Eastern Washington University/Flickr
The youngest baby boomers – those born from 1957 to 1964 – held an average of 11 jobs by age 44, with more frequent employment changes and more rapid growth in earnings early in their careers, according to a government survey released Friday.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics began surveying nearly 10,000 men and women in 1979, when they were between the ages of 14 and 22. Three decades later, the survey details the generation's work experiences, earnings and education.
From age 18 to 22, baby boomers held an average of 4.4 jobs, the survey found. They tended to stay at jobs for longer as they grew older, holding an average of two jobs from age 39 to 44.
Of jobs held by 18- to 22-year-olds, 72 percent ended within a year. Among jobs held by workers age 39 to 44, one-third ended in less than a year.
Among the survey's findings:
- Men were employed 84 percent of their lives between ages 18 and 44, versus 70 percent for women.
- From age 18 to 22, whites held an average of 4.6 jobs, compared with 3.5 jobs among blacks and four among Latinos. But from age 23 to 44, the number of jobs held by each was about the same.
- Annual growth in earnings was fastest when workers were in their late teens and early twenties. On average, hourly earnings grew by 6.8 percent each year from ages 18 to 22 and by 5.2 percent from ages 23 to 27. The rate slowed to 1.4 percent by age 39 to 44. The more education a worker had, the higher the growth rates of their earnings. More educated adults were also more likely to have been employed.
The survey does not address employment among subsequent generations. However, research shows major differences in today's labor landscape.
In 2009, for the first time on record, employment was greater among adults nearing retirement age than among out-of-school youth. Sixty percent of Californians ages 55 to 64 were employed, compared to 58.4 percent of the state's 16- to 24-year-olds, according to a recent report [PDF] by the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan research group.
The shift is challenging for young people, who are left with fewer entry-level positions as older workers postpone retirement and movement up the job ladder slows, said Alissa Anderson, the project's deputy director and author of the report.
And the longer someone of any age group is jobless, the more difficult finding work becomes. Nationally, fewer than one in 10 long-term unemployed people found work in a given month in late 2009. By contrast, more than three out of 10 people who were out of work four weeks or less found a job, the report said.
If they had jobs, young workers tended to be the "last hired and first fired" during the recession, the report said. Entering the labor market under such circumstances can stunt workers for years.
"Workers who graduate during downturns in the economy earn less per hour – both initially and over the long term – than their peers who graduate when the job market is stronger," the report said.
And where more education traditionally meant greater employment opportunities, the report found that college degrees offered little protection for young workers in the recession.
The number of young, employed Californians with college degrees dropped from 85.7 percent in 2006 to 77.3 percent in 2009, the lowest rate on record, according to the report. Among older adults with college degrees, 81 percent were employed in 2006, and 78.5 percent had jobs last year.
California must ensure that young people who want to go to school and gain more skills during this job freeze are able to do so, said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project. But, she said, "the best way to help young people is to get the economy moving again."