Wage Record Demand Is Up

by Rachel Zinn
December 9, 2014

As more education, workforce and social service programs seek data to determine whether participants move on to get jobs, demand for states’ Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records is increasing.

All states collect UI wage records from businesses that show information about employees’ quarterly earnings. These records can be linked with program participant information to see whether people are employed and calculate average post-program earnings.

Increased demand for UI wage records was a hot topic at the recent National UI Directors’ Conference in Salt Lake City, where I spoke on a panel with presenters from U.S. Department of Labor and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

UI Directors agreed that they are getting more requests to share wage records, especially from colleges.

The UI system faces two major challenges to sharing this data:

Confidentiality. Federal regulations and state laws limit sharing of individual UI data in order to protect private information. Wage records that contain information identifying particular individuals or employers can only be shared with public officials performing official duties. Instead of sharing individual data, some state workforce agencies share aggregate data that protects privacy but still shows how program graduates perform as a group in the labor market. Aggregate data is sufficient for performance management, but properly matching and grouping the data creates the problem of…

Capacity. State workforce agencies, specifically their UI offices, were not set up as data sharing and matching centers. Their job is to oversee distribution of UI benefits. Getting program records, matching them with UI data and returning aggregate reports is an extra burden on a busy system. Even sharing individual wage records takes time and resources. Federal regulations direct UI offices to charge reimbursement for record sharing, so the costs can be recouped, but it can be tricky to create the capacity up front.

States that are effectively sharing and linking UI wage data have leaders committed to understanding program outcomes. They find resources and technology solutions to harness data that helps policymakers and practitioners figure out how programs get results.