NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Getting Back to Work

October 13, 2003

Federal employment training programs are considered ineffective by many observers. For example, economist Lawrence Katz says that "we've developed a hodge-podge of fairly ineffective programs, like the ones for which you qualify only if you get displaced through trade, defined in a certain way that means union workers are more likely to benefit."

Since 1962, Congress repeatedly has expanded and reorganized worker-aid programs. It has added programs aimed specifically at welfare recipients, Native Americans, disabled veterans and workers hurt by imports, ignoring economists who counsel against such targeting.

  • The federal government has 44 separate training programs administered by nine federal agencies that spend about $12 billion on employment and training each year.
  • Unemployment benefits cost about $52.7 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
  • Earlier this year, President Bush proposed giving workers deemed most likely to remain unemployed as much as $3,000 to spend on counseling or training -- or to keep if they found a job quickly.
  • There is bipartisan support for merging unemployment-benefit offices with those that provide job-hunting advice or training; the idea is to create one-stop career centers.

One significant, and largely unforeseen, development over the past decade, say observers, is the growing role of temporary-help firms as a way for the unemployed to find work and for employers to try out prospective hires.

Source: David Wessel, "Clues to the Cure For Unemployment Begin to Emerge: One-Stop Career Centers And Cash Incentives Yield Successful Job Searches," Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2003.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues