Third Quarter 2017: The Wage Records Perspective of Multiple Jobholding

by Barbara Peniston

April 18, 2018

According to Table 7 of the Oregonians @ Work Third Quarter 2017 quarterly report, 12.0 percent of the quarter’s workers held two or more jobs. That was the largest percentage since the third quarter of 2005, when an equivalent percentage of workers also held two or more jobs. Earlier this month, however, we released a report that stated that only 5.7 percent of Oregonians were multiple jobholders in 2017. How do we account for the significant discrepancy? Is there a reasonable explanation, or have Oregon’s employment economists lost their minds? The mystery may be solved as we consider the difference in the sources and types of data from which the two highly disparate figures were derived.
Every month, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the Current Population Survey (CPS), which collects economic (e.g., labor force) and social data from a sample of households. One of the statistics estimated from the sample is the percent of workers that held more than one job at the same time (e.g., in addition to their primary job). The measure is based on all jobs, not just those that are covered by unemployment insurance (UI). The monthly estimates of multiple jobholding are averaged across the year, thereby eliminating seasonal or quarterly variation. This is how the 5.7 percent multiple jobholders in 2017 was calculated.

The wage records calculation of multiple jobholding is based upon all the UI-covered jobs that a worker holds during the quarter. It has two virtually indistinguishable components: simultaneous jobholding, and consecutive jobholding. In economic parlance, the latter is called churn, or turnover. From the perspective of the employer, it is the rate at which individuals leave the organization and are replaced. From the vantage of the worker, it represents the frequency with which they change jobs. It is the strong job-hopping component of the wage records multiple jobholding measure which really differentiates it from the CPS estimate. In the chart, we observe that wage records-based multiple jobholding (and largely, job-hopping) varies predictably from quarter to quarter. More workers change jobs in the third quarter, or summer season, and fewer do so during the first quarter. The chart also reveals a relationship with the economic cycle. During periods of economic expansion, when more jobs presumably become available, workers are more likely to change jobs. As the economy contracts, fewer jobs become available and job-hopping slows. Certainly, the frequency with which workers change jobs is not simply a function of the availability of jobs. To earn higher wages, for career opportunities, being laid-off, becoming bored with the current job – these are just a few of the reasons why workers change jobs. Regardless of the specific reason for the job hop, however, the greater the availability of jobs, the more likely a worker will change jobs.

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