NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 18, 2006

For some years it has been reported that employees in the United States experienced widespread, substantial declines in job security or stability over the past several decades.   However, new data indicates that there is little empirical evidence to support this claim, says Ann Huff Stevens in a National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper.

Using survey data of men from the period 1969-2002, Stevens finds:

  • In 1969 the average tenure for men in the job they held for the longest period during their careers was 21.9 years; in 2002, the comparable figure was 21.4 years, not much different.
  • Just more than half of men ending their careers in 1969 had been with a single employer for at least 20 years; the same was true in 2002.
  • Around a quarter of those men retiring anytime in the 1969-2002 period had stayed with a single employer for 30 or more years.

Looking at the data in more detail, Stevens also found that educated men tend to have longer tenure than less-educated men:

  • The average tenure in the job held longest for those with less than 12 years of completed education was about 21 years in 1969, and 18.6 years in 2002.
  • Tenure for men with 12 or more years of education stood at 22.4 years in 1969 and 22.05 in 2002.
  • Further, non-whites have an average tenure below the comparable measures for white men.

The findings for the most recent years reflect the career outcomes for the generation of men approaching retirement age in 2002.  Whether this level of stability will apply to subsequent generations of men depends on the continued evolution of job retention rates, says Stevens.  Only with relatively long-lasting reductions in job retention rates will individuals experience corresponding reductions in completed tenure on their longest jobs.

Source: David R. Francis, "No Decline in Long Term Employment," NBER, September 2006; based upon: Ann Huff Stevens, "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Trends in Long-Term Employment in the United States, 1969-2002," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 11878, December 2005.

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