Workers Holding on to Jobs Longer

December 14, 2010 ( - The median length of time that full-time workers stay in their jobs ticked up slightly in 2010, continuing a slow increase in job tenure that began in 2004, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

Among all wage and salary workers age 25 or older, EBRI found the median job tenure was 5.2 years in 2010.   

According to a press release, a closer look at long-term trends shows that the median job tenure for men dropped, from 5.9 years in 1983 to 5.1 years in 2010, while job tenure for women increased, from 4.2 years in 1983 to 5.1 years in 2010. Older male and female workers also saw increases in median job tenure. The tenure for males ages 55–64 rose from 9.5 years in 2006 to 10.4 years in 2010, and women ages 55–64 saw the largest tenure increase over a longer time series, from 7.8 years in 1963 to 9.7 years in 2010.  

For private-sector workers, the median tenure held relatively steady from 1983–2002, at around 3.5 years, and subsequently trended upward, reaching four years in 2010. Among public-sector workers, median job tenure reached 7.1 years in 2010. Public-sector job tenure currently is about 80% higher than it is in the private sector.  

Workers with 20 or more years of tenure increased from 8.9% in 1983 to 10.9% in 2010, while the percentage of workers with one year or less of tenure declined from 25.7% in 1983 to 17.4% in 2010. In addition, in 2010, workers having at least five years of tenure reached 51%, the highest level over the 1983–2010 period by nearly two percentage points.  

Craig Copeland, EBRI senior research associate, and author of the study, noted in the press release that with unemployment remaining high in 2009 and 2010, the increase in median tenure levels indicates that workers with jobs are hanging onto them longer—especially at a time when people without jobs are having trouble finding one. 

The findings are published in the December EBRI Notes, “Job Tenure Trends, 1983–2010,” on, and are based on the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.