The Importance of Lifetime Jobs in the U.S. Economy

Robert E. Hall

NBER Working Paper No. 560 (Also Reprint No. r0508)
Issued in October 1980
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth Program, Labor Studies Program

Though the U.S. labor market is justly notorious for high turnover and consequent high unemployment, it also provides stable, near-lifetime employment to an important fraction of the labor force. This paper investigates patterns of job duration by age, race, and sex, with the following major conclusions: 1. The typical worker today is holding a job which has lasted or will last about eight years. Over a quarter of all workers are holding jobs which will last twenty years or more. Sixty percent hold jobs which will last five years or more. 2. The jobs held by middle-aged workers with more than ten years of tenure are extremely stable. Over the span of a decade, only twenty to thirty percent come to an end. 3. Among workers aged thirty and above, about forty percent are currently working in jobs which eventually will last twenty years or more. Three-quarters are in jobs which will last five years or more.4. The duration of employment among blacks is just as long as among whites. Even though the jobs held by blacks are worse in almost every other dimension, they are no more unstable than those held by whites. 5. Women's jobs are substantially shorter than men's, on the average. Only about a quarter of all women over the age of thirty are employed in jobs which will last over twenty years, whereas over half of men over thirty are holding these near-lifetime jobs.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w0560

Published: Hall, Robert E. "The Importance of Lifetime Jobs in the U.S. Economy." The American Economic Review, Vol. 72, No. 4, (September 1982), pp. 716-724. citation courtesy of

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