Human Resources

Employee Tenure in 2010

The median number of years that wage and salary workers have been with their current employers is 4.4.

September 27, 2010
KEYWORDS employer , tenure , workers
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The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employers was 4.4 in January 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

This measure, referred to as employee tenure, was 4.1 years in January 2008. The increase in tenure among those at work reflects, in part, relatively large job losses among less-senior workers in the most recent recession.

Information on employee tenure has been obtained from supplemental questions to the Current Population Survey (CPS) every two years since 1996. These data are collected as part of the Displaced Worker Supplement, which is sponsored by the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The CPS is a monthly 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 employers at the time of the survey. A number of factors can affect the median tenure of workers, including changes in the age profile among workers, as well as changes in the number of hires and separations.

Demographic characteristics

Median employee tenure (the point at which half of all workers had more tenure and half had less tenure) was generally higher among older workers than younger ones.

For example, the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 (10 years) was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 (3.1 years). A larger percentage of older workers than younger workers had 10 years or more of tenure.

For instance, more than half of all workers ages 60 to 64 were employed for at least 10 years with their current employers in January, compared with only 13% of individuals ages 30 to 34.

In January 2010, median tenure for men was 4.6 years, up from 4.2 years in January 2008. For women, median tenure in January 2010 was 4.2 years, slightly higher than the median (3.9 years) in January 2008.

Twenty-nine percent of wage and salary workers age 16 and over had 10 or more years of tenure with their current employers in January 2010. Among men, 30% had at least 10 years of tenure with their current employers, compared with 28% among women.

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, 20% of Hispanics had been with their current employers for 10 years or more in January, compared with 30% of whites, 26% of blacks, and 21% of Asians.

The shorter tenure among Hispanic workers can be explained, in part, by their relative youth. Forty-six percent of Hispanic workers were between the ages of 16 and 34. By comparison, the proportions for whites (35%), blacks (38%), and Asians (36%) were smaller.

The share of wage and salary workers with a year or less of tenure with their current employers was 19% in January 2010, lower than the proportion in January 2008. This short-tenured group includes new entrants and re-entrants to the workforce, job losers who found new jobs during the previous year, and workers who had voluntarily changed employers during the previous year.

Younger workers were more likely than older workers to be short-tenured employees. For example, in January 2010, 67% of 16- to 19-year-olds had tenure of 12 months or less with their current employers, compared with 8% of workers ages 55 to 64.


In January, workers in management, professional, and related occupations had the highest median tenure (5.2 years) among the major occupational groups.

Within this group, employees in management occupations (6.1 years) and in architecture and engineering occupations (5.7 years) had the longest tenure.

Workers in service occupations, who are generally younger than those employed in management, professional, and related occupations, had the lowest median tenure (3.1 years).

Among employees working in service jobs, food service workers had the lowest median tenure, at 2.3 years.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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