How has the public workforce system responded to the economic downturn, labor market disruption, alarming unemployment rates, and other related exigencies generated by the COVID-19 pandemic? These three Workforce System Strategies resources synthesize critical guidance for practitioners on employee retention, relevant economic development challenges and policies, and return to work strategies for individuals.

Emergency Employee Retention Strategies During Economic Downturn
The COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented disruption to labor markets in the United States and abroad as demonstrated by unemployment rates that surpassed the levels experienced during the Great Recession of 2008−2009. Through a rapid evidence review of 49 publications in the Clearinghouse for Labor Evaluation and Research, the authors summarized three strategies that governments and businesses can use to retain employees during periods of economic downturn: 1) work share or short-time compensation provide an alternative to layoffs, 2) furloughs give employees the ability to return to work in the future, and 3) employment protection programs subsidize wages and benefits for employees until the business recovers and employees can return.

The Aftermath of the Pandemic Recession: The Role of Economic Development Policy
This presentation addresses four economic challenges tied to the recent pandemic recession and suggests how economic development policy could respond. The presenters state that “economic development policy can play an important supportive role in broadening the recovery from this recession to include more regions, more businesses, and more economic classes and racial groups.” Seven policy initiatives that may be effective in addressing these challenges are: 1) Target distressed areas, to offset increased geographic disparities; 2) Increase the linkages between economic development and workforce programs to help disadvantaged workers; 3) Help small businesses rebound; 4) Support Black workers and business owners; 5) Ensure broadband access for all regions and economic classes; 6) Diversify high-tech and health-related high-tech beyond the coastal metros; and 7) Design business tax policies and incentives that will raise state revenue and also encourage investment in export-based industries.

Emergency Return-to-Work Strategies in Response to COVID-19
This rapid cycle review of emergency response strategies identifies four job search and reemployment approaches that workforce development professionals and their partners can use with unemployed individuals impacted by the pandemic recession. The strategies that show promise include: 1) Targeted and demand-led work-based training programs to help the unemployed find jobs; 2) Subsidized employment programs to provide income support and skills; 3) Vocational rehabilitation and employment counseling services for individuals with disabilities; and 4) Strategies to keep businesses open while preventing the spread of COVID-19.