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On the Job

On the Job: Is Long-Term Employment a Thing of the Past?

David Neumark editor
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 536
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  • Book Info
    On the Job
    Book Description:

    In recent years, a flurry of reports on downsizing, outsourcing, and flexible staffing have created the impression that stable, long-term jobs are a thing of the past. According to conventional wisdom, workers can no longer count on building a career with a single employer, and job security is a rare prize. While there is no shortage of striking anecdotes to fuel these popular beliefs, reliable evidence is harder to come by. Researchers have yet to determine whether we are witnessing a sustained, economy-wide decline in the stability of American jobs, or merely a momentary rupture confined to a few industries and a few classes of workers.

    On the Joblaunches a concerted effort to reconcile the conflicting evidence about job stability and security. The book examines the labor force as a whole, not merely the ousted middle managers who have attracted the most publicity. It looks at the situation of women as well as men, young workers as well as old, and workers on part-time, non-standard, or temporary work schedules. The evidence suggests that long-serving managers and professionals suffered an unaccustomed loss of job security in the 1990s, but there is less evidence of change for younger, newer recruits. The authors bring our knowledge of the labor market up to date, connecting current conditions in the labor market with longer-term trends that have evolved over the past two decades. They find that layoffs in the early 1990s disrupted the implicit contract between employers and staff, but it is too soon to declare a permanent revolution in the employment relationship.

    Having identified the trends, the authors seek to explain them and to examine their possible consequences. If the bonds between employee and employer are weakening, who stands to benefit? Frequent job-switching can be a sign of success for a worker, if each job provides a stepping stone to something better, but research in this book shows that workers gained less from changing jobs in the 1980s and 1990s than in earlier decades. The authors also evaluate the third-party intermediaries, such as temporary help agencies, which profit from the new flexibility in the matching of workers and employers.

    Besides opening up new angles on the evidence, the authors mark out common ground and pin-point those areas where gaps in our knowledge remain and popular belief runs ahead of reliable evidence.On the Jobprovides an authoritative basis for spotting the trends and interpreting the fall-out as U.S. employers and employees rethink the terms of their relationship.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-427-9
    Subjects: Business, Economics, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 Changes in Job Stability and Job Security: A Collective Effort to Untangle, Reconcile, and Interpret the Evidence
    (pp. 1-28)
    David Neumark

    At a symposium at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the fall of 1996, various researchers presented their findings on changes in long-term employment relationships in U.S. labor markets. The researchers focused on two dimensions of these relationships: “job stability,” meaning the duration of jobs or the probability of retaining or leaving a job; and “job security,” referring to the likelihood of experiencing involuntary job loss. The disparity of the conclusions was striking. Some, myself included, reported that there was “nothing new under the sun.” Despite intense media attention, culminating in the 1996New York Timesseries “The...

  5. Part I Job Stability

    • Chapter 2 Is Job Stability in the United States Falling? Reconciling Trends in the Current Population Survey and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics
      (pp. 31-69)
      David A. Jaeger and Ann Huff Stevens

      The degree of job stability in the U.S. economy is of substantial concern to workers and policymakers and has important implications for a variety of economic applications. Documenting trends in job stability over the past twenty-five years, however, has become a controversial exercise. Press reports continue to emphasize deteriorating job stability, though support for this assertion from empirical economic studies has been limited. One reason for the continuing ambiguity in the literature on trends in job stability is the apparent sensitivity of empirical results to the specific data source used. Results that differ across presumably representative and widely used data...

    • Chapter 3 Has Job Stability Declined Yet? New Evidence for the 1990s
      (pp. 70-110)
      David Neumark, Daniel Polsky and Daniel Hansen

      Until recently, little was known about how the stability of jobs has changed over time in the U.S. economy, the nature of the changes (if any), and which groups have been most affected. In the past few years, however, researchers have begun to assemble evidence on these questions. This research was spurred in part by a wave of corporate downsizings and accompanying media stories suggesting that workers could “forget any idea of career-long employment with a big company” (Time,November 22,1993), and that “the notion of lifetime employment has come to seem as dated as soda jerks, or tail fins”...

    • Chapter 4 Trends in Job Instability and Wages for Young Adult Men
      (pp. 111-141)
      Annette Bernhardt, Martina Morris, Mark S. Handcock and Marc A. Scott

      Athough the perception of increased job instability is widespread, empirical documentation of this “fact” remains elusive. Data and measurement problems have led to a trail of conflicting findings, and the absence of clear evidence of rising instability has led some to question whether the problem lies instead with public perception. A careful review of the evidence suggests that the question may be premature. The primary sources of cross-sectional data are the tenure and pension supplements of the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Displaced Workers Survey (DWS). Using the CPS, Kenneth Swinnerton and Howard Wial (1995) found evidence of an...

    • Chapter 5 Job Instability and Insecurity for Males and Females in the 1980s and 1990s
      (pp. 142-195)
      Peter Gottschalk and Robert A. Moffitt

      This chapter has two objectives. The first is to measure changes in jobinstabilityover the 1980s and 1990s. We provide evidence on changes in short-term job turnover using a previously underutilized data source, the Survey ofIncome and Program Participation (SIPP), which provides monthly information on the respondent’s employer.¹ The results from the SIPP are contrasted with results from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), a more widely used data set. The second objective focuses on changes in what has been labeled jobinsecurity.The duration of jobs may not have changed, but turnover may have been accompanied by...

