Strategy overview

  • Increasing employment for vulnerable groups: Job placement services and supports can help individuals experiencing long term unemployment find stable jobs and earn a consistent income. These practices are particularly useful to certain groups who face unique challenges in securing and maintaining employment, like those with mental health challenges, dislocated workers, and recipients of public benefits. Proven practices include individual placement and support services, counseling and training programs for dislocated workers, and post-employment supports for former welfare recipients.
  • Meeting the needs of those with severe mental illness: For individuals struggling with mental illness, individual placement and support (IPS) programs can improve employment outcomes via job search, job placement, and post-placement supports. Programs typically hire dedicated case managers who are given small caseloads, allowing them to provide individualized assistance to participants.
  • Offering individuals a range of supports: For displaced workers suffering from mass layoffs, transitions in industrial sectors, or shifts in global trade, evidence-based programs tend to offer tiered supports that increase participants' skills, employment, and earnings. An example is the Adult and Dislocated Worker Program, which offers services ranging from lower intensity interventions like online job search assistance and career counseling to higher intensity supports, like individualized job training.
  • Keeping former welfare recipients employed: The Post-Assistance Self-Sufficiency (PASS) program focuses on individuals receiving benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The program provides post-employment services to help recipients remain employed, including case management, counseling and mentoring, referrals to training and education, and other supports.

What evidence supports this strategy?

Multiple systematic reviews and randomized control trials of job placement services and supports found that they were associated with a range of positive outcomes for the target population, including higher earnings and more stable employment.

  • A 2021 systematic review found that, relative to participants receiving standard services, individual placement and support participants had improved employment outcomes.

  • A 2014 systematic review found that the individual placement and support model demonstrated positive effects on hours worked and wages for individuals with substance use and/or mental disorders.

  • A 2017 randomized controlled trial found that Workforce Investment Act services increased hours worked, likelihood of completing a training program, and likelihood of receiving a credential.

  • A 2010 randomized controlled trial found that the Riverside Post-Assistance Self-Sufficiency intervention increased participants’ earnings by $967 and their likelihood of employment by 3.7 percent four years after beginning in the program.

Is this strategy right for my community?

Providing job placement services and supports has been shown to improve outcomes predictive of upward mobility. These outcomes, identified by the Urban Institute, are employment opportunities, jobs paying living wages, opportunities for income, and financial security.

City and county leaders can assess local conditions for each of these outcomes using the metrics below, identified by the Urban Institute. This assessment can be used to determine whether this strategy is appropriate for their community. (Note: these metrics are a starting point for self-assessment and are not intended to be comprehensive.)

All cities and counties with populations over 75,000 can receive a customized data sheet here.

  • Measuring the opportunity for living wage employment: Examine the ratio of pay on an average job to the cost of living. These data are available from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

  • Measuring opportunities for income in your community: Examine the household income at 20th, 50th, and 80th percentiles. These data are available from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

  • Measuring financial security in your community: Examine the share of households with debt in collections. These data are available from the Urban Institute’s Debt in America website.

Best practices in implementation

  • Offer wraparound services: In addition to traditional job search assistance, provide participants with support services to remove barriers to accessing employment. The most appropriate supports will depend on participants’ needs, but may include computer access, transportation subsidies, mental health services, or financial support for education.
  • Provide ongoing supports: To promote stable employment, provide or connect participants to services at every step of their progress, including the job search, job placement, and post-placement phases. By offering comprehensive services over an extended period, programs can more effectively help individuals stay employed.
  • Build relationships with employers: Understanding the culture and working conditions at specific companies will help case managers identify good matches. Additionally, working with employers that pay competitive wages, offer benefits, or provide on-the-job training will position participants for more stable employment.
  • Reward participant motivation: When resources are limited, use demonstrated participant motivation as a criterion for accessing resource-intensive services. For example, occupation-specific training, which has a substantial cost, may be first offered to those who have demonstrated interest in the field and exhibited effort in the program (e.g., high attendance at workshops).

Evidence-based examples

Supportive services aimed to increase participants' employment and earnings
High-quality employment
Connects adults to demand-driven, job-specific training and career and technical education
Stable and healthy families High-quality employment
Through a supported employment intervention, participants receive rapid job search and individualized job placement services
High-quality employment
Provides job search assistance and unemployment eligibility reviews to recipients of unemployment benefits
High-quality employment
Provides post-employment support services and subsidies for recent TANF recipients
High-quality employment
Prevents youth disconnection through work readiness training, paid internships, and mentoring
High school graduation High-quality employment
Individualized coaching for low-income students to review financial need and academic and employment goals
Post-secondary enrollment and graduation
Industry-led workforce intermediary that provides short-term training, case management, and job placement assistance
High-quality employment