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Not Enough Job Hopping

At my first 2 jobs right after college, i stayed at both for about 18 months. That seemed like more than long enough as the shine of a new job and new co-workers had definitely worn off by around month 12. There were other reasons for leaving, ofc, but i certainly didn't need to try very hard to decide it was time to go.

Then inertia set in. I've been at my current job so long, i got invited to a luncheon and qualified for an anniversary gift (I chose the cool mist humidifier cause holy crap does it get hot and dry in here when they turn the heat on. It leaks. I have to sit it in a bowl.).

Anyway, the point is, job hopping is normal when you've just entered the work force proper, and people should stop talking about it like it's a crazy new thing these young people are doing. And FiveThirtyEight says it's not even true that it's happening more with the current generation.

The data consistently shows that today's young people are actually less professionally itinerant than previous generations. In fact, millennials -- and the U.S. economy as a whole -- would be better off if they'd live up to the stereotype and start switching jobs more often.

To support its case, the Journal (where I was a reporter from 2006 to 2013) cites Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that the typical worker aged 20 to 24 has been in their job for about 16 months. "For those aged 25 to 34, it was three years," the Journal continues, "still far short of the 5.5-year median tenure for all workers age 25 and over."

But those numbers are highly misleading. Sure, most people in their early 20s are fairly new to their jobs, but most of them are fairly new to the workforce, period.

More importantly, comparing today's 20-somethings to today's 30- and 40-somethings misses the point. Younger workers do tend to change jobs more often than older workers, but that's always been true. Numbers on job tenure for Americans in their 20s were almost exactly the same in the 1980s as they are today. Monthly data tells a similar story, as the chart below shows: Every month, about 3 percent of young workers (defined here as those between 22 and 29) change jobs, compared to about 4 percent in the mid-1990s.


Changing jobs is a key way for workers to make more money. That's especially true for younger workers, who often need to move around to find the job that suits -- and pays -- them best. By entering the workforce during a period of prolonged economic downturn, today's young people missed out on years of potential wage gains, a setback from which they might never fully recover.

In other words, we shouldn't worry that millennials are changing jobs too often, but rather, as the Washington Post's Jonnelle Marte has written, that they aren't changing jobs enough.

By min | May 8, 2015, 1:37 PM | Liberal Outrage