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Youngest baby boomers held average of 11.3 jobs between ages 18 and 46

The youngest baby boomers, those born from 1957 to 1964,  held 11.3 jobs from age 18 to age 46, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 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.

WASHINGTON (July 25, 2012) — The average person born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957 to 1964) held 11.3 jobs from age 18 to age 46, 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 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 non-work 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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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