Case Study: Helping State Unemployment Insurance Agencies Improve Data Quality

Mathematica Works with States to Deliver More Reliable, Accurate Reports
The department knows it needs to be able to trust the numbers, and it’s not alone. State administrators and all other users … need to be able to trust what states report about their activities. With this fact in mind, the department’s Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office insist that the department be able to establish the validity of the key numbers it uses.
- Data Validation Guide, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration
Project Facts
Mathematica has worked with more than 20 states to analyze their UI data validation programs. Mathematica analysts—who have more than 90 years of combined UI operations and reporting experience—work closely on site with staff at state UI agencies to provide technical assistance and develop quality plans that help the states meet federal data validation standards.
The Issue

Many states have interpreted federal requirements for UI data collection and reporting in different ways, leading to confusion among states about what data to report. Because these inconsistencies have made it difficult for the Department of Labor to compare data from various states, the department rolled out its UI data validation program to help improve states’ data quality and reporting.

The Approach

Every state submits to the Department of Labor more than 40 reports on various aspects of their UI benefits and tax operations, in intervals ranging from weekly to annually. These reports include information on issues such as the following:

  • Benefits claims and payments
  • Benefits claimant eligibility
  • Benefits appeals
  • Benefits overpayments and underpayments
  • Employer contributions report filing
  • Employer contributions status determinations
  • Employer contributions accounts receivables
  • Employer contributions field audits

Mathematica has worked with numerous state unemployment agencies to provide independent verification and validation of their data validation systems. In analyzing states’ UI data validation program implementation, integration, and quality, Mathematica staff perform a variety of tasks:

  • Conducting site visits
  • Meeting with UI program executives and program and technical staff
  • Analyzing UI administrative data
  • Providing technical assistance and training to program and technical staff
  • Reviewing and maintaining technical documentation, including validation handbooks, file specifications, sampling, and duplicate detection criterion
  • Developing a quality service plan for each state to follow in its UI data validation program

Mathematica typically works with each state client for six months to a year. When the assessment is complete and Mathematica has verified that a state’s UI data validation programs meet federal standards, the state is certified.

The Impacts

Since 1993, Mathematica has assisted ETA with the design, development, and implementation of a validation methodology for the required reports on UI benefits and employer contributions. Mathematica has analyzed and certified UI data validations systems in more than 20 states since 2005. These efforts have helped to improve UI data quality and reporting across the country, giving the federal government better information for appropriating funding for state UI programs and strengthening state UI agencies’ abilities to measure their performance. By helping to improve UI data quality and generate more reliable and accurate reports, Mathematica’s work improves programs that provide benefits to assist millions of Americans dealing with job loss.

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This case study is for informational purposes only. Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan research firm, provides a full range of research and data collection services, including program evaluation and policy research, survey design  and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and program performance/data management, to improve public well-being. Its clients include federal and state governments, foundations, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, N.J.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Cambridge, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Oakland, Calif.; and Washington, D.C., has conducted some of the most important studies of education, disability, health care, family support, employment, nutrition, and early childhood policies and programs.

About the Project

To ensure that the federal government receives reliable and accurate unemployment insurance (UI) program data from states, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) worked with Mathematica Policy Research in the 1990s to develop performance reporting and data validation protocols for each state to follow.

Data on state UI benefits and taxes are important for determining federal funding for state UI programs, for understanding national unemployment data and trends, and for measuring the performance of state unemployment agencies.

Following the development of federal UI data validation standards, Mathematica began working with individual states to analyze their UI data quality and reporting, and to provide independent verification and validation to help them meet federal standards.