Workforce Investment Act: States and Local Areas Have Developed Strategies to Assess Performance, but Labor Could Do More to Help: GAO-04-657

Nilsen, Sigurd R.; Blank, Dianne
June 2004
GAO Reports;6/1/2004, p1
Government Documents
With rising federal deficits and greater competition for public resources, it is increasingly important for federal programs, such as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs, to show results. This report examines (1) how useful WIA performance data are for gauging program performance; (2) what local areas are doing to manage their WIA performance and assess one-stops on a timely basis, and how states assist these efforts; and (3) the extent to which the Department of Labor is trying to improve WIA's performance measurement system and assess one-stop success. WIA performance data provide a long-term national picture of outcomes, but these data offer little information about current performance and represent a small portion of job seekers who received WIA services. Unemployment Insurance wage records--the primary data source for tracking WIA performance--provide reliable outcome information over time. But they have shortcomings, such as not including some categories of workers, and considerable time lags before data are available. Many states rely on alternative data sources to fill gaps in the wage records. However, the time between when a participant receives services and when their outcomes are reported to Labor can range from about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years or longer. In addition, states' annual reports reflect only a small portion of job seekers who receive WIA services because of restrictions in the law and policies of Labor. With assistance from states, many local areas collect interim outcome information from former participants or employers and use other interim indicators to track WIA performance levels long before wage record data are available. However, states and local areas would like more help from Labor in disseminating best practices on interim performance measures. In addition, these efforts tell them little about the performance of their overall one-stop systems. Many states and local areas rely on other indicators--job seeker measures, employer measures, program partnership measures, and family and community indicators to assess their one-stops. Labor has taken steps to improve WIA's performance system and assess onestops, but could do more. Although Labor is studying adjustment methods that could better take into account local differences when negotiating performance levels, it has not committed to using such a method nationally. Labor also has efforts to improve the quality of WIA's performance data and is developing a set of common measures for one-stop partner programs. Yet as part of the common measures, Labor plans to restrict the use of alternative data. Labor has also delayed plans to conduct an impact evaluation and will not meet its statutory requirement to do so by 2005.



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