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Employment Insecurity: The Decline in Worker-Firm Attachment in the United States


  • Henry S. Farber

    (Princeton University)


Long-term employment relationships have long been an important feature of the labor market in the United States. However, increased international competition and the wave of corporate downsizing in the 1990s raised concerns that long-term employment relationships in the United States were disappearing. I present evidence in this study, based on data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1973-2006, that long-term employment relationships have, in fact, become much less common for men in the private sector. Mirroring this decline in tenure and long-term employment relationships, there has been an increase in "churning" (defined as the proportion of workers in jobs with less than one year of tenure) for males in the private sector as they enter their thirties and later. In contrast, women have seen no systematic change in job durations or the incidence of long-term employment relationships in the private sector. There has been an increase in job durations and the incidence of long-term employment relationships in the public sector, with the increase more pronounced for women. I conclude that 1) the structure of jobs in the private sector has moved away from long-term relationships, 2) this decline has been offset for females by their increased attachment to the labor force, and 3) the public sector has been less susceptible to the competitive forces that are likely causing the changes in the private sector. It seems clear that more recent cohorts of workers are less likely than their parents to have a career characterized by a ?life-time? job with a single employer.

Suggested Citation

  • Henry S. Farber, 2008. "Employment Insecurity: The Decline in Worker-Firm Attachment in the United States," Working Papers 1068, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:530

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Neumark, David & Polsky, Daniel & Hansen, Daniel, 1999. "Has Job Stability Declined Yet? New Evidence for the 1990s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 29-64, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jung, Philip & Kuhn, Moritz, 2012. "Earnings losses and labor mobility over the life-cycle," MPRA Paper 40287, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Hyatt, Henry R. & Spletzer, James R., 2016. "The shifting job tenure distribution," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 363-377.
    3. Riphahn, Regina T. & Schnitzlein, Daniel D., 2016. "Wage mobility in East and West Germany," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 11-34.
    4. Blundell, Richard & Francesconi, Marco & van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2011. "Anatomy of Welfare Reform Evaluation: Announcement and Implementation Effects," IZA Discussion Papers 6050, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Michael W. Elsby & Donggyun Shin & Gary Solon, 2013. "Wage Adjustment in the Great Recession," NBER Working Papers 19478, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Jon D. Wisman & Aaron Pacitti, 2013. "Ending the Crisis With Guaranteed Employment and Retraining," Working Papers 2013-12, American University, Department of Economics.
    7. repec:eee:dyncon:v:90:y:2018:i:c:p:236-258 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Bernhardt, Annette, 2014. "Labor Standards and the Reorganization of Work: Gaps in Data and Research," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt3hc6t3d5, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    9. Henry R. Hyatt & James R. Spletzer, 2016. "The Shifting Job Tenure Distribution†," Working Papers 16-12r, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply


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