Work Experience

Work Experience

Created Variables

Number of Employers: NUMBER OF JOBS EVER REPORTED AS OF INTERVIEW DATE (All Interview Years)

Tenure with Specific Employer: TOTAL TENURE IN WEEKS WITH EMPLOYER (JOB #1-5) (All Interview Years)

Cumulative Labor Force Experience:

  • NUMBER OF WEEKS WORKED SINCE LAST INTERVIEW
  • NUMBER OF WEEKS WORKED IN PAST CALENDAR YEAR
  • NUMBER OF HOURS WORKED SINCE LAST INTERVIEW
  • NUMBER OF HOURS WORKED IN PAST CALENDAR YEAR
  • NUMBER OF WEEKS OUT OