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Do sectoral employment programs work? New evidence from New York City's Sector‐Focused Career Centers (Gasper, Henderson, & Berman 2017)

Review Guidelines

Absence of conflict of interest. 


Gasper, J. M., Henderson, K. A., & Berman, D. S. (2017). Do sectoral employment programs work? New evidence from New York City's Sector‐Focused Career Centers. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, 56(1), 40-72.


  • The study's objective was to examine the impact of Sector-Focused Career Centers (SFCC) on employment and earnings outcomes.
  • The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of individuals who participated in SFCC to a matched comparison group who did not participate. Using electronic records and state unemployment insurance earnings records, the authors conducted statistical models to examine differences between the groups.
  • The study found that SFCC participants were significantly more likely to be employed, experience employment stability, and have higher earnings in the year after program exit than participants in the comparison group.
  • The study receives a moderate evidence rating. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to SFCCs, but other factors might also have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Sector-Focused Career Centers (SFCC)

Features of the Intervention

In 2008, the New York City (NYC) Center for Economic Opportunity created Workforce1 Sector Career Centers (WF1CC) to provide industry-specific job services and training to unemployed and incumbent workers. The Sector-Focused Career Centers (SFCCs) differ slightly from the WF1CCs in that they are designed to provide targeted industries with a pipeline of highly qualified and trained workers to save companies time and money in staffing, increase productivity, and make them more competitive. The SFCCs target occupations with competitive wages (at least $10/hour), full-time jobs (at least 30 hours per week), advancement opportunities for workers, and high growth potential for businesses. The SFCCs assessed employers’ hiring and training needs and then designed job preparation and training services to meet the employer’s needs.

The SFCCs served individuals who were at least 18 years old and eligible to work in the United States. The WF1CCs and local nonprofit organizations provided referrals and recruited participants through advertisements and employment events. Participation in the SFCCs began with an initial assessment to determine whether an individual was ready for employment and what services were needed. The SFCCs focused on job placement and career advancement with services that include job preparation, career strategies workshops, resume review, interview skill development, job search, job matching, and career advisement. Participants also received support services (e.g., referrals to clothing and food banks), high school equivalency or ESL programs, and no-cost education and training support tailored for the industry.

Features of the Study

The nonexperimental study was conducted with three SFCCs in the NYC area (transportation, manufacturing and healthcare). The treatment group included 13,104 participants who were enrolled in one of the SFCCs between January 1, 2009, and September 30, 2011. The comparison group included 254,115 participants of WF1CCs. Treatment participants were matched to comparison participants who were enrolled during the same timeframe and had similar demographic characteristics, prior work history, and earnings. SFCC participants faced several employment barriers and over a third were unemployed for all four quarters prior to enrollment. The study used data from Small Business Services electronic records and NY State Unemployment Insurance (UI) earnings records. The authors used a statistical model to compare the outcomes of treatment and comparison group participants in the year after program exit.


Earnings and wages

  • The study found that treatment participants earned $5,333 more than comparison participants in the year after program exit, earning approximately $1300 more per quarter. These differences were significant.


  • The study found that treatment participants had significantly higher rates of employment than the comparison participants in each quarter, with treatment participants being 7.5 percentage points more likely to be employed after program exit.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The matching method used in the study does not account for selection bias on participant characteristics that are not measured or observed. To account for the possible bias and obtain unbiased estimates, the authors adjusted their matching method.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to SFCCs, but other factors might also have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

July 2022

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