For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Thursday, August 24, 2017 USDL-17-1158
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NUMBER OF JOBS, LABOR MARKET EXPERIENCE, AND EARNINGS GROWTH AMONG
AMERICANS AT 50: RESULTS FROM A LONGITUDINAL SURVEY
Individuals born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957-1964) held an average of
11.9 jobs from age 18 to age 50, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Nearly half of these jobs were held from ages 18 to 24.
These findings are from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, a survey of
9,964 men and women who were ages 14 to 22 when first interviewed in 1979 and ages
49 to 58 when interviewed most recently in 2014-15. These respondents were born in
the years 1957 to 1964, the latter years of the baby boom that occurred in the
United States from 1946 to 1964. The survey spans 35 years and provides information
on work and nonwork experiences, education, training, income and assets, health, and
other characteristics. The information provided by respondents, who were interviewed
annually from 1979 to 1994 and biennially since 1994, can be considered representative
of all men and women born in the late 1950s and early 1960s and living in the United
States when the survey began in 1979.
This release of the latest data from the longitudinal survey focuses on the number
of jobs held, job duration, labor force participation, and earnings growth.
Highlights from the survey include:
--Individuals born from 1957 to 1964 held an average of 11.9 jobs from ages 18
to 50. These baby boomers held an average of 5.5 jobs while ages 18 to 24.
The average fell to 4.5 jobs from ages 25 to 34, to 2.9 jobs from ages 35 to
44, and to 1.7 jobs from ages 45 to 50. Jobs that span more than one age
group were counted once in each age group, so the overall average number of
jobs held from age 18 to age 50 is less than the sum of the number of jobs
across the individual age groups. (See table 1.)
--Although job duration tended to be longer the older a worker was when starting
the job, these baby boomers continued to have large numbers of short-duration
jobs. Among jobs started by 35 to 44 year olds, 36 percent ended in less than
a year, and 75 percent ended in fewer than 5 years. (See table 2.)
--On average, individuals were employed 78 percent of the weeks from age 18 to
age 50. Generally, men spent a larger percent of weeks employed than did
women (84 percent versus 71 percent). Women spent much more time out of the
labor force (25 percent of weeks) than did men (11 percent of weeks). (See
--The average annual percent growth in inflation-adjusted hourly earnings was
highest during a worker's late teens and early twenties. Earnings growth rates
were generally higher for college graduates than for workers with less education.
(See table 5.)
Number of Jobs Held
Individuals held an average of 11.9 jobs from ages 18 to 50, with nearly half of these
jobs held before age 25. A job is defined as an uninterrupted period of work with a
particular employer. (See the Technical Note for additional information on the definition
of a job.) On average, men held 12.1 jobs and women held 11.6 jobs from age 18 to age 50.
Men held 5.7 jobs from age 18 to age 24, compared with 1.7 jobs from age 45 to age 50.
The reduction in the average number of jobs held in successive age groups was similar
for women. (See table 1.)
On average, men without a high school diploma held 13.1 jobs from ages 18 to 50, while
men with a bachelor's degree and higher held 11.4 jobs between these ages. In contrast,
women without a high school diploma held 9.3 jobs from ages 18 to 50, while women with
a bachelor's degree and higher held 12.7 jobs between these ages.
From age 18 to age 24, Whites held more jobs than Blacks, or Hispanics or Latinos. On
average, Whites held 5.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 24, while Blacks held 4.6
jobs, and Hispanics or Latinos held 4.9 jobs. Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics or Latinos
held between 4.3 and 4.6 jobs from age 25 to age 34, and between 2.9 and 3.2 jobs from
age 35 to age 44. From age 45 to age 50, Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics or Latinos all
held an average of 1.7 jobs.
Duration of Employment Relationships
The length of time a worker remains with an employer increased with the age at which
the worker began the job. Of the jobs that workers began when they were 18 to 24 years
of age, 69 percent of those jobs ended in less than a year and 93 percent ended in
fewer than 5 years. Among jobs started by 35 to 44 year olds, 36 percent ended in less
than a year, and 75 percent ended in fewer than 5 years. (See table 2.)
