The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.4 in January 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on September 14. This measure, referred to as employee tenure, was 4.1 years in January 2008. The increase in tenure among those at work reflects, in part, relatively large job losses among less-senior workers in the most recent recession.

Information on employee tenure has been obtained from supplemental questions to the Current Population Survey (CPS) every two years since 1996. These data are collected as part of the Displaced Worker Supplement, which is sponsored by the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor. The CPS is a monthly survey of about 60,000 households that provides information on the labor force status of the civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over. The questions about employee tenure measure how long workers had been with their current employer at the time of the survey. A number of factors can affect the median tenure of workers, including changes in the age profile among workers, as well as changes in the number of hires and separations.

Demographic Characteristics
Median employee tenure (the point at which half of all workers had more tenure and half had less tenure) was generally higher among older workers than younger ones. For example, the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 (10.0 years) was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 (3.1 years). A larger percentage of older workers than younger workers had 10 years or more of tenure. For instance, more than half of all workers ages 60 to 64 were employed for at least 10 years with their current employer in January, compared with only 13 percent of individuals ages 30 to 34.

In January 2010, median tenure for men was 4.6 years, up from 4.2 years in January 2008. For women, median tenure in January 2010 was 4.2 years, slightly higher than the median (3.9 years) in January 2008. Twenty-nine percent of wage and salary workers age 16 and over had 10 years or more of tenure with their current employer in January 2010. Among men, 30 percent had at least 10 years of tenure with their current employer, compared with 28 percent among women.

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, 20 percent of Hispanics had been with their current employer for 10 years or more in January, compared with 30 percent of whites, 26 percent of blacks, and 21 percent of Asians. The shorter tenure among Hispanic workers can be explained, in part, by their relative youth. Forty-six percent of Hispanic workers were between the ages of 16 and 34; by comparison, the proportions for whites (35 percent), blacks (38 percent) and Asians (36 percent) were smaller.

The share of wage and salary workers with a year or less of tenure with their current employer was 19 percent in January 2010, lower than the proportion in January 2008. This short-tenured group includes new entrants and reentrants to the workforce, job losers who found new jobs during the previous year, and workers who had voluntarily changed employers during the previous year. Younger workers were more likely than older workers to be short-tenured employees. For example, in January 2010, 67 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds had tenure of 12 months or less with their current employer, compared with 8 percent of workers ages 55 to 64.

In January, wage and salary workers in the public sector had nearly double the tenure of their counterparts in the private sector, 7.2 and 4.0 years, respectively. The longer tenure among workers in the public sector is explained, in part, by the age profile of government workers. Seventy-four percent of government workers were ages 35 and over, compared with 62 percent of private wage and salary workers.

Within the private sector, workers in manufacturing had the highest median tenure among the major industries (6.1 years). In contrast, workers in leisure and hospitality had the lowest median tenure (2.5 years). These differences in tenure reflect many factors, including the varying age distribution of workers across industries. On average, workers in manufacturing tend to be older than those in leisure and hospitality.

In January, workers in management, professional, and related  occupations had the highest median tenure (5.2 years) among the major occupational groups. Within this group, employees in management occupations (6.1 years) and in architecture and engineering occupations (5.7 years) had the longest tenure. Workers in service occupations, who are generally younger than those employed in management, professional and related occupations, had the lowest median tenure (3.1 years). Among employees working in service jobs, food service workers had the lowest median tenure, at 2.3 years.