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The Rapidly Changing Labor Force

Changing Labor Force in the USA over thirty yearsRemember your dad’s winter coat? The one that had the name of his employer on it? He wore it every winter. Why not? Your dad never changed jobs. He never needed to wear a winter coat with another employer’s name branded across its back. Many people from the Baby Boomer generation held their jobs for 30 or 40 years, then retired with a pension.

Many employees today don’t even know what a pension is, and few workers plan to stay at their jobs for more than a couple of years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, average workers will change jobs anywhere from seven to 10 times during their careers. This isn’t the only way that the U.S. labor force has changed since the 1950s. It might not even be the most significant one.

Job hopping is the new normal

Before the Great Recession hit, many younger workers believed that the only way to get ahead in their careers was to hop from job to job. The perception was that this is the only way to earn promotions at a rapid pace.

Today, thanks to higher unemployment, the poor economy and companies looking for the least expensive employees, job hopping is happening for other reasons.

The national unemployment rate is still a high 7.6. This means many people are out of work. What these statistics don’t show is that many people are also under-employed. This means they are not making the same paycheck that they were before the current crises.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workers stayed with their employers an average of 4.6 years in 2013. While this number continues to change, it's a far cry from the 40 years that many baby boomers toiled with their companies.

Baby boomers may have gotten bored on the job, but at least they have job security. That’s something that today’s workers know little about. If there’s one thing the Great Recession has taught employees, it’s that the corporations and companies that pay them will drop them in an instant if the move makes financial sense.

Positive Workplace Changes

Not all workplace changes have been bad. Many positive changes include laws protecting Americans with disabilities, veterans, women, minorities, and more. These laws protect against unfair discrimination, intimidation, and unfair treatment in pay. Gender changes

In 1950, 70.3 percent of all workers in the U.S. labor force were men. This has changed dramatically over the years. Today, men make up just 53 percent of the labor force and women make up the other 47%.

The story with wages, however, is still being written. Men still tend to earn more. One study shows that in 1987, fewer than 20 percent of wives earned more than their husbands did. In 2007, that number did rise, to more than 26 percent. The current rate isn’t much better.

The size of the workforce grew dramatically as well. , From 1988 to 2008, the size of the workforce has risen from 121.7 million employees to 166.9 million. This growth rate is slowing, but not stopping. The slowing growth rate of the U.S. labor force can be attributed to unemployment, changing technology and outsourcing. Here’s the question for you: What workforce do you prefer? Your father’s, stable but certainly more boring (as long as you were male and not an ethnic minority), or yours, exciting but an emotional rollercoaster?

The answer to that question might depend upon where you are in your life. If you’re raising a family, you might prefer stable but boring. If you’re just getting started in the workforce and the only person relying on your salary is you, you might go with exciting but unstable.