Percent of Weeks Employed, Unemployed, and Not in the Labor Force
On average, the youngest baby boomers (born 1957-1964) were employed during 78 percent
of all the weeks from age 18 to age 50. They were unemployed--that is, without jobs but
seeking work--5 percent of the weeks. They were not in the labor force--that is, neither
working nor seeking work--18 percent of the weeks. (See table 3.)
The amount of time spent employed differed substantially between those without a high
school diploma and those who had graduated from high school or attained higher levels
of education. Individuals with less than a high school diploma (as of the 2014-15
survey) spent 58 percent of weeks employed and 34 percent of weeks out of the labor
force from age 18 to age 50. By comparison, high school graduates spent 77 percent of
weeks employed and 18 percent of weeks out of the labor force, while those with a
bachelor's degree and higher spent 84 percent of weeks employed and 14 percent of weeks
out of the labor force.
White high school graduates with no college were employed a higher percentage of weeks
and out of the labor force a smaller percentage of weeks than similarly educated Blacks,
or Hispanics or Latinos. Among those with a bachelor's degree and higher, there was little
difference among racial and ethnic groups in labor market attachment; each group spent
between 83 percent and 85 percent of weeks employed.
The amount of time spent in the labor force differs by sex, with women at every
educational level spending fewer weeks in the labor force than men. Overall, men
were out of the labor force 11 percent of weeks from age 18 to age 50 and women were
out of the labor force 25 percent of weeks. Women's labor force participation increased
with their education level. Women without a high school diploma spent more than half
(52 percent) of all weeks between age 18 and age 50 out of the labor force, while those
with a high school diploma were out of the labor force 26 percent of weeks, those with
some college were out of the labor force 23 percent of weeks, and women with a
bachelor's degree and higher were out of the labor force only 18 percent of weeks.
Among men, those without a high school diploma were out of the labor force about 21
percent of weeks, while men in the top three education categories were out of the
labor force only 9 percent to 11 percent of weeks. (See table 3.)
The labor force participation patterns of men and women differed. For both groups,
time spent out of the labor force was greatest between the ages of 18 and 24,
reflecting the transition from education and training to the work force. For women,
time spent out of the labor force decreased in each successive age range, from 30
percent of weeks between the ages of 18 and 24 to 22 percent between the ages of 45
and 50. In comparison, men were out of the labor force fewer than 9 percent of weeks
from age 25 to age 44; from age 45 to age 50, they increased their time out of the
labor force to 12 percent of weeks. While the percent of weeks out of the labor force
trended in different directions for the two sexes after age 24, women in each age
range still spent more weeks out of the labor force than their male counterparts.
(See table 4.)
The percentage of weeks in which women were employed increased from 63 percent in
the 18 to 24 age group to a peak of 76 percent in the 35 to 44 age group and then
decreased slightly to 75 percent in the 45 to 50 age group. Following a similar
pattern through age 44, the percentage of weeks in which men were employed increased
from 73 percent in the 18 to 24 age group to a peak of 88 percent in the 35 to 44
age category. The percent of weeks employed then dipped to 84 percent in the 45 to
50 age group. (See table 4.)
Percent Growth in Real Earnings
The inflation-adjusted earnings of workers born in the latter years of the baby boom
(1957-1964) increased most rapidly while they were young. Hourly earnings grew by an
average of 6.4 percent per year from ages 18 to 24. The earnings growth rate slowed
to 3.3 percent annually from age 25 to age 34 and then to 1.8 percent annually from
age 35 to age 44. From ages 45 to 50, earnings were stagnant (-0.1 percent annually).
In every age category, growth rates of inflation-adjusted hourly earnings generally
were higher for workers with more education. Earnings growth for 18 to 24 year olds
with less than a high school diploma was 3.1 percent, while those with a bachelor's
degree and higher saw their earnings grow by 9.6 percent at the same ages. On average,
45- to 50-year-olds with less than a high school diploma experienced negative earnings
growth (-0.8 percent), while at the same ages earnings among those with a bachelor's
degree and higher increased by 0.4 percent. This pattern in earnings growth reflects,
in part, the state of the U.S. economy during the years in which survey participants
were in each age group. (See table 5.)
Additional data are available at www.bls.gov/nls/y79supp.htm.