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 a collaborative effort between the North Carolina Department of Information Technology’s Government Data Analytics Center and the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The CFS contains data on participants in North Carolina public employment, training, and education programs going back to the late 1990's. The system also contains employment and wage information on all individuals working in UI-covered employment in North Carolina over the last 25 years, making it one of the largest sources of historical wage data in the nation.

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. Existing data collection methods were expensive, and no mechanism was available to share information among agencies, review outcomes across programs and agencies, study the relationships among programs and agencies, or examine results for the system as a whole. The CFS was developed as a 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 and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I Programs)
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Services for the Blind
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Social Services (Work First (TANF), and Food and Nutrition Services Employment and Training)
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disability, and Substance Abuse (Adult Mental Health Services)
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Aging and Adult Services (Senior Community Service Employment Program)
  • 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?

Participating entities submit quarterly, annual, or biannual data depending on their program reporting cycle. Agencies submit data files containing demographic data, agency-specific program enrollment information, and, when applicable, completion, graduation, or exit information.

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. The system also contains 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 servers through the Government Data Analytics Center and are covered by memoranda of agreement outlining confidentiality. All staff working with the data undergo confidentiality training.

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, and 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 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 data includes information on individuals working in jobs covered under North Carolina unemployment insurance. Available employment-related data includes:

  • Total quarterly wages
  • 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