Profiling Baby Boomers' Job Stability

Many Millennials probably feel like their Baby Boomer parents just don't understand. Many of these 20-somethings may appear to have attention deficit disorder with it comes to staying with a job, remaining only a year or two and moving on. They likely feel their career path is totally different from that of their Boomer parents, who they perceive as having had just a couple jobs throughout their entire lives. A new survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, shows that the two groups' job stability might not be very different after all.

BLS polled late-term baby boomers born from 1957 to 1964. On average those in this group held 11 jobs from the ages of 18 through 44, with a job being defined as "an uninterrupted period of work with a particular employer." Here's a chart that breaks this data down by age ranges within this group of Boomers:

boomers jobs cht1 2010-09.png

There are a few things to note about this chart. First, these ranges are a little misleading, since the first three are five years in length, while the final two are six years in length. Second, adding up the individual ranges doesn't give you the total because jobs held in more than one age range would be double-counted.

One aspect of this chart is unsurprising. As careers mature, the Boomers stayed at their jobs for longer. In general, however, education level doesn't appear to have much effect on how many jobs Boomers held.

It's interesting how often these Boomers switched jobs. The data hardly paints a picture of a generation who sought to work the same job for 40 years and retire. Indeed, over these 26 years they worked 11 jobs. This works out to about 2.4 years at each job, on average. Even if you take out college years, for the 22 years after they were 22-years-old, then they still averaged a new job about every three years. That's not a lot of stability.

This report also sheds light on the average duration of jobs held within these various age groups for the Boomers polled. Here's another chart:

boomers jobs cht2 2010-09.png

For example, the purple bar all the way to the left shows that, between the ages of 18 and 22, about 72% of Boomers' jobs were held for less than one year. So the second green bar from the left shows that only 4% of Boomers' jobs started between the ages of 23 and 28 were held more than 15 years.

This study pretty much shatters any misconceptions that Boomers, as a group, broadly had very long job duration throughout their careers. Perhaps they can relate better to their Millennial children after all, who stay at a job a few years until they become bored and move on to the next one.