Can sending regular text messages improve job seekers’ employment outcomes?
The Economic Workforce and Development Department (EWDD) in Los Angeles runs 16 WorkSource Centers (WSCs) that provide free career services to thousands of job seekers each year. However, more than half of enrolled clients only visited their center once after registration. We tested whether regular text message reminders increased job seekers’ engagement with WSC services and improved employment outcomes. After 14 weeks, we found that job seekers who received reminder messages utilized more services at the WSCs and were 20% more likely to report finding employment than those who did not receive text messages.
Why is this issue important?
Research shows that, despite our best intentions, following through on our intentions and sustaining motivation over time is difficult for all of us. For job seekers, this intention-behavior gap may undermine the success of their job searches and lower their engagement with beneficial services, such as those offered by WSCs. Identifying the best way to help job seekers remain highly engaged may help them achieve their goals more quickly and effectively.
What are we doing?
In partnership with California Policy Lab and EWDD, we developed and tested timely, actionable, and behaviorally informed text-based communications to encourage engagement among job seekers. Clients were randomly assigned to receive either (1) no communication, (2) text message reminders to engage in job search activities and information about upcoming WSC events and services, or (3) text message reminders with additional language to encourage goal-setting and plan-making. Text messages were sent once a week for fourteen weeks.
What have we learned?
Clients who received text messages were 3% more likely to engage with the WSC and they were 20% more likely to report being employed at the end of the 14-week period, compared to clients who did not receive text message communication. The study was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic which forced all WSCs to close. As a result, we were unable to evaluate differences in outcomes by messaging condition.
What comes next?
These findings suggest regular text-based reminders is a low-cost tool that may improve job seekers’ outcomes. These findings may extend to other public settings in which clients benefit from sustained engagement and motivation over time, although additional research is needed in this area.