Employee’s average tenure is just over four years

[ from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ]

The U.S. Department of Labor's Chief Evaluation Office sponsored the January 2018 survey to collect information on employee tenure. Since 1996, these surveys have been conducted biennially in January as a supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that provides information on the labor force status of the civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. The questions about employee tenure measure how long workers had been with their current employer at the time of the survey. A number of factors can affect median tenure of workers, including changes in the age profile among workers, as well as changes in the number of hires and separations. For further information about the CPS, see the Technical Note in this news release.

Demographic Characteristics

In January 2018, median employee tenure (the point at which half of all workers had more tenure and half had less tenure) for men was 4.3 years, unchanged from January 2016. Median tenure for women, at 4.0 years in January 2018, also was unchanged from January 2016. Among men, 30 percent of wage and salary workers had 10 years or more of tenure with their current employer in January 2018, slightly higher than the figure of 28 percent for women. (See tables 1 and 3.)

Generally, median employee tenure was higher among older workers than younger ones. For example, the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 (10.1 years) was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 (2.8 years). Also, a larger proportion of older workers than younger workers had 10 years or more of tenure. For example, 57 percent of workers ages 60 to 64 were employed for at least 10 years with their current employer in January 2018, compared with 12 percent of those ages 30 to 34. (See tables 1 and 2.)

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, 23 percent of Hispanics had been with their current employer for 10 years or more in January 2018, compared with 30 percent of Whites and 25 percent of both Black and Asian workers. (See table 3.) The shorter tenure among Hispanic workers can be explained, in part, by their relative youth. Forty-three percent of Hispanic workers were between the ages of 16 and 34; by comparison, the proportions for Whites (36 percent), Blacks (39 percent), and Asians (35 percent) were smaller.

In January 2018, the share of wage and salary workers with a year or less of tenure with their current employer was 22 percent, little changed from the proportion in January 2016 (23 percent). This short-tenured group includes new hires, job losers who found new jobs during the previous year, and workers who had voluntarily changed employers during the year. Younger workers were more likely than older workers to be short-tenured employees. For example, in January 2018, 74 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds had tenure of 12 months or less with their current employer, compared with 9 percent of workers ages 55 to 64. (See table 3.)

Among workers age 25 and over, men and women with less than a high school diploma had lower median tenure in January 2018 than those with more education. The median tenure for men and women with less than a high school diploma was 4.7 years and 4.2 years, respectively. Their counterparts with at least a college degree had median tenure of 5.2 years and 5.0 years, respectively. (See table 4.)

Industry In January 2018, wage and salary workers in the public sector had a median tenure of 6.8 years, considerably higher than the median of 3.8 years for private-sector employees. One factor behind this difference is age. About 3 in 4 government workers were age 35 and over, compared with about 3 in 5 private wage and salary workers. Federal employees had a higher median tenure (8.3 years) than state (5.9 years) or local government (6.9 years) employees. (See table 5.)

Within the private sector, workers had been with their current employer for 5 or more years in two industries--mining (5.1 years) and manufacturing (5.0 years). Workers in leisure and hospitality had the lowest median tenure (2.2 years). These differences in tenure reflect many factors, one of which is varying age distributions across industries. For example, workers in manufacturing, on average, tend to be older than those in leisure and hospitality.


Among the major occupations, workers in management, professional, and related occupations had the highest median tenure (5.0 years) in January 2018. Within this group, employees with jobs in management occupations (6.4 years), in architecture and engineering occupations (5.7 years), in legal occupations (5.1 years), and in education, training, and library occupations (5.1 years) had the longest tenure. Workers in service occupations, who are generally younger than persons employed in management, professional, and related occupations, had the lowest median tenure (2.9 years). Among employees working in service occupations, food service workers had the lowest median tenure, at 1.9 years. (See table 6.)

Christine Haskell, PHD has built her practice on credible, published research and data. In the Research Series, you’ll find highlights, shareable statistics, and links to the full source material.