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Report Number P70-96
Alfred O. Gottschalck
Component ID: #ti598560908


As measured by the most recent labor force data available (from the Current Population Survey or CPS), over the last year, the unemployment rate for the United States has remained about the same – 5.8 percent in March 2003 and 5.7 percent in March 2004. That statistic compares a “snapshot” of individuals in March 2003 with another “snapshot” of different individuals for March 2004, but it is not a picture of what happened to the same individual's labor force behavior over that time period.  Underlying these figures is the continual labor market interaction between workers and employers as they both seek to make employment decisions.  Labor force turnover – the combined movement of people into, out of, and between jobs – is a dynamic process that continually changes the size and composition of the workforce in the United States.

This report uses the most recent longitudinal data available (from the Survey of Income and Program Participation or SIPP) to follow the same people over the 1996 to 1999 period to examine the characteristics of those who are newly employed, those who moved directly from one job to another, those who changed jobs with a spell of unemployment, and so on (see text box “SIPP – A Longitudinal Survey” for more information concerning SIPP).1

The report is divided into two parts.The first describes labor force turnover for the entire labor force and looks at how monthly turnover measures vary across the calendar year. The second part examines the average turnover rates for major industry and occupation groups from 1996 to 1999.2

1 The estimates in this report are based on responses from a sample of the population. As with all surveys, estimates may vary from the actual values because of sampling variation and other factors. All comparisons made in this report have undergone statistical testing and are significant at the 90-percent confidence level unless otherwise noted. This report is an update of a section of a previous report, P70-48: "Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Labor Force,1991 – 1993," August 1995, which contained a statistical analysis of unemployment spells, labor turnover, and new job earnings using the 1991 SIPP panel. This report updates the labor force turnover portion of the earlier report by examining labor force turnover by major industry and occupation group and using the 1996 SIPP panel. Due to the redesign of the 1996 SIPP panel, the reader should use caution in making comparisons between the 1996 SIPP panel and other SIPP panels.

2 See text box “Turnover Data by Demographic Characteristic”.

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