About the North Carolina Common Follow-up System

What is the Common Follow-up System?

The Common Follow-up System (CFS) is a longitudinal repository of workforce and education data maintained by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The system contains employment and wage information on all individuals working in UI-covered employment in North Carolina over the last 20 years, making it one of the largest sources of historical wage data in the nation. The CFS also contains data on participants in North Carolina public employment, training, and education programs going back to the late 1990's. For a full description of all of the data contained in the CFS, continue reading below.

The purpose of the Common Follow-up System

The purpose of the Common Follow-up System is to provide information on the educational and employment outcomes of participants in publicly supported educational, employment and training programs for use in planning, policy-making, program evaluation, resource allocation and career planning.

Why a Common Follow-up System?

CFS grew out of the recognition by a group of state agencies that quality outcome information was needed on the participants of educational, employment and training programs. This data was essential for program planning, evaluation and resource management. Although each of the agencies conducted independent follow-up studies to fulfill specific programmatic, regulatory or other requirements, information content and collection procedures were specific to each agency. Existing collection methods often were expensive and no mechanism was available for the sharing of information among agencies. No process existed to review outcomes across programs and agencies, to study the relationships among programs and agencies, or to examine results for the system as a whole. In short, there was no consistent method that allowed for the examination of the education, employment and training community. The CFS was developed as a cost-effective response to these limitations.

What agencies and programs participate in the Common Follow-up System?

The Common Follow-up System contains data on the following agencies and programs involved in education, employment and training:

  • Department of Commerce, Division of Workforce Solutions (Wagner-Peyser, Workforce Investment Act, Apprenticeship)
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Services for the Blind
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Social Services (Work First Employment Services, and Food and Nutrition Services Employment and Training)
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Department of Public Instruction
  • Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice
  • North Carolina Community College System
  • University of North Carolina General Administration

The Common Follow-up System also contains quarterly wage records from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security.

How is the Common Follow-up System Operated?

Each year CFS staff issue a request for data to each of the participating entities. The entities submit data files containing the following information:

  • Entity identification (e.g., UNC, DPI, etc.)
  • Institution identification and name (e.g., the name of the Community College attended)
  • Demographics: Social Security Number, name, sex, race, date of birth, educational attainment, veteran status
  • Program code and name (e.g., course of study number, course of study name)
  • Program entry and program exit date
  • Termination status (i.e., completer, non-completer)
  • Special status (e.g., transferred, dropped out, deceased, etc.)
  • Enrollment status (i.e., continuing enrollee, new enrollee)
  • Classification of instructional program code
  • WIA funding indicator
  • Service provider type

After agency files have been submitted, the data are put through a series of edit checks to ensure compatibility and accuracy and then loaded into the CFS. CFS staff also process regular quarterly submissions of unemployment insurance wage records from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security. These records contain information on the quarterly wages paid to individuals working in employment covered by North Carolina's unemployment insurance laws.

The confidential nature of information contained in the CFS mandates the use of strict safeguards in the collection, storage and use of the data. CFS data are stored on secure Information Technology Systems (ITS) mainframes and servers and are subject to Resource Access Control Facility (RACF) security protocols. Analyses not conducted on the mainframe are protected under Local Area Network (LAN) security that requires individual user data access profiles, as well as individual user IDs and passwords. At the time of system enrollment and with every data release, participanting agencies are informed of the confidential nature of the data and the legal restrictions on its use.

What are the strengths and limitations of CFS data?

The scope of the CFS is extensive in terms of the number of entities and individuals processed as well as the breadth of program and service coverage. Review of follow-up systems in other states reveals that North Carolina's CFS offers the most comprehensive coverage in terms of both tracking duration and breadth of participants. Many states and governmental entities with similar missions and mandates view the CFS as a model for delivering follow-up information. Many of these entities have sought the advice of agency staff on implementing similar systems in their jurisdictions. The CFS is an efficient and cost-effective tool for long-term follow-up. This is due to the reliance on automated matching of administrative records. However, since much of the data utilized in the CFS were originally gathered for different purposes, the resultant output possesses both inherent strengths and limitations. Several of the most significant areas are described below.

Wage information includes information on individuals working in jobs covered under North Carolina Unemployment Insurance. Available employment-related data includes:

  • Employment status of the individual
  • Size of the employing firm
  • North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code of the firm

Wage information reflects total quarterly earnings; hourly or weekly wages are not available. Wage information is also not available for individuals who work outside of North Carolina, or are employed in North Carolina, but not covered by unemployment insurance (e.g., the self-employed, church and religious organization employees, summer camp employees, and other non-covered workers).

Employment-related data which cannot be determined includes:

  • Specific start date or end date of employment
  • Employment type (i.e., permanent, temporary, part- or full-time)
  • Number of hours worked or hourly wage
  • Occupation
  • Specific geographic location of employment