Based on the available research, we are able to describe many important aspects of the demand for TANF recipients in the labor market, including some that are particularly significant to ASPE:
- Employer interest in TANF recipients. Employer demand for labor from TANF recipients has been high in recent years. However, the research indicates that this demand has been concentrated in companies with three characteristics: The companies tend to be large, in the service sector, and located in cities. In addition, much of this demand is for employees willing to work irregular hours, at low pay, and on a temporary or short-term contractual basis.
- Employer reasons for hiring TANF recipients. Research studies have consistently shown that the hiring of welfare recipients is a business decision. Employer demand for welfare recipients and other low-skill workers is strongly influenced by economic conditions. Also, because minimizing the frequency and cost of job turnover is a key business objective, employers subject recipients and other job applicants to multiple forms of screening before hiring them.
- Employer reasons for not hiring TANF recipients. Employers are often skeptical that welfare recipients possess the necessary attitudes toward work and soft skills. They also are concerned that barriers, such as lack of transportation and child care, limit recipients' productivity in the workplace.
- Challenges presented by TANF recipients. The same barriers that lead employers not to hire TANF recipients poor job skills, lack of soft skills, limited work experience, poor academic preparation, transportation and child care problems, and relative prevalence of mental illness, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse can cause problems on the job. While their job performance is generally good, TANF recipients are prone to absenteeism and interpersonal difficulties.
The existing research literature does not permit meaningful assessment of the practices used by employers that hire TANF recipients. Knowledge of what employers do to hire and employ TANF recipients is limited to a few areas, notably recruitment and applicant screening. The research evidence suggests that, while employers who hire current and former welfare recipients use various recruitment methods, most rely more on word of mouth and advertising than on referrals from employment agencies. However, the research provides little basis for determining whether these or other methods are effective, whether partnering with labor market intermediaries produces different outcomes, or what could be done to improve recruitment practices.
Once individuals have been recruited, employers focus on screening potential candidates. Again, however, it is difficult to evaluate specific screening methods or tools, or whether employers screen applicants more effectively on their own or with the help of intermediaries. Based on the very limited information available on the supports and services provided by employers, it appears that many employers find it difficult to provide the range of services often needed by TANF recipients. Few employers devote substantial resources to training low-skill workers, and most of the training is concentrated in a few skill areas and provided by large companies.
"report.pdf" (pdf, 212.99Kb)