'Robocalls' aim to assist Wash. job seekers

Robocall technology typically reserved for telemarketing and political campaigns is being used by the Employment Security Department to encourage 50,000 people who have run out of unemployment benefits to visit their local WorkSource career center for help finding a job.

“Nearly 3,000 people in our state use up the last of their unemployment benefits each month,” said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause. “WorkSource services can help to invigorate their job search, and automated phone calls are a cost-effective way to get the word out to them.” The 30-second message emphasizes that WorkSource employment services are effective and are available for no charge.

Currently in Washington, unemployed workers may claim up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Later this month, Employment Security will begin testing automated phone messages on individuals in Whatcom and Skagit counties who have fewer than 20 weeks of benefits remaining.

“If someone has been unemployed for more than a year, there probably are barriers that the individual can’t overcome alone,” said C.J. Seitz, Employment Security’s area director in Northwest Washington. “WorkSource staff can provide job-search expertise and a positive outlook that can make all the difference.”

WorkSource is a statewide partnership of Employment Security, other state agencies, local governments, colleges and nonprofit organizations that work together to provide employment and training services to job seekers and employers. A 2009 study showed that people who use WorkSource services tend to return to work sooner and make more money than those who don’t.

In 2010, Employment Security paid out $4.6 billion in benefits to more than a half-million people, and the WorkSource system provided employment services to more than 360,000 job seekers.