December 2005, Vol. 128, No. 12
Occupational mobility, January 2004
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When economic conditions are favorable, individuals may have more opportunities to change jobs to earn more money, do the kind of work they prefer, or reduce their commuting time. Conversely, when economic conditions are less favorable, fewer opportunities with such desirable characteristics may be available. Economic conditions or some other factor—completing school, for example—can prompt a change of occupation. If an individual is employed in one period (January 2005, for example) and changes occupations by the next period (January 2006), occupational mobility has occurred. The occupational mobility rate is the number of individuals employed in two time periods who change occupations divided by the number of individuals employed in both periods.
According to the Current Population Survey (CPS), around 137 million persons aged 16 or older were employed in January 2004 (data are not seasonally adjusted). About 123 million persons were employed in January of 2004 and of 2003, of which nearly 9 million changed occupations at the most detailed level. Thus, the overall occupational mobility rate was 7.25 percent. This report examines occupational mobility data for the January 2003 to January 2004 period for selected demographic and employment characteristics and compares historical data with current data.1
A concept related to occupational mobility is job mobility. Job mobility occurs when an individual stops working for one employer and begins work for another. Occupational mobility can occur with or without job mobility. An example of occupational mobility without job mobility would be if a carpenter who works for a general building contractor changes occupations by being promoted into a management position for the same contractor. An example of occupational mobility with job mobility would be if the carpenter changed employers to work outside the construction field, such as working at the local fire department as a firefighter. Occupational mobility has not occurred if the carpenter leaves one contractor for another while continuing to work as a carpenter. Labor turnover, another Bureau of Labor Statistics measure, is different from both job and occupational mobility; turnover measures the separations of employees from establishments, but does not reveal whether the employee found work elsewhere.
1 This report contains the first occupational mobility data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics since a news release for the January 1991 CPS supplement. For a previous report on occupational mobility, see James P. Markey and William Parks II, "Occupational change: pursuing a different kind of work," Monthly Labor Review, September 1989, pp. 3–12. Earlier reports on occupational mobility appeared in the Monthly Labor Review in June 1967, February 1975, December 1979, September 1982, and October 1984.
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