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Average Length of Iowa Unemployment Claim is Falling Following RCM

Eighteen months after Iowa revamped its approach to unemployment and began providing earlier job search assistance to people seeking unemployment benefits, the average length of an unemployment claim has dropped to its lowest level in more than 55 years.

A recent review of Iowa Workforce Development data shows that unemployment claims lasted for an average of 10.7 weeks in calendar year 2022 – 10.1 weeks for the 12 months that ended May 31, 2023.

Those are the lowest figures that statistic has seen since claims lasted for an average 9.7 weeks in 1967.

The shorter average duration follows Iowa’s adoption of its new Reemployment Case Management (RCM) system in January 2022. RCM created a new requirement that unemployment claimants have weekly contact with IWD Career Planners starting with the first week of their unemployment claims. Career Planners review job searches, discuss job interviews, and provide direct assistance to clients by making connections to training and educational opportunities in high-demand careers.

“The numbers clearly show that the Reemployment Case Management program is making a difference,” said Beth Townsend, Executive Director of Iowa Workforce Development. “By providing job-seeking Iowans with more assistance as soon as they become unemployed, we are shortening the time between the loss of one job and the acquisition of the next, returning unemployment to what it was always intended to be – a bridge between jobs.”

“We have received feedback from around the country that our efforts are producing results that by any definition are an unprecedented success,” Townsend said. “The RCM program will help ensure that Iowans find their next job more quickly and that employers have access to a steady stream of workers.”

The launch of RCM coincided with an increased requirement than Iowa unemployment claimants complete at least four “reemployment activities” during each week they file a benefit claim – at least three of which are required to be job applications.

Also in 2022, the Iowa Legislature reduced the maximum duration of benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks per year (except in the case of business closures, when the duration remains at 26 weeks).

Despite the reduction in the number of weeks of benefits provided, fewer Iowa unemployment recipients are using the full 16 weeks of benefits, according to IWD records.

Data show that slightly more than 15 percent of unemployment claimants exhausted their benefits in 2022, down from 22.3 percent the previous year (with a 26-week period). This was the lowest annual exhaustion rate since 1979, when the rate was 13.9 percent.

Earlier this year, the American Institute for Full Employment presented IWD with the organization’s 2022 Full Employment Award – citing, among other things, the success of RCM and one three-month period in which Iowa had the second-lowest rate of exhausted unemployment benefits in the nation.

Commenting on Iowa’s success, AIFE President John Courtney said then that it was “encouraging to see leading states like Iowa optimize their policies and processes and implement effective approaches to reemploy UI claimants and stabilize the economy.”

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