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September 1992, Vol. 115, No. 9
The industrial structure of job displacement, 1979-89
Data on displaced workers show that there were major shifts among industries in the relative incidence of job loss due to displacement during the 1980's. This article examines changing industrial patterns of job displacement over the decade, with special emphasis on the behavior of levels, shares, and rates of job displacements. Most intriguing are analytical results indicating a trend in the incidence of displacement away from manufacturing and toward service-producing industries. This resulted primarily from lower relative rates of displacement in manufacturing industries, and produced a much less concentrated industrial pattern of displacements by the end of the decade.
Displaced worker surveys
The Displaced Worker Surveys are special supplements to the monthly Current Population Survey, in which workers are asked: "In the past five years has [the respondent] lost or left a job because of a plant closing, an employer going out of business, a layoff from which [the respondent] was not recalled, or other similar reasons?" Workers responding affirmatively to this initial question are then asked a series of questions about their former jobs, postdisplacement labor market experiences, and, if reemployed, current job characteristics.1 The surveys were conducted in January of 1984, 1986, 1988, and 1990. Because each survey is retrospective over the preceding 5 years, the four surveys together cover the years 1979-89.
The sample of workers drawn from the surveys for this study was selected using criteria similar to those used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in various articles and publications reporting data on job displacement. In particular, we include in our sample only those workers who reported job loss due to a plant shutdown or relocation, and workers who were laid off due to slack work or whose jobs were eliminated. There is, however, one major difference between our approach and that of the Bureau: Bureau tabulations exclude workers with less than 3 years of tenure on their former jobs, whereas we do not. Excluding workers with less than 3 years of tenure greatly reduces the sample and, hence, estimates of total displacements. Such an exclusion also affects the mix of displacements, because average tenure of displaced workers differs across industries. For example, average tenure of displaced workers is lower in most retail and service industries that in manufacturing and mining. Thus, the share of displacements accounted for by mining and manufacturing is smaller in our sample than in samples used for earlier Bureau studies. The advantage of our approach is that it gives us a much larger sample of displaced workers that allows us to conduct our analysis at a finer level of disaggregation. However, none of the major trends identified in this article depends on this tenure criterion.
This excerpt is from an article published in the September 1992 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 For further details on the Displaced Worker Survey, see Displaced Workers, 1979-1983, Bulletin 2240 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 1985); Displaced Workers, 1981-1985, Bulletin 2289 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 1987); and Diane E. Herz, "Worker displacement still common in the late 1980's," Monthly Labor Review, May 1991, pp. 3-9.
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