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Are Older Workers Holding on to Jobs Hurting Younger Workers Looking for Jobs?

As a provider of job candidate assessment software we are very focused on turnover. We hate costly employee turnover, which studies have shown is mostly caused by poor job fit.  So we work hard to build software solutions that measure how well potential employees will fit the employers with whom they seek employment.  It’s how we can make an impact on turnover, making companies more productive and profitable.

Where is turnover in the U.S. today? The chart below, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the changes in Quits, Layoffs and Discharges since 2004.  (Turnover is defined as the number of “separations” of which Quits, Layoffs and Discharges are the most important components.)

The gray area represents the Great Recession which officially started in December 2007 and ran through June 2009. The recession represented the first time that this particular BLS survey saw Layoffs and Discharges exceed Quits.  Fortunately by July of 2014 Layoffs and Discharges dropped to pre-recession levels.  Quits, which fell precipitously during the recession, are still lower than before the recession.  Two and one-half million quits were recorded in July 2014, versus 2.8 million in December of 2007.

Quits & Layoffs chart







The flip side of turnover is tenure. Fewer workers separating (lower turnover) should generally result in longer worker tenure.  In fact, the next chart shows that tenure has increased over the past 10 years.

Avg. Workforce turnover chart






But further analysis reveals that the increase in tenure has mostly been enjoyed by older workers. Among younger workers tenure hasn’t budged, while the older the worker, the greater the tenure gain.  Workers 65+ realized the greatest gain, with their average tenure increasing from 9.0 to 10.3 years by 2014.

Years tenure by age group






It appears that older workers are holding on to their jobs. The unemployment rate among workforce participants 55+ is just 5.3%.  For workers 16-19 unemployment is 22.9%, and for workers 20-24 it’s 12.8%.

We’ve likely all read about how older workers’ finances suffered during the Great Recession making it difficult for many to retire. Forced to hang onto their jobs, they have contributed to employment issues at the other end of the age spectrum.  This is rightly the subject of government policy discussions.  This dislocation of younger workers isn’t older workers’ fault, but a logical outcome of the worst recession in modern times.



About The Author

Jim Robinson

Jim Robinson holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley and has extensive management and consulting experience. He managed a team with worldwide product, sales and support responsibilities at AMF before becoming an independent business consultant in 1996. Along with David Propis, he co-founded Hire-Intelligence, LLC in 2011 and today serves as CEO of the company.

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