NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Unemployed are not the Only People Applying for Jobs

April 2, 2015

In conventional models of the labor market, unemployed people search for jobs and respond to job openings posted by employers. However, job search is not limited to just those currently without jobs. Every month, millions of workers search for new jobs although they already have one. About one-tenth of these searchers switch employers in the following month. However, most of the job switchers in the United States never reported having looked for a job. This implies that, rather than those workers finding jobs, the jobs actually found them.

Job search among those with a job is not as common as job search among those without one. Consider:

  • Those who have a job are less than half as likely to search for a new job as those without a job.
  • About 4.3 percent of wage and salary workers reported actively searching for a new job, compared with about 9 percent of those without a job.
  • In February 2005, for example, of the 130 million wage and salary workers in the United States, almost 5 million were actively searching for a new job.

Job-search rates among the employed vary in terms of demographic characteristics according to the Contingent Worker Supplement (CWS) survey:

  • Almost 7 percent of workers age 16 to 24 actively searched on the job compared with just 2.3 percent of those ages 45 or older.
  • College graduates are more likely to search on the job than those without a college education.
  • About 9.6 percent of employed recent college graduates actively searched for new jobs, compared with just 4.3 percent of the general population of workers.

Source: Carlos Carrillo-Tudela, Bart Hobijn, Patryk Perkowski and Ludo Visschers, "Majority of Hires Never Report Looking for a Job," Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, March 30, 2015. 


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