October 2, 2017
Welcome to the Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The center, or CWEO, focuses on employment and labor market issues that face individuals from low- and moderate-income backgrounds.
The CWEO is part of the Atlanta Fed's Labor Market Initiative.
Our name—and how we define economic opportunity
Economic opportunity is a broad term associated with a number of outcomes from people's engagement in the labor market or the broader market. For workers, economic opportunity comes through employment or self-employment. For businesses and industries, economic opportunity is taking advantage of new markets, products, or innovations—potentially through expanding a business and employment in the firm.
Broadly, we associate economic opportunity with the following outcomes.
- Equality of opportunity: Often, job seekers have different opportunities presented to them, depending on their backgrounds. While skill development and education that can lead to success in the labor market are available in a number of venues—ranging from elite universities to well-developed short-term job training programs—workers do not always have equal access to these opportunities. Equality of opportunity is a foundational aspect to the other market outcomes.
- Socioeconomic mobility: For workers who have jobs, socioeconomic mobility is the opportunity to advance and improve their or their household's wealth, earnings, and standing in the economy. Ultimately, it is a chance to improve the material well-being of households. Workers with improved skills and productivity gains—often achieved through further education or training—can improve pay and socioeconomic standing.
- Stability: Workers indicate increasing levels of instability in the labor market, noting "lumpy" income; a majority of workers say they prefer stability over higher income. In addition to worker stability, businesses are often challenged by high rates of turnover, and recruiting new employees can be costly. Turnover can be driven by a number of different issues and addressed through better matching workers and jobs. Training and matching workers to appropriate jobs for their skill sets can reduce turnover even in high-turnover occupations.
- Resilience: As technology advances—such as robotics and technologies that assist automation, and software that increases firm productivity and labor management—and as new products and ideas create new types of work, classes of workers, especially those close to retirement or out of the labor market, are disproportionately affected. Resilience to and adapting to changes in the labor market has long been a challenge. Policy and practice can better support workers in adapting to changes, but interventions beyond training may be necessary to get people back to work, including rapid reemployment programs.
- Competitiveness: Finally, workers and employers who are able to be mobile, stable, and resilient can be competitive. Business competitive advantage increasingly is driven by the quality and availability of talented and appropriately skilled and credentialed workers. A number of anecdotal reports from businesses suggest many firms have difficulty hiring workers with the right skill sets. The Federal Reserve Small Business Credit Survey finds there is considerable lost business investment due to skills mismatches or challenges in identifying and hiring workers.
What you can expect to see from the center
Over the coming months, look for an extensive introduction to work happening across the Federal Reserve System. Every regional Federal Reserve Bank and the Board of Governors has been involved in work related to employment opportunities and workforce development over the last several years, and a goal of the center is to highlight that work.
We also aim to make information and data on the labor market and employment easily accessible. We have highlighted several useful data tools available from across the Federal Reserve System. The newly launched Opportunity Occupations Monitor tool helps provide information on the types of occupations and prevalence of opportunities across the labor market in metropolitan areas and states across the country.
The CWEO will also be working to highlight policy and practice implications of research at the Federal Reserve. Research relevant to those working on workforce and economic opportunity comes from all parts of the Federal Reserve System and focuses on regional economic trends, macroeconomic and labor economic research, and community and economic development research. Look for synopses of that research in our Workforce Currents posts, videos, podcasts, and publications, all available on the center home page.
We also hope the CWEO will be a way for you to explore opportunities to engage with staff at the Federal Reserve on workforce and economic opportunity. Please visit our About Us page to see contributors to the CWEO and affiliated staff from across the Fed System. If you have questions or ideas on how the CWEO can support your work, please reach out to me.
Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity