Monday, June 7th, 2010 - 6:00
Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 06:19
The Recovery Act is improving services for dislocated workers, but not without lots of challenges, according to a web-based GAO survey
The U.S. Department of Labor is stepping up measurement and evaluation of the Recovery Act’s impact on the dislocated worker program. As of last month, states began submitting detailed quarterly reports about individual participants. Tracking includes outcomes for job placement and employment retention. The Department is also halfway through a two-year evaluation on how states have implemented the Recovery Act’s assistance programs for dislocated workers.
In the meantime, the Government Accountability Office reports that as of March 31, 2010, about 34 percent of Recovery Act Funds for the Workforce Investment Act dislocated worker program had been drawn down. That’s about $427 million. (Note: the GAO's definition of a dislocated worker is someone who has been terminated or laid off or has received a notice of termination or layoff. It also includes the self-employed who are affected by general economic conditions and "displaced homemakers" who lose the support of another family member.)
Not surprisingly, intensive services to dislocated workers expanded significantly in 2009, compared with 2008. In a web-based survey, 48 states told the GAO that they served more people in the second half of 2009 than in the same period the previous year. States estimated a median increase in services of 83 percent, with 43 states attributing the increase in services directly to the Recovery Act.
Overall, the median increase in the number of dislocated workers trained was 100 percent, with some states experiencing as much as a six-fold jump in their number of customers.
Despite the increase in numbers, the GAO survey pinpointed some obstacles to getting more dislocated workers into training programs. A frequently cited problem was staff capacity and the difficulty in identifying training for jobs that were available. States also continued to show some confusion on the topic of green jobs. It's not so much that they don't know the Department of Labor has been encouraging training for green jobs. They just don't know exactly what a green job really is. That makes things tricky.
The GAO’s analysis of the dislocated worker program comes from its May 2010 Recovery Act report. Details are on pages 66 to 82.