state and local decision makers to share experiences through opportunities such as a blog post that speaks directly to Labor's vision for individual needs assessment.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that claimants who need and could benefit from reemployment services are referred, and to ensure that resources are not unnecessarily expended on claimants not needing them, the Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Employment and Training Administration takes a more active role to help ensure the accuracy of the state profiling models. The agency might track states' management of their models and actively encourage review and updating of models in specific states where there have been no efforts to adjust the model for a number of years. The agency could also assess whether an expanded technical assistance effort is needed, and, if so, take the lead in developing one.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On November 16, 2007, the agency issued a paper on the profiling models. The paper and its summary on the web, prepared by the the Employment and Training Administration, recommended 5 best practices for improving the models.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that claimants who need and could benefit from reemployment services are referred, and to ensure that resources are not unnecessarily expended on claimants not needing them, the Secretary of Labor should reevaluate the agency's worker-profiling data collection to determine whether it is sufficient for its intended purpose. The agency might assess gaps in data, evaluate data consistency, confer with states on what data would be beneficial to them, determine the purpose of the data collection and for whose benefit the data are collected, and modify what Labor requires states to collect.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of July 2011, the Department of Labor had not re-evaluated the agency's worker-profiling data collection to determine whether it is sufficient for its intended purpose. According to Labor, the Department has provided states with information to improve the quality and consistency of data collected and has encouraged them to use information collected to target services, but several factors have prohibited Labor from performing a comprehensive re-evaluation. These factors include the severity of the economic recession, the dramatic increase in volume and types of services offered, and the difficulty in evaluating the effectiveness of any re-employment intervention when hiring is at historic lows.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that claimants who need and could benefit from reemployment services are referred, and to ensure that resources are not unnecessarily expended on claimants not needing them, the Secretary of Labor should evaluate the impact of the worker-profiling program on the reemployment of UI recipients to ensure the benefits are commensurate with the resources invested.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of July 2011, the Department of Labor had not evaluated the impact of its worker profile program on the re-employment of unemployment insurance recipients. According to the Labor, the Employment Training Administration (ETA) has been unable to evaluate its worker profiling program due to the increased numbers of unemployment insurance claimants stemming from the recent economic downturn. ETA is interested in evaluating the program, as resources permit, when the economy recovers. Labor stated that the worker profiling program has played a critical role in providing targeted services to the increasing number of unemployment insurance claimants, and has supported states' ability to use the system to address claimants' needs. In order to help states identify the general type of reemployment services that are most beneficial for different groups of claimants, Labor issued administrative guidance describing how to use the worker profiling program to target types of service delivery based on characteristics and demographics of the claimant. According to Labor, the Department has also supported states? efforts to improve the impact of the worker profiling program by offering states funds to implement revised and updated models within their information technology systems. Labor stated that twenty-four states received grants for this effort and have updated or are in the process of updating their worker profiling programs.

    Apr 9, 2014

    Mar 5, 2014

    Jan 23, 2014

    Dec 20, 2013

    Dec 6, 2013

    Dec 2, 2013

    Nov 4, 2013

    Jul 19, 2013

    Jul 2, 2013

    May 30, 2013

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here