States and Feds Differ on Sharing Job Listings

By Ed Frauenheim

Jun. 4, 2007

Whether there’s a need for states to swap job listings or for a national labor exchange is subject to debate.

    The Wagner-Peyser Act, passed in 1933, established a nationwide system of public employment offices. And for years, states have sought to create a more efficient labor market by sharing job-opening information among themselves through America’s Job Bank, the public job Web site slated to close June 30.

    Federal law also calls for the secretary of labor to “assist in coordinating the state public employment services throughout the country and in increasing their usefulness by … promoting uniformity in their administrative and statistical procedure, furnishing and publishing information as to opportunities for employment and other information of value in the operation of the system, and maintaining a system for clearing labor between the states.”

    But in choosing to shut down AJB, the U.S. Department of Labor argued that the Internet has solved the problem of sharing job-opening data across state boundaries.

    “With the advent of the Internet, the need to ‘clear labor’ among the states, i.e., connect job seekers and employers across state lines, is no longer an issue,” the Labor Department said in a memo to state officials last year. “The Internet has enabled easy and universal access to job openings.”

    State officials, however, have taken a different view.

    “Termination of AJB services would leave the country without a national labor exchange specified in Wagner-Peyser that addresses a number of workforce needs,” a group of states and the Virgin Islands wrote in a letter last year to the Labor Department.

    The group, called America’s One-Stop Operating System Consortium, is responsible for a job-matching and case management software system for workforce development professionals. In its letter, the consortium argued that a central jobs bank makes for more efficient job searching at public employment offices. “Without the AJB application and database, users of the nation’s One-Stop Career Center public resource rooms will tie up limited public access workstations searching more web sites and conducting longer job searches.”

    Last September, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies passed a resolution that urged “the Congress and the United States Department of Labor to identify, invest [in] and implement a new technology to facilitate the sharing of interstate job matches.” The association, a group of state administrators of workforce programs and services, also called for continued operation of AJB until a new system is implemented.

    “These actions by the federal government to identify an effective interstate system would conserve millions of workforce system dollars that would otherwise be spent by individual states to replace AJB,” NASWA said in its resolution.

    Earlier this year, NASWA sent its resolution to members of Congress, with a request that $6 million in AJB funding be approved to keep the service alive for another year. But the plea so far has fallen on deaf ears.

    Even as it hoped Congress would save AJB, NASWA decided in March to endorse the JobCentral National Labor Exchange, one of the private-sector efforts to replace America’s Job Bank. The JobCentral exchange was launched by nonprofit group the DirectEmployers Association. NASWA officials, including president Ted Halley, have seats on an executive committee governing the JobCentral exchange.

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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