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June 1993, Vol. 116, No. 6
Jennifer M. Gardner
D uring the mid- to late 1980's, the United States experienced 7 years of uninterrupted economic growth, during which roughly 20 million persons were added to the employment rolls. Even during this booming period, however, many workers were losing jobs, as businesses failed or were forced to cut the size of their work forces. But it is obviously during recessions, such as the one that started in mid-1990, that the problem of job loss becomes most acute.
Between January 1987 and January 1992, a period including the 1990-91 recession, the number of workers who lost jobs due to plant closings, company failures, or other curtailments in employment totaled 5.6 million, according to the Current Population Survey (CPS)1 . This compares with 4.3 million during the 5 years ending in January 1990, a period of sustained employment growth.2 When most recent data were collected in January1992, it was found that nearly two-thirds of the workers who had lost their jobs during the preceding 5 years were once again working.
Interest in workers who lose their jobs when plants close or businesses severely cut back their operations heightened in the early 1980's, when two back-to-back recessions (in 1980 and 1981-82) displaced many workers from long-held jobs. In January 1984, the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration sponsored a supplement to the CPS to measure the extent of this problem and to see how the workers affected by displacements had adjusted.3 This special supplement had been conducted biennially ever since, and is always retrospective over the preceding 5 years. The most recent data were collected in January 1992, covering the five year period beginning January 1987. While data were collected on all job displacements, regardless of the workers length of service in the affected job, the data used for this analysis are restricted to workers with at least 3 years of tenure with their previous employer. Displaced workers are those who lost or left jobs due to plant or company closings or moves, slack work, or the abolishment of their positions or shifts. It should be mentioned that only workers aged 20 and older were questioned about possible job losses.
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1 The Current Population Survey is a survey of about 60,000 households conducted monthly by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect demographic, social, and economic information about the working-age population.
2 These data relate to workers who have been displaced from jobs at which they had worked for at least 3 years.
3 See Paul O. Flaim and Ellen Sehgal, " Displaced workers of 1979-83:how well have they fared?" Monthly Labor Review, June 1985, pp.3-16, for a more detailed explanation of the concepts and measurements of displaced workers.
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