Facts about the Labor Force

Are You An Average Worker?

Facts about the Labor Force
September 5, 2016

The total civilian labor force is slightly over 159 million people, according to the July 2016 Employment Bulletin from the BLS. 151.5 million of the labor force is currently employed, while 7.8 million are unemployed. 123.6 million of those employed are full-time workers. Hopefully, you are one of them.

Do you think you are an average Joe or Jane when it comes to your participation in this labor force? To find out, test your "averageness" against some of these statistics available from Gallup and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Earnings – According to the BLS, the most recent median weekly earnings for full-time employees (second quarter of 2016) was $824, or $42,848 over the full 52-week year. Medians are used for this data, meaning that half of the workers earn above this mark and half earn below this mark. Extremely high earners would skew the data upward if averages were used.

    The gender gap is still significant, with men earning $909 per week and women earning $744 per week.

    Education matters for earnings. For full-time workers over age 25, the median wage with respect to education was as follows: $499 for those who did not finish high school, $690 for high school graduates without college, and $1,249 for those who completed at least a bachelor's degree in college.
  • Working Hours – The most recent BLS household data shows that 43.1% of us work 40 hours per week, and another 25% work longer hours, with 6.6% working 60 hours or more per week. However, for the relatively small percentage of Americans working in agricultural industries, the percentage working 60 or more hours per week rises to 20.3%.

    On the part-time side, 25.2% of workers logged less than 35 hours per week, with 16.6% working less than 30 hours per week. 1% of workers only worked 1-4 hours.

  • Tenure of Employment – For the last year that data was available (2014), the median tenure (continuous employment with the same company) of all workers was 4.6 years. Overall, tenure is increasing. The median in 2000 was 3.5 years.

    Not surprisingly, tenure also increases with age – median values for workers over age 55 were 10.4 years, while those aged 25-34 had a median tenure of 3 years.

  • Age – The tenure figure above appears to correspond with the increase in the median age of the workforce. In 2000, the median age of a worker was 39.4 years; in 2015, that number rose to 42.3.

  • Retirement Age – According to Gallup, the average expected retirement age is 66 for those who are still working, but the average actual retirement age among current retirees is 61. Both numbers have been slowly rising, but there is a consistent 4-7 year gap between these ages.

  • Average Number of Jobs – There is not much comprehensive data available, but BLS reported on the number of jobs that baby boomers born from 1957-1964 held between ages 18-48. The number is surprisingly high – 11.8 jobs for men and 11.5 jobs for women on average. Does this correlate to the fact that for a decade or so — starting in the late 1960s — this was the generation that "tuned in, turned on and dropped out?" Or is that simply an urban legend? Whatever the reason, this generation has certainly been one of the most peripatetic in history.

Did you turn out to be average? Other interesting tidbits are available on the Gallup website or BLS websites, if you want to see how you stack up in other areas.

Whether or not you are an average worker, we are just glad that you are an active part of the labor force – because a strong labor force keeps America strong.


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