Applauding the End of Americas Job Bank

By Ed Frauenheim

Jul. 6, 2007

Some workforce and recruiting experts agree with the U.S. Labor Department’s decision to retire America’s Job Bank at the beginning of this month.

    Among them is Peter Weddle, recruiting analyst and executive director of the International Association of Employment Web Sites industry group. Weddle, whose association includes the major job boards CareerBuilder, Monster and Yahoo HotJobs, says the free public job site replicated services offered by a range of private-sector sites. These include sites targeted at lower-wage and blue-collar workers, he says.

    But Weddle’s, the recruitment consulting and publishing firm that Peter Weddle heads, gave America’s Job Bank one of its 30 “2007 User’s Choice Awards.” These are based on ballots cast by recruiters and job seekers, and “recognize the Web sites that provide the best level of service and value to their visitors.”

    Weddle also notes that the closing of America’s Job Bank “has been fraught with confusion.”

    Still, he thinks the Labor Department’s move was sound. “Why should the government duplicate what the private sector is providing already?” Weddle says.

    America’s Job Bank was the United States’ first national job site on the Internet and, until its shutdown, was still one of the biggest. The Labor Department last year announced its plan to close the site. But the decision has come under fire, in part because of evidence the site was a cost-effective, appropriate government service. There’s also widespread concern that the phase-out will cause harm to employers, job seekers and states, despite at least two private-sector efforts to replace America’s Job Bank.

    The end of America’s Job Bank is likely to result in short-term problems but a long-term payoff, says Mike Chamberland, a fellow at research group the American Institute for Full Employment. Chamberland hopes that private-sector efforts to replace America’s Job Bank will be able to make improvements quickly and to address what had been some of the major flaws in the site. Among these, he says, is a user interface that has lived a long life with little updating. America’s Job Bank crammed more information onto its home page than do some major commercial job sites. Chamberland says other sites have been able to adapt quickly and learn from private-sector sites like Google.

    The primary weakness of America’s Job Bank was its high cost, Chamberland says. In a memo last year, the Labor Department said the cost of operating the site “has been as high as $27 million per year, with a current operating budget for maintenance-only of $12 million per year.”

    JobCentral National Labor Exchange, one of the private-sector services that aims to replace America’s Job Bank, is expected to cost less than $6 million annually, says Bill Warren, executive director of the DirectEmployers Association, which launched the JobCentral service.

    In addition, Chamberland says, other sites in recent years have built tools that go beyond keyword searches to match job seekers with employers, using artificial intelligence to find better fits. “Someday you will be able to put your résumé out on one of these sites and get good job leads instantly, even if the posting isn’t on the same site you are,” he says.

Ed Frauenheim is a former Associate Editorial Director at Human Capital Media and currently works as Senior Director of Content at Great Place to Work. He is a co-author of A Great Place to Work For All.

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