Economic News Release

Number of Jobs Held, Labor Market Activity, and Earnings Growth Among the Youngest Baby Boomers: Results from a Longitudinal Survey Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Wednesday, July 25, 2012                       USDL-12-1489

Technical information: (202) 691-7410  *  nls_info@bls.gov  *  www.bls.gov/nls
Media contact:         (202) 691-5902  *  PressOffice@bls.gov


                       NUMBER OF JOBS HELD, LABOR MARKET ACTIVITY, AND
                       EARNINGS GROWTH AMONG THE YOUNGEST BABY BOOMERS:
                            RESULTS FROM A LONGITUDINAL SURVEY


The average person born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957-1964) held 11.3 jobs
from age 18 to age 46, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 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
45 to 53 when interviewed most recently in 2010-11. 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 more than 3 decades 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 11.3 jobs from ages 18
     to 46. These baby boomers held an average of 5.5 jobs while ages 18 to 24.
     The average fell to 3 jobs from ages 25 to 29, to 2.4 jobs from ages 30 to 34,
     and to 2.1 jobs from ages 35 to 39 and also from ages 40 to 46. 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 46 is less than the sum of the
     number of jobs across the individual age groups.

   --Although job duration tends to be longer the older a worker is when starting
     the job, these baby boomers continued to have large numbers of short-duration
     jobs even at middle age. Among jobs started by 40 to 46 year olds, 33 percent
     ended in less than a year, and 69 percent ended in less than 5 years.

   --The average person was employed during 78 percent of the weeks from age 18 to
     age 46. Generally, men spent a larger percent of weeks employed than did women
     (84 versus 71 percent). Women spent much more time out of the labor force (25
     percent of weeks) than did men (10 percent of weeks).
     
   --The average annual percent growth in inflation-adjusted hourly earnings was
     fastest when workers were in their late teens and early twenties. Growth
     rates in earnings generally were higher for college graduates than for
     workers with less education.

Number of Jobs Held

Individuals held an average of 11.3 jobs from ages 18 to 46, with nearly half of these
jobs being held before age 25. In this release, 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 11.5 jobs, and women held
11.1 jobs from age 18 to age 46. Men held 5.7 jobs from age 18 to age 24, compared with
2.1 jobs from age 40 to age 46. The reduction in the average number of jobs held in
successive ages was similar for women. (See table 1.)

On average, men without a high school diploma held 13.1 jobs from ages 18 to 46, 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 an average of 10.1 jobs from ages 18 to 46,
while women with a bachelor’s degree and higher held 12.2 jobs between these ages.

From age 18 to age 24, whites held more jobs than blacks or Hispanics. On average,
whites held 5.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 24, while blacks held 4.6 jobs and
Hispanics held 4.9 jobs. From age 25 to age 46, there was no significant difference
in the average number of jobs held by individuals across racial and ethnic groups.

Duration of Employment Relationships

The length of time a worker remains with the same employer increases 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 ended in less than a year and 93 percent ended in less than
5 years. Among jobs started by 40 to 46 year olds, 33 percent ended in less than a year
and 69 percent ended in less than 5 years. (See table 2.)

Percent of Weeks Employed, Unemployed, and Not in the Labor Force

On average, the baby boomers represented by the survey sample were employed during 78
percent of all the weeks occurring from age 18 to age 46. They were unemployed--that
is, without jobs but seeking work--4 percent of the weeks. They were not in the labor
force--that is, neither working nor seeking work--17 percent of the weeks. (See
table 3.)

The amount of time spent employed differs substantially among those without a high
school diploma and those who have graduated from high school or attained higher levels
of education. Individuals with less than a high school diploma (as of the 2010-11
survey) spent 60 percent of weeks employed and 31 percent of weeks out of the labor
force from age 18 to age 46. By comparison, high school graduates spent 79 percent of
weeks employed and 15 percent of weeks out of the labor force, while those with a
bachelor’s degree and higher spent 82 percent of weeks employed and 15 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. Between the ages of 18 and 46, white high school graduates with no college
spent 82 percent of weeks employed and 14 percent of weeks out of the labor force,
similarly educated blacks spent 68 percent of weeks employed and 22 percent of weeks out
of the labor force, and Hispanic high school graduates with no college spent 74 percent
of weeks employed and 20 percent of weeks out of the labor force. Among those with a
bachelor’s degree and higher, however, there was little difference among racial and
ethnic groups in labor market attachment; each group spent about 80 percent of weeks
employed.

The amount of time spent in the labor force differs by sex. Overall, men were out of the
labor force 10 percent of weeks from age 18 to age 46; at these same ages, women were
out of the labor force 25 percent of these weeks. Women’s labor force participation
generally grows with education level, although women at every educational level spent
fewer weeks in the labor force than men. Women without a high school diploma spent almost
half (47 percent) of all weeks between age 18 and age 46 out of the labor force, while
those with a high school diploma were out of the labor force 24 percent of weeks, those
with some college were out of the labor force 22 percent of weeks, and those with a
bachelor’s degree and higher were out of the labor force only 19 percent of weeks. Among
men in those ages, those without a high school diploma were out of the labor force about
20 percent of weeks and those in the other three education categories were out of the
labor force only 8 to 10 percent of weeks. (See table 3.)

Women at every age spent fewer weeks in the labor force than men. From ages 18 to 24,
men spent 18 percent of weeks out of the labor force, and women spent 30 percent of weeks
out of the labor force. This age range was a period when large proportions of men and
women attended college or received vocational training and, as a result, spent less time
in the labor force. From ages 25 to 39, these men spent only 7 percent of weeks out of
the labor force, while women spent between 22 and 26 percent of weeks out of the labor
force. Compared to men, women spent an average of two to three times as many weeks out
of the labor force as their male counterparts after age 24. (See table 4.)

The percentage of weeks in which men are employed peaks at 89 percent in the 35 to 39
age category, and then decreases slightly to 87 percent in the 40 to 46 age group. The
percentage of weeks in which women are employed increases from 63 percent in the 18 to
24 age group to a maximum of 76 percent in the 40 to 46 age group. (See table 4.)

Percent Growth in Real Earnings

The inflation-adjusted earnings of these workers increased most rapidly while they were
young. Hourly earnings grew by an average of 6.3 percent per year from ages 18 to 24 and
4.1 percent per year from ages 25 to 29. The earnings growth rate slowed to 3.2 percent
annually from age 30 to age 34 and 3.1 percent annually from age 35 to age 39. From ages
40 to 46, hourly earnings grew an average of .9 percent per year. Earnings growth was
minimal (.2 percent) for 40- to 46-year-olds with less than a high school diploma.
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. For men and women in
nearly every age category, growth rates in inflation-adjusted hourly earnings generally
were higher for workers with more education. (See table 5.)



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Last Modified Date: July 25, 2012
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