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[Excerpt] Job separations are a part of most workers’ careers. Some workers leave jobs to pursue other opportunities; others are fired for poor performance or because they are otherwise not a good fit. In some cases, workers experience job displacement (i.e., involuntary job separations that occur when businesses shut down, move, or cut back shifts). Job displacement is of particular interest to policymakers because the separations tend to be caused by worsening economic conditions or changing production patterns (as opposed to worker performance), and can permanently alter local job prospects. Costs of such job loss can be particularly high for long-tenured workers, whose investments in job-specific skills do not transfer completely to, and do not result in higher wages in, new jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines long-tenured displaced workers as workers age 20 or older who held their job for at least three years before separating due to the closure or relocation of a company or worksite, insufficient work, or the elimination of a position or shift. BLS reports that in the three-year interval from 2015 to 2017, 3 million long-tenured workers and 3.8 million short-tenured (less than three years of tenure) workers were displaced. While these losses were significant, most job loss is not a result of displacement. Using broader estimates of job loss, BLS estimates that there were 57.8 million layoffs or discharges over the same period. (Different from long-tenured displaced workers, layoffs and discharges include workers fired for cause and workers with fewer than three years of job tenure, and are not limited to one observation per worker). An additional 113.2 million workers willingly left their jobs (e.g., quit, retired), illustrating that job separations are frequent and largely voluntary.


Suggested Citation
Donvan, S. A., & Labonte, M. (2018). Long-tenured displaced workers (CRS In Focus IFI0984). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.