States should participate in SWIS to obtain out-of-state wage data

By Jenna Leventoff, August 20, 2019

In a new report, National Skills Coalition urges states to participate in the State Wage Interchange System (SWIS), as it can aide states in satisfying Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting requirements, and help states better understand whether former participants in workforce training and education programs are finding good jobs. SWIS is a data sharing tool jointly managed by the Department of Education and the Department of Labor that allows states to exchange employment and earnings data—wage data, for short– with other states for reporting, research, and evaluation of WIOA and one-stop partner programs.

WIOA requires states to use unemployment insurance quarterly wage records to measure the performance of WIOA’s six core programs: Title I programs for youth, adults, and dislocated workers; Title II for adult education; Title III for Wagner-Peyser; and Title IV for vocational rehabilitation. However, states can have a difficult time getting employment and wage information about people who work in another state because they’ve moved after their program or commute to another state for work. SWIS solves this problem by enabling certain state agencies to exchange wage data with each other.

States can use wage data from SWIS to conduct research, reporting, and evaluation of eligible programs. However, what wage data states get depends on the program requesting it. Specifically, states can get wage data from other states about individual participants in WIOA’s six core programs, as well as some other state and local programs administered by DOL or ED, including secondary and postsecondary career and technical education. States can also get data about individuals to assess the performance of training providers on the eligible training provider list (although they can only share aggregate data with these providers). For other one-stop partner programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) employment and training, state agencies can get aggregate data that combines information about participants.

While SWIS, as designed, is immensely useful to states, it only works if states voluntarily participate. If a state chooses not to participate, other states cannot receive employment information about their former participants or students working in that state. This could create huge gaps in the information available to other states. It could be particularly problematic for states with large percentages of their populations working in another state – for example Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. In order to ensure that SWIS is optimally effective, every state should do their part and sign on. Advocates can play an important role by urging their state to do so.

To learn more about SWIS, read NSC’s new paper.