University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Employment and Training Institute

Brief Summary

The Employer Perspective: Jobs Held by the Milwaukee County AFDC Single Parent Population (January 1996-March 1997)

by John Pawasarat, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute, December 1997

This report examines the 42,120 jobs held by single parents who were on AFDC in Milwaukee County in December 1995 and who are expected to work under "W-2," Wisconsin's new welfare initiative. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development matched all quarterly wages paid by Wisconsin employers over five quarters (January 1996 through March 1997) with the single parent population on AFDC (N=25,125). The data showed a total of 18,126 AFDC caseheads had employment at least some time during the five quarters examined. All jobs held with these employers and paying wages were analyzed. (The study did not analyze failed hires which resulted in no wages being paid.) These DWD employment records offer a first look at the employer experience with single parent AFDC recipients expected to work under W-2 requirements and provide baseline data on the employment experiences of the AFDC population in 1996 and early 1997.

  • A total of 4,418 employers (not including temporary employment agencies) employed AFDC recipients during the five quarter study period in a total of 29,549 jobs. Over half of the companies hired only one AFDC single parent during the fifteen-month period and three-fourths hired fewer than four AFDC single parents. At the other end of the spectrum, 39 companies employed over 100 single parents (for a total of 7,991 workers). These 39 companies accounted for 27 percent of all non-temp jobs held by single parents in the study population. Another 62 employers hired 50-100 AFDC workers, accounting for 24 percent of the non-temp jobs held by AFDC single parents.

  • Most jobs held by AFDC single parents were concentrated in temp agencies (30 percent of total jobs), retail trade (23 percent), or hotel/auto/business/personal services (13 percent) -- those sectors most likely to have entry-level job openings but least likely to provide sustained full-time employment.

  • Temporary help agencies were used by 7,592 caseheads, or 42 percent of the AFDC population employed sometime during the five quarters studied. For many single parents, temp agencies provided an entry point into the labor market, but often on a part-time or short-term basis. Job turnover was a problem even for employment with temp agencies, where 45 to 55 percent of new hires failed to post $500 in total wages.

  • Non-temp jobs were heavily concentrated in a few types of businesses -- eating/drinking establishments (15 percent of total jobs), nursing homes (11 percent), department stores (5 percent), grocery stores (4 percent) and building maintenance (4 percent).

  • Seventy- five percent of single parents who entered the labor force in Second Quarter (April-June) 1996 were no longer employed by First Quarter (January-March) 1997. New entrants to the labor force showed poorer retention rates than workers already employed in the first quarter of the study. Many hires failed almost immediately with only 58 percent of Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 entrants employed one quarter later. Of those single parents entering the labor force in Fourth Quarter 1996, only 54 percent still had the same job in First Quarter 1997.

  • Four measures were used to track unsuccessful employment episodes. Nine percent of jobs held in 1996 with non-temp companies failed to pay $100 in total wages over the five quarters studied, 28 percent paid less than $500 in wages, 41 percent paid less than $1,000 in total wages, and 65 percent failed to continue into 1997. Failed employment events were highest in retail trade and auto, hotel, business and personal services.

  • Only 14 percent of jobs acquired by single parents in 1996 paid full-time wages (at least $2,500) in First Quarter 1997. Jobs held by workers with schooling beyond high school were twice as likely to continue full-time than jobs held by parents with less than 12 years schooling.

  • Most jobs paying family supporting wages (at least $4,000 per quarter, or poverty level for a family of four) for two consecutive quarters were held by individuals with 12 years of schooling (49 percent) or more than 12 years of schooling (32 percent). These jobs were concentrated in health (particularly with hospitals and nursing homes), manufacturing, education and social services. In Fourth Quarter 1996, 818 jobs (only 4 percent of the total 19,074 jobs held) resulted in employment that paid family-supporting wages for two consecutive quarters.

  • Wages for jobs with both temporary employment agencies and non-temp employers were examined to track the movement of workers from "temp" employment into non- temp jobs with steady wages. Only 5 percent of the single parents who used temp agencies had First Quarter 1997 non-temp earnings of $4,000 or more and only 15 percent posted non-temp earnings of at least $2,500 (full-time employment at minimum wage) in First Quarter 1997. Most of the 465 single parents who moved into what could be considered a successful "temp to perm" pattern had the characteristics of the population most likely to leave AFDC with or without a temp job placement, i.e., 69 percent had 12 or more years of schooling and 57 percent were already employed in First Quarter 1996 at the start of the study period.

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