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How Many People Change Their Jobs Each Year?

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 5/18/2011

If you're contemplating a change of career and would like to know how many people change their jobs each year, as a form of confirmation--it's best to check some resources. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not conduct studies about job changes. You can, however, read about it here.

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    Reliability of Statistical Reports for Career Change Trends

    800px-Intern Career Fair at CAES-1- 

    Interested to know just how many people change their jobs each year? Gathering of statistical information about career change should be carefully verified before basing your decisions on any such reports.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), estimates about job changes present a certain degree of uncertainty if based on results of survey interviews. There are no definitive guidelines to determine what constitutes a career or job change, and this presents difficulty for both the interviewer and respondent.

    A carpenter, for example, may have had several job contracts in a year, which can be construed by one household respondent as a single occupation for the entire year. Conversely, it can be regarded by another as several jobs held in a span of one year. The same is true for occupations like travel nurse jobs, in which an assignment can be as short as a three-month contract. Hence, a household that provides information for this type of job may regard each stint as a job change, while several others may report it as a regular job held throughout the year.

    The bureau stated that labor-market observers, career-guidance professionals, economists and sociologists have not arrived at an agreement over the appropriate criteria by which career or job changes can be defined. Until such time that they do, BLS maintains that surveys for the purpose of measuring how many times or how many people change their jobs each year are regarded as not feasible.

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    Explore Studies on Tenures or Job Durations Instead

    Nonetheless, the bureau suggests another way of delving into statistical reports about job changes. Consider looking into BLS’s summary for employee tenures of one year or less, based on a specific type of population or demographics.

    Tenure here is defined by the BLS as “the measure of how long wage and salary workers had been with their current employer at the time of the survey.”

    For our purpose, we will refer to the supplemental data found in the January 2010 Current Population Survey covering workers’ tenure with current employers.

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    median years of tenure with a current employer by age and gender 

    Studies by Age, Gender & Ethnicity

    You can find one-year job duration studies on occupations that were commonly held by the younger generations from ages 16 to 24 years old. Most of those who were between ages 16 to 17 held jobs for less than a year, while employees aged 18 to 19 were employed at least one year, at the time of survey.

    Hiring was during the peak months of summer from April to July 2010. This is an example of how short-term workers engaged in short job durations could distort survey results as answers to queries about how many people change jobs each year. Any reports of attachments to or separations from their respective employers may not qualify as career change by a certain degree.

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    tenure by industry 

    Studies by Industry

    In examining the average years of job duration for employees based on industry, the service occupation for food preparation and serving jobs had the least number of average years of tenure to indicate any workforce turnover.

    However, there was an increasing length of period by which an employee stayed on, as noted by trending the survey results:

    Year 2000 = 1.6 years; Year 2002 = 1.5 years; Year 2004 = 1.8 years; Year 2006 = 1.8 years;

    Year 2008 = 2.0 years; Year 2010 = 2.3 years

    It can be surmised that employees held on to jobs for food preparation and serving at an average of 1.5- to 1.8-year durations before they made any moves for job changes. In years 2008 to 2010, which were the heightened periods of recession, employees held on to these jobs much longer.

    Still, for those who were separated from this particular industry within a short span of time, it would also be difficult to readily surmise this as due to career change. A co-related article which showed a trending of job loss statistics revealed that mass layoffs in the food retailing industry was still prevalent in 2010. See my separate article entitled “A Look at Trending Job Loss Statistics”.

    Based on this, we are now clear why there should be a definitive set of guidelines for defining career or job change in order to come up with a plausible survey to measure just how many people change their jobs each year.

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    Reference Materials & Image Credits:


    • National Longitudinal Survey- FAQ -- This page was retrieved at

    Image Credits: