Employment Service:

Improved Leadership Needed for Better Performance

HRD-91-88: Published: Aug 6, 1991. Publicly Released: Aug 15, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) identified factors influencing variations in local employment service (ES) office job placement performance; and (2) examined the Department of Labor's (DOL) role in guiding and monitoring state and local ES program performance.

GAO found that: (1) variations in ES performance are related, in part, to differences in state management strategies and local office operations; (2) states that set ES program goals reinforced by awards and that conducted annual on-site evaluations of local office operations had better placement results; (3) local offices that paid more attention to employers' and jobseekers' needs, were extensively involved with the Job Training Partnership Act program, and operated separately from local unemployment insurance offices, had better placement performance; (4) DOL oversight activities include approving state program plans, goals, and descriptions of basic labor exchange activities, conducting on-site program reviews, and analyzing quarterly data on state program activities and performance, but these activities provide little substantive information about how states manage ES programs; (5) without well-defined program goals, federal oversight activities will probably continue to focus on compliance rather than performance issues; and (6) DOL provides little technical assistance to help states operate ES programs efficiently or effectively.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ES initiated its ES Revitalization Strategy, a collaborative effort including ETA, state agency, ICESA and IAPESA representatives to devise a strategy to increase ES program value to its customers. As a result, states submitted revitalization plans and began a series of projects with ES staff to provide input, assistance, and products that benefit the national ES system.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should increase the department's leadership role by: (1) working with the states to identify and solve problems affecting ES program performance; (2) increasing technical assistance to promote program quality; and (3) sharing information on effective state and local practices. This leadership role should recognize the states as equal partners in program management, yet spur state action to improve program performance, when needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As a result of GAO's recommendations, Labor now recognizes states as partners in program management. According to the Director of ES, ES has made significant progress in improving program quality, and did it "as your report recommended". In 1994, a workgroup of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, State ES agencies, the Interstate Conference of Employment Security Agencies and the International Association of Personnel in Employment Security Agencies was formed to devise a strategy to increase ES's program value to its customers. This revitalization strategy encompassed 10 areas, and 48 states are participating, with 25 states involved in pilot projects.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should assist states in the development of measurable goals and performance standards for their ES labor exchange programs. Meaningful goals and standards should be state-driven and tailored to local conditions and needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor


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