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Two things. First, this graph may be measuring the wrong thing. I would like to see a graph of the number of indeterminate tenure workers vs. the number of contract term workers. It's the rise of the latter that makes most people take notice.

I have had that conversation with my own family as I have several issues that make contract work unsuitable for me. My mother remarked that they didn't have contract workers back in her job-hunting days (the 1970's).

That bring me to my second point, that if this graph could be extended back to 1960 or so, it should be. The conversation you are referring to is an intergenerational one and therefore its based on experiences that older people have had in their youth in the 1960's and 1970's.

As a subset of this fact, a graph of layoffs as a percent of the labour force would be nice too. Layoffs/contract work are both a reflection of companies shortening worker tenure due to economic circumstances.

The LFS started in 1976.

Stephen, try looking at the job tenure trends by gender - during the period you're looking at, there's been a big change in the percentage of the labour force that's female, and men and women tend to have quite different turnover behaviour.

I'm actually surprised at the numbers that do stay with an employer long term. It's been my experience (and observation amongst friends and family) that for all the talk of succession planning, etc...few companies actually promote from within. If you want a better job, you have to change employers.

I always find these posts interesting. Debunking cliches and "good old days" thinking. Graphs like this (and your recession graphs) nicely show hindsight bias, and how we tend to idealise the past.

Yes. Your graphs demolish a lot of myths. And with Frances' point, if women (especially older women) tend to have lower job tenure than men, and the average has reflected an increasing percentage of women over time, there might even have been an increase in job tenure for men, and women.

I can't even formulate this question correctly: might the higher average tenure of older workers simply reflect the fact that they are older? Survivorship? In other words, I could imagine a world in which everyone has exactly the same probability of switching jobs each year, but older workers would still have higher average job tenure.

Frances - you're quite right. I just looked at female job tenure, and there is indeed an increase in average tenure, most notably for those aged 45 and over. I haven't yet done it for men, but given the stability in the totals, there's almost certainly going to be a decrease there.

I'd be really interested in knowing what the matching graphs look like for the U.S. It might help shed some light on some the economic differences as you cross the border.

One key factor I would be curious about is the effect of employer-based health insurance on job tenure. I am fully aware that these charts cannot directly measure that effect, but it is a major difference between our otherwise mostly similar job economies.

"One key factor I would be curious about is the effect of employer-based health insurance on job tenure. "

I could see that being a difference as well. In general employer-side payroll taxes are higher in the U.S. In Canada (outside Quebec) CPP + EI marginal rate for employers is 7.42%. In the U.S. FICA is 7.65% and state + federal unemployment adds another 0.5-1% on top of that (depending on the state). Plus the cutoffs for FICA are a lot higher than CPP + EI, IIRC.

And that doesn't even take into account health insurance (which lots of Canadian companies have as well, but naturally ours is a great deal cheaper for employers).

Canadian health insurance, rather "group benefits" consists of the three D's: Drugs, Dental and Disability. No group benefits plan in Canada is seen without Disability.

Quebec has a universal-coverage system in place, most other provinces have means-tested public drug benefit systems.

I dimly recollect a statscan study from a few years back indicating that average tenure stability concealed greater churn at the very low end of the tenure range. Your point re a mythical past of stable jobs is well taken.

What happens when you control for class (or occupation level)?

I suspect the assertion of stable employment applied to very few people. In particular, those who would rise in the corporate hierarchy. Those at the bottom would be kicked from pillar to post. Except a little bit of labour aristocracy (auto workers, anyone?).

The man in the grey flannel suit was a relatively short term phenomenon.

Fascinating.

Does this include both part time and full time positions?

First graph -- It is interesting that tenure went up in the 1990s when the Canadian economy was struggling, and went down in the 2000s when, until 2008, things were booming. Although the differences are not large between recession and boom times, it's probably enough to create sufficient anecdotal stories that everyone believes there is more churn.

Re: later graphs - Would there be any way to represent this data as a percentage of the workforce in that age group? I notice a blip in the 5-10 year tenure for the 25-44 year old tenure in the late 1980s, graph 3, and I wonder if that is somehow a baby boomer cohort size factor.

These are all full-time positions; I should have mentioned. And those last graphs are a percentage of the workforce - that is, percentages of those employed.

"First graph -- It is interesting that tenure went up in the 1990s when the Canadian economy was struggling, and went down in the 2000s when, until 2008, things were booming. Although the differences are not large between recession and boom times, it's probably enough to create sufficient anecdotal stories that everyone believes there is more churn. "

There are some paradoxical effects of recessions, IIRC - certain groups of employees tend to be fired/laid off first, which alters overall averages. Again, IIRC, it's not surprising to see average hourly wages tick up a bit early in a recession, because employees at lower wages are more likely to be fired/laid off.


What's the definition of the "same employer"? If it is working at the same place, or for the same nominal company, or for the same actual company? Here in Australia a great many employees have gone through several changes of employer without leaving their desks - often with significant changes in entitlements, management structure and career opportunities.

Not sure. I would think that a change of ownership in the firm that employed you would not be counted as a change of employer, but I could be wrong.

True, but Peter is right. New GM, for example, didn't buy old GM. They bought all assets, including the employees, but at very different terms of employment from before.

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