Job Placement

Job placement in its simplest definition as an outcome means that a program participant has done any work as a paid employee—even if for one day or a few hours—after receiving some sort of workforce development or job preparation service. So it is one indicator of employment success that may show whether a program has prepared participants adequately in how to conduct a job search or perform a particular occupational skill. It also points to how well a program performs the job development function in working with employers to address their need for qualified applicants. It is important, however, for programs to track other information about an individual’s job placement to get a sense of the “quality” of the placement for the individual, e.g., 

  • Is the placement temporary/seasonal or is it in a permanent position?
  • Are the wages “subsidized” by outside grants or is it unsubsidized?
  • Is it part-time (usually less than 35 hours per week) or full-time? 
  • What is the starting wage? What health or other benefits are offered?
  • If the participant has received training in specific occupational skills, is the placement in a position related to that occupation?

Some programs choose to have a more focused definition of placement. They may, for example, decide not to “count” a job as a placement outcome if it is a seasonal position or does not last for at least a certain number of days. Many programs do not “count” a job as a placement unless it can independently verified, including but not limited to some form of employer verification or paycheck stubs. In any case, it is important that the definition be clear and agreed upon by program staff, funders and other stakeholders. 

It is also important to distinguish between “number of placements” and “number of participants placed.”  It is not unusual for programs to help a participant find a new position if the first job placement ends, and tracking the number of placements per individual or group can be a useful measure of the amount of staff effort required.  But in assessing or reporting overall job placement results, programs should use the number of participants placed as the primary measure. 

Knowing its job placement rate (the aggregate number of participants placed as a percentage of the group) is important for a program to help it understand how well it is providing its job preparation services to program participants and building relationships with employers who are hiring. To get the best perspective it is helpful to look at placement rates in at least two different ways:

  • As a percentage of participants who complete the program services offered (e.g., a job readiness or skills training component), using whatever requirements the program has for completion;
  • As a percentage of participants who enrolled in the program (by whatever definition the program uses for enrollment) but may or may not have completed services. While this number will almost always be lower than the percentage of program “completers” who are placed, it helps a program better understand how effectively it is using the resources it has invested overall and how well it is recruiting participants who are a good fit for services the program has to offer. In some cases a participant may enroll more than once, and programs should agree on how they will account for that in their placement rates.  

Knowing what a “good” job placement rate is depends on a number of factors.  Public data available through the US Department of Labor show, for example, that of all low-income adults exiting services through the Workforce Investment Act in 2010–2011, 55% found employment in the quarter after exit—but these results varied by the types of services received and specific populations. Interim results from Public/Private Ventures’ Benchmarking Project also show average program placement rates of enrollees ranging from 43% to 61% depending on such factors as whether or not they offer vocational skills training, how selective they are able to be in who they serve, the ratio of participants to program staff and whether they target certain populations.

Surveys / Assessments


Sources Cited

Clymer, C., Maguire, S., Miles, M., Woodruff-Bolte S.. (2010). Putting Data to Work: Interim Recommendations From the Benchmarking Project [Data file]. Philadelphia, PA: Public\Private Ventures.

Social Policy Research Associates. (2011). PY 2010 WIASRD Data Book. Washington, DC: US Department of Labor. Retrieved 12/12/11 at  

Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor. (n.d.) Retrieved 11/30/11 from

Additional Resources

A report on the P/PV Benchmarking Project’s data findings on job placement and job retention rates for programs with different characteristics will be available in Spring 2012.The project’s data sample includes aggregate information on 332 one-year program cohorts operated by 200 organizations (primarily community-based nonprofits).