The average person born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957-1964) held 11.3 jobs from age 18 to age 46, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 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 nonwork 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.
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. (See chart 1.)