There are many factors that influence how long a person stays in a job: the appeal of the work; pay; benefits; work schedule; and commute, to name a few. Likewise, there are a number of reasons why people leave a job: they find a new position, get laid off, or retire. These examples reflect the broader trend of job tenure, or the length of time a worker remains in the same job.
Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis suggests that job tenure is impacted by changes in demographics, the economy, and technology. Some of these effects can be seen in the tenure differences among age groups, gender, and educational attainment of the U.S. workforce. Although Oregon data are unavailable, it's very likely that Oregon follows national tenure trends.
In general, workers keep jobs for longer periods of time as they get older, and then tenure starts dropping around retirement age.
While this pattern held true in the 1990s and early 2000s, data from 2006 to 2012 reveal that instead of falling, median tenure has actually risen for the 55 and over age groups. Graph 1 shows that after the recession, these workers held jobs more than one year longer than similar workers prior to the recession.
Tenure for younger age groups has remained fairly stable over time, though there has been a slight increase of six months or less for workers age 25 to 54.
The difference between men and women's job tenure has changed drastically over the past three decades, with the gap narrowing from one year to a little over one month (Graph 2). This is mainly due to women's increased participation in the workforce.
Men's tenure was fairly stable through the mid to late 1980s before dropping in the 1990s, and then rising throughout the last decade. It seems that neither gender's tenure was disproportionally affected by the 2007 to 2009 recession, as both men and women saw little change during that time.
When it comes to education, workers with higher degrees tend to stay in jobs longer. The median tenure for college graduates was 5.5 years in 2012, compared with 4.8 years for workers having less than a high school diploma. However, grouping all of the college-educated workers together masks some important details.
As shown in Graph 3, workers without a college degree stay anywhere between 4.8 to 5.8 years in a job; the number for those with a bachelor's degree is right in the middle of these figures. Median job tenure for master's degree holders is the highest of any category, at 6.3 years, while tenure for doctoral or professional degree holders nearly matches that of associate degree holders.
Overall, the relationship between educational attainment and the length of time a worker stays in a job is not entirely linear: an increase in education does not always correspond to an increase in tenure.
Manufacturing and transportation and utilities also employ a high concentration of unionized workers, which may be one reason why these industries have the first and second-longest tenure, respectively, in the private sector.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, industries that tend to employ temporary and seasonal workers have lower tenure. Leisure and hospitality, which often hires younger workers, has the shortest median tenure at 2.4 years. The wholesale and retail trade workforce, which also tends to be younger, has the next shortest job duration at 3.7 years.
|Median Years of U.S. Job Tenure by Industry|
|Total, 16 years and over||4.6|
|Agriculture and related industries||4.1|
|Wholesale and retail trade||3.7|
|Transportation and utilities||5.6|
|Professional and business services||3.8|
|Education and health services||4.4|
|Leisure and hospitality||2.4|
|Source: Current Population Survey, U.S. Census Bureau|