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1) Many Americans are Struggling and Need Better Information to Make a Comeback (8.31.21, 17 pages)

Pursuant to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA), the Workforce Information Advisory Council (Council) is pleased to provide for your consideration three expedited recommendations, unanimously approved by the Council, to improve the nation’s Workforce and Labor Market Information (WLMI) System.

At this unprecedented time in American history, many people are struggling with job loss, unexpected childcare challenges, illness, isolation, and uncertain futures. These challenges are even more acute for historically underserved communities. The nation’s WLMI System is essential for supporting meaningful and effective strategies toward a true American recovery, particularly a recovery that advances racial equity and supports underserved communities. This requires the highest possible quality of data and information at the local level in order to identify the nature and extent of challenges and inequities, and to measure whether those challenges and inequities are truly being addressed. Without that critical information, we may only continue to perpetuate the current challenges and historical inequities.
 
As directed in OMB Memorandum M-21-27, on Evidence-Based Policymaking: Learning Agendas and Annual Evaluation Plans: “There has never been greater urgency for actionable evidence to inform decision-making to serve the needs of the American people. To achieve our nation’s great promise, relying on high-quality, credible evidence must become the core of how we operate. Agencies must make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data, and build and use this evidence in a way that upholds scientific integrity and is free from political considerations.” (Additional detail on related Administration initiatives is provided in an appendix to this document.)

The Council appointed in 2016 by Secretary Perez submitted its first set of recommendations to Secretary Acosta in January 2018. Secretary Acosta provided his response in December 2018. Based on that response and as required by WIOA, in May 2020 Secretary Scalia submitted his Two-Year Plan for the Workforce and Labor Market Information System to Congress. Soon after, Secretary Scalia appointed the current members of the Council, including four who were previously appointed by Secretary Perez.

After reconvening in 2020, the Council identified the need for expedited recommendations to address issues that the global pandemic had made more urgent. The Council believes that adoption of these expedited recommendations is critical to ensuring that individual students, workers, educators, employers, and policymakers have the information each needs to re-build and maintain thriving families and communities in the wake of the global pandemic. As stated in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Department of Labor Budget Request: “Workforce development will play a critical role in both rebuilding the economy, especially after the tremendous loss of jobs due to the pandemic, and in developing the workforce that will build the new backbone of our country. As more people look for jobs, rejoin the workforce, or seek out new opportunities in a changing economy, there will be a greater need for quality job training and education and meaningful credentials so workers can earn higher wages, develop rewarding and lasting careers, and improve their economic well-being.”

The Council’s three expedited recommendations to the Secretary focus on areas of increased importance in the wake of the global pandemic and toward advancing racial equity and supporting underserved communities. Rapid implementation of the following recommendations is crucial to not only restore our nation’s economy but also address historical inequities:

 Recommendation 1: Advocate for the Adoption of Enhanced Unemployment Insurance Wage Records by including Information on the Occupational Job Title(s), Hours Worked, and Job Site Location

 Recommendation 2: Improve Data and Information on the Changing Nature of Work through a Department of Labor Working Group

 Recommendation 3: Adequately Fund State Workforce and Labor Market Information Infrastructure to Meet 21st Century Demands for Data-Driven Decision-Making

The Council also requests that the recommended actions be incorporated into the Department’s FY 2022-2026 Strategic Plan and Evidence-Building Plan.

https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ETA/wioa/pdfs/WIAC%20Recommendations%20for%20the%20Secretary%202021.pdf

2) Response from Secretary Walsh

The Department provides the following responses to the recommendations in your report.

Recommendation 1.  Advocate for the Adoption of Enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI) Wage Records by including Information on the Occupational Job Title(s), Hours Worked, and Job Site Location

The Department will continue consulting with workers, businesses, states, and other non-profits to better understand the concerns about and benefits of enhanced UI wage records before making a decision about whether to pursue future action.  One area the Department seeks to better understand is the extent to which enhanced wage records, when combined with other information sources, like claims records, can improve our understanding of equity in the UI system.  

Recommendation 2.  Improve Data and Information on the Changing Nature of Work through a DOL Working Group

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy has convened a cross-Department working group on the Future of Workers, which includes workstreams related to changing employment structures and the classification of workers; the impact of technology on workers and working conditions; and training and job quality.  Part of this effort involves better understanding data collection opportunities, including those around changing working conditions.

Recommendation 3.  Adequately Fund State Workforce and Labor Market Information Infrastructure to Meet 21st Century Demands for Data-Driven Decision-Making

The Department appreciates WIAC’s recommendation to adequately fund state workforce and labor market information infrastructure and agrees that substantially more investment is needed in this area.  The Administration strongly supports passage of the Build Back Better Act, which would include substantial investment in the improvement of WLMI systems across the country.  Beyond this proposed investment, the Department will consider this recommendation for additional funding along with the Administration’s budget policy and priorities.  

The actions the Department will undertake based upon your recommendations will provide needed improvement to the WLMI systems at the local, state, and national levels.  

https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ETA/wioa/pdfs/Secretary%20Response%20to%20WIAC%20Recommendations%202021.pdf

3) WIAC to discuss new draft recommendations at public meetings on April 21, 2022, and May 11, 2022.
 
The WIAC is currently in the process of identifying and reviewing issues and aspects of the WLMI system and statewide systems that comprise the nationwide system and how the Department and the States will cooperate in the management of those systems. As part of this process, the Advisory Council meets to gather information and to engage in deliberative and planning activities to facilitate the development and provision of its recommendations to the Secretary in a timely manner.

The purpose of the April meeting will be to conduct a review of the sub-committee recommendations. The first sub-committee, titled “Workers and Work,” studied the dynamics between people seeking work and employers looking for workers. The second sub-committee, titled “Data Sharing and Synchronization,” conducted research on the systems and processes needed to improve the availability of information, with a special focus on how data can help DOL participate in these efforts, especially as they relate to workforce and worker benefits.

The purpose of the May meeting is to have the WIAC vote on the recommendations from both sub-committees. After the vote, the WIAC will then turn its attention to future LMI topics for consideration by the WIAC.

Each meeting will begin at 12:00 p.m. EDT and conclude at approximately 2:00 p.m. EDT. Public statements and requests for special accommodations or to address the Advisory Council must be received by April 19, 2022, for the April 21, 2022, meeting, and by May 9, 2022, for the May 11, 2022, meeting.
 
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-07093

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