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Recent Trends in Job Stability and Job Security

Jay Stewart


Over the past few years there has been keen interest, both in the popular press and among researchers, in whether job stability and job security has declined. Anecdotal evidence suggests that stability and security declined in the 1980s and 1990s. But academic studies have been divided in their findings. This paper sheds additional light on this question using data from the March CPS. The main advantage to using March CPS is that the transition variables are defined consistently over the 1975-76 to 2000-2001 period covered by my data. I find that overall job separation rates changed very little over this time period, but that there were large changes in the component transitions. Employment-to-unemployment transitions declined dramatically, indicating a significant increase in job security. For men, nearly all the increase in job security occurred in the 1990s, while for women, the increase was more uniform throughout the period. There was an equally dramatic increase in employment-to-employment transitions (job changes with two or fewer weeks of unemployment), indicating that it has become easier to change employers. I also examine trends in these transitions treating married couples as a unit. I find that job stability fell for married couples, but that job security increased. The decrease in stability would have been smaller and the increase in security would have been larger were it not for the increase in the proportion of couples in which the wife's earnings are a significant share of the total earnings.