About the Study
The Department of Labor (DOL) has long sought effective ways to encourage unemployed workers to engage in services that can help them get reemployed. One effective tool for helping unemployed workers find new employment faster and shorten their duration of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit receipt is the Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) program.
The REA program offers mandatory, in-person sessions in which workforce staff complete several activities with participants—assess their eligibility for UI benefits, provide an orientation to the American Job Center and its services, share labor market information, help them develop a reemployment plan, and make referrals to additional services. Unfortunately, many individuals who receive the notification letter from the UI agency (UIA) mandating participation in REA do not schedule or attend their REA sessions.
As part of the Department of Labor Behavioral Interventions (DOL-BI) project, the Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) partnered with ETA, the W.E. Upjohn Institute, and Michigan Works! Southwest, to assess whether a series of low-cost emails informed by behavioral science could encourage more UI claimants to schedule, attend, and complete their REA program sessions. Researchers tested this approach in four counties in Michigan from the spring through the early fall of 2015.
The DOL-BI project explores the use of behavioral insights to improve the performance and outcomes of DOL programs. It is sponsored by the DOL Chief Evaluation Office and draws on insights from behavioral economics, psychology, and related fields.
Can a series of encouraging emails informed by behavioral science prompt more UI claimants to begin participating in and complete the REA program?
- Simple encouragement emails resulted in a 15 percentage point increase in UI claimants scheduling their first REA session. Most email recipients scheduled their first REA session after the first reminder email was sent.
- There was a 14 percentage point increase in UI claimants completing the REA program.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) sponsors independent evaluations and research, primarily conducted by external, third-party contractors in accordance with the Department of Labor Evaluation Policy. CEO’s research development process includes extensive technical review at the design, data collection and analysis stage, including: external contractor review and OMB review and approval of data collection methods and instruments per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Institutional Review Board (IRB) review to ensure studies adhere to the highest ethical standards, review by academic peers (e.g., Technical Working Groups), and inputs from relevant DOL agency and program officials and CEO technical staff. Final reports undergo an additional independent expert technical review and a review for Section 508 compliance prior to publication. The resulting reports represent findings from this independent research and do not represent DOL positions or policies.