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ADVENTURES ON THE JOB

Female Workers Less Likely to 'Job Hop'

June 23, 1997|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Men have changed jobs more frequently in recent years, but women generally have defied the widely held belief that the American work force has become increasingly mobile, the government said recently.

Indeed, female workers surveyed in 1996 said they have been with their current employers for even longer periods than those surveyed five years ago, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, median tenure among men has fallen in nearly every age group.

Median tenure--the point at which half the workers had more tenure and half had less--among men has been on the wane since 1983 in nearly all age groups, with the biggest drop occurring among men between 45 and 64, the government said.

For men 25 and older, median tenure was 5.3 years in 1996, 5.4 years in 1991, 5.7 years in 1987 and 5.9 years in 1983. For women, tenure was 4.7 years in 1996, 4.3 years in both 1991 and 1987 and 4.2 years in 1983.

The bureau's report notes difficulties in trying to interpret a change in tenure trends as a sign of either worsening or improving job security.

In an economic boom, for example, more jobs become available for new entrants to the work force, which could cause a drop in median tenure levels as the proportion of longer-term workers declines.

"There's nothing inherently good or bad about long tenure or short tenure," said Jay Meisenheimer, a BLS economist. "There are a lot of people who are voluntarily moving."

For women, however, the data showing them staying put longer probably reflect the relatively recent success women have had in gaining higher-level jobs.

"You're seeing more and more females in the labor force as professionals," said Paul Yakoboski, a researcher at the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

The data on men tend to confirm the theory that young workers no longer expect to join companies early in their careers and stay with them for life, Yakoboski said.

What's more, he said, corporate restructuring and layoffs have played a key role in the increased mobility of men in the workplace.

But others minimized the impact of corporate downsizing.

"There's been a lot of discussion about increased insecurity among American workers," said Henry Farber, professor of economics at Princeton University. "There has not been dramatic change in the structure of employment despite all the publicity about" layoffs.

Farber, who has tracked the data closely over the years, described current patterns in the tenure data as consistent with trends of recent years.

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