    • Chapter 6 Has Job Stability Vanished in Large Corporations?
      (pp. 196-224)
      Steven G. Allen, Robert L. Clark and Sylvester J. Schieber

      During the past decade, the U.S. labor market has undergone considerable change, especially as increased international competition and continued technological innovation have put pressure on firms to reduce labor costs substantially. In reporting on these events, it is rare for a week to go by without headlines about plant closings, layoffs, or restructurings. The prevailing wisdom in media accounts is that many workers who had been sheltered from layoffs in earlier decades are no longer protected. Particular attention has been paid to layoffs of white-collar workers, workers employed in large corporations, and workers in the middle of their careers.¹ Media...

  6. Part II Job Security

    • Chapter 7 Declining Job Security
      (pp. 227-256)
      Robert G. Valletta

      Popular concern about worker job security has been on the rise in recent years, and it became particularly acute early in the 1996 presidential election campaign. Rising media attention to this issue coincided with and was reinforced by the role of job security in monetary policy formation: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan cited worker job security tears as a key factor holding down inflation in 1996 and rising job security as a potential inflationary factor in 1997 and 1998.

      Much of the early evidence regarding job insecurity was fragmentary and anecdotal, as newspapers and other popular sources described the impact...

    • Chapter 8 Did Job Security Decline in the 1990s?
      (pp. 257-299)
      Jay Stewart

      There has been a growing interest, both in the popular press and among researchers, in the question of whether job stability and security have declined in recent years.¹ The popular perception is that jobs were less stable and less secure in the 1980s than in the 1970s, and that this decline in stability and security continued into the 1990s (Neumark and Polsky 1998). So far, the evidence from academic studies indicates that job stability did not decline between the mid-1970s and the early 1990s, but that there have been changes for some groups. Job stability declined among men, primarily owing...

    • Chapter 9 Job Security Beliefs in the General Social Survey: Evidence on Long-Run Trends and Comparability with Other Surveys
      (pp. 300-332)
      Stefanie R. Schmidt

      In 1997 both Federal ReselVe Chairman Alan Greenspan and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich argued that the level of anxiety about job security was unusually high for an economic recovery. TheWashington Post,theNew York Times,theWall Street Journal,andUSA Todayran stories claiming that anxiety about job loss had increased in recent years.

      Reich and other writers have argued that the decline in job security has changed the employment relationship, particularly for white-collar workers. Because workers are more anxious about losing their jobs than they were in the past, they are investing less in...

  7. Part III Understanding Behavioral Changes

    • Chapter 10 Long-Run Trends in Part-Time and Temporary Employment: Toward an Understanding
      (pp. 335-397)
      Alec R. Levenson

      Between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, the rate of part-time employment in the United States increased by almost one-third, from about 13 percent to about 17 percent of all workers.¹ During the 1980s, the temporary help services industry increased in size by at least 100 percent.² Growth in these types of jobs, along with the perceived growth of other “alternative” employment relationships such as independent contracting, has led many observers to raise questions about the future of the traditional employment arrangement in the U.S. economy: full-time work as a permanent or indefinite (at will) employee.

      Concerns over the growth...

    • Chapter 11 Alternative and Part-Time Employment Arrangements as a Response to Job Loss
      (pp. 398-426)
      Henry S. Farber

      The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which workers who lose jobs find work in alternative employment arrangements, including temporary work and independent contracting and in voluntary or involuntary part-time jobs, rather than as conventional full-time employees. My analysis is based on data from the Displaced Workers Survey (DWS), supplements to the February 1994 and 1996 Current Population Survey (CPS), which I match to the Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements Supplements (CAEAS) to the February CPS in the subsequent years (1995 and 1997, respectively). These data allow me to identify job-losers in the DWS, and they...

    • Chapter 12 The Implications of Flexible Staffing Arrangements for Job Stability
      (pp. 427-462)
      Susan N. Houseman and Anne E. Polivka

      There is a widespread perception that the nature of the employment relationship is fundamentally changing, resulting in less attachment between workers and firms and a decline in the stability of jobs (Schmidt, this volume). For many, flexible staffing arrangements—including temporary, contract, and part-time work—epitomize unstable jobs, and recent growth in some of these arrangements is viewed as evidence of a broader decline in job stability (Belous 1989; Castro 1993).

      However, there is little evidence on whether jobs in various flexible staffing arrangements are in fact less stable. Although some studies have examined the labor market dynamics of female...

    • Chapter 13 Examining the Incidence of Downsizing and Its Effect on Establishment Performance
      (pp. 463-516)
      Peter Cappelli

      Academic research and casual observation before the early 1980s suggested that employment levels were derived in a straightforward way from the demand for a firm’s product or setvices. Most layoffs were seen as driven by business cycles: they were temporary in that employees were rehired when product demand returned, and production workers were most often affected. The exceptions were typically limited to industryspecific market changes—the long-term decline of an industry, such as coal mining, or the movement of an industry, such as textiles, overseas. Thus, virtually all of the public policy attention given to unemployment assumed that job losses...

  8. Index
    (pp. 517-527)