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At a Glance


U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

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Project Publications


Personal Reemployment Accounts: Speeding the Return to Work

Getting unemployed workers back into the workforce as quickly as possible is a national priority. In 2003, Congress established personal reemployment accounts (PRAs), individually managed accounts designed to offer maximum flexibility to unemployed workers in seeking the reemployment services that will best help them prepare for and find a new job.

PRAs offer flexibility by providing a capped benefit—up to $3,000—that unemployed workers manage themselves for use in purchasing training, intensive services, or support services that can help them return to work. PRAs also provide reemployment incentives through bonus payments to qualifying individuals who return to work within 13 weeks and who remain employed for six months.

Mathematica and Coffey Consulting provided technical assistance and research to support the PRA demonstrations of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. The demonstrations were implemented in eight states—Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Texas, and West Virginia. Coffey Communications led the technical assistance to help states develop and implement their demonstration plans. Mathematica led an evaluation, that included both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analyses.

The qualitative analysis, which describes implementation, analyzes challenges, and interprets findings, was based on on-site and follow-up telephone interviews. During the site visits conducted in summer and fall 2005, Mathematica researchers interviewed both state and local workforce administrators involved in the design and operations of the demonstrations and observed customer orientation sessions. In addition, follow-up telephone interviews with state and local development staff were conducted in fall 2006, and a final round of phone interviews was conducted with each state PRA coordinator in November 2007.

The quantitative analysis assessed levels and patterns of use of funds, extent to which bonus payments were made, and employment outcomes. Data were collected specifically for the demonstration, as well as extracted from state UI benefit and wage records. In addition, a series of 10 focus groups examined how UI claimants responded to PRA structure and incentives. Focus groups were conducted in four demonstration states in September and October 2007 with a selected group of PRA users and nonusers.

Researchers found distinct groups of recipients differentiated by timing and type of account use. Although the majority of recipients were focused on the bonus, only 31 percent received one. Among all recipients, 43 percent purchased some service, although the PRA is not generally viewed as a route for training.


"Responses to Personal Reemployment Accounts (PRAs): Findings from the Demonstration States" (June 2008)
"Implementing Personal Reemployment Accounts (PRAs): Early Experiences of the Seven Demonstration States" (September 2006)
"Personal Reemployment Accounts: How Would They Work?" Trends in Unemployment Insurance, Issue Brief # 2 (January 2004)
"What Can We Expect Under Personal Reemployment Accounts? Predictions and Procedures" (June 2003)