Describes the characteristics of seven major groups of out-of-work individuals determined through a statistical analysis of national data from the American Community Survey; and summarizes promising practices to connect each group with employment, based on evidence from research literature.

“This report and accompanying interactive data tool aim to both deepen the conversation about out-of-work Americans and support local officials in their effort to help these individuals find jobs. To do so, these resources provide a unique perspective on adults ages 25 to 64 who are out-of-work in each of 130 large cities and counties across the United States. This view segments the out-of-work population into distinct categories that reflect some of the multidimensional challenges out-of-work individuals face, based on factors such as educational attainment, age, work history, disability, English language proficiency, and family status. The report and tool then provide information on effective workforce development practices that may be appropriate for these groups, to help local officials, funders, and other stakeholders develop, strengthen, or diversify strategies to connect their residents to employment” (p.2-3).


“The report [contains] four…sections. First, it discusses how [the authors] define the out-of-work population for purposes of this analysis and briefly explains how [the authors] segmented that population into groups of individuals who may face similar challenges finding employment. Second, it introduces seven major groups of out-of-work Americans that result from the analysis, including fictionalized personas that provide a few examples of the types of people in each of those groups. Third, it provides an overview of eight categories of evaluated and promising approaches for connecting adults to jobs, in turn detailing which approaches are most relevant to each of the out-of-work groups. Fourth, it concludes with recommendations on how local leaders can best use these resources, and thoughts on their importance in an uncertain economic and federal policy climate” (p.3).


The analyses presented in the report are “based primarily on three-year American Community Survey…microdata. [The authors]…use cluster analysis to organize [out-of-work] individuals into groups based on their similarity across a number of demographic, economic, and social dimensions” (p.36). “This analysis pertains to U.S. cities and counties with populations over 500,000 [including]…metropolitan cities…and those struggling with deindustrialization...” (p.7).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Defining the out-of-work population: “Detailed data on job seekers are typically available for only large geographies such as the nation or states, because of sample size issues. Data related to employment in smaller areas, such as counties and cities, usually offer only blunt measures such as the local unemployment rate or counts of participants in specific programs including unemployment insurance or cash assistance who cannot be assumed to represent the broader out-of-work population. Moreover, not everyone without a job needs or wants the same kind of assistance, if any at all” (p.4). The authors define the out-of-work as: “People who are…either unemployed or not in the labor force….From the population that is not working, [the authors] subtracted the following groups: Those who appear to be engaged in activities such as child-rearing or attending school that represent alternative activities to employment [and] those who, by receiving retirement and/or disability benefits, have signaled that they are unlikely to pursue employment opportunities.…The subsequent out-of-work sample totals 11.3 [million]” of which 3.6 million are unemployed and 7.7 are not in the labor force (p.6). Major findings: 1. “The adult out-of-work population (ages 25 to 64) is disproportionately composed of people with low levels of education, limited work experience, limited English proficiency, and other well-recognized barriers to employment” (p.10). 2. “The adult out-of-work population (25 to 64) can be segmented into seven major groups” (p.11): • “Diverse, less educated, and eyeing retirement, 6% • Moderately educated older people, 12% • Highly educated, high-income older people, 11% • Less-educated prime-age people, 38% • Young, less educated, and diverse, 9% • Motivated and moderately educated young people, 14% • Highly educated and engaged younger people, 9%” (p.11) 3. “The seven out-of-work groups distribute differently across places, reinforcing the need for customized local solutions” (p.20). Proven and promising practices to connect out-of-work groups to employment “Although people with bachelor’s degrees also benefit from training and job search assistance, they have higher employment rates and earnings than those with lower levels of education and are thus not typically targeted by workforce programs, most of which define themselves as “second chance” programs or for those struggling to advance beyond low-wage jobs” (p.23). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)