Employment Insecurity: The Decline in Worker-Firm Attachment in the United States


Long-term employment relationships have long been an important feature of
the labor market in the United States. However, increased international competition
and the wave of corporate downsizing in the 1990s raised concerns that
long-term employment relationships in the United States were disappearing. I
present evidence in this study, based on data from the Current Population Survey
(CPS) from 1973-2006, that long-term employment relationships have, in fact,
become much less common for men in the private sector. Mirroring this decline
in tenure and long-term employment relationships, there has been an increase
in “churning” (defined as the proportion of workers in jobs with less than one
year of tenure) for males in the private sector as they enter their thirties and
later. In contrast, women have seen no systematic change in job durations or
the incidence of long-term employment relationships in the private sector. There
has been an increase in job durations and the incidence of long-term employment
relationships in the public sector, with the increase more pronounced for women.
I conclude that 1) the structure of jobs in the private sector has moved away
from long-term relationships, 2) this decline has been offset for females by their
increased attachment to the labor force, and 3) the public sector has been less
susceptible to the competitive forces that are likely causing the changes in the
private sector. It seems clear that more recent cohorts of workers are less likely
than their parents to have a career characterized by a “life-time” job with a single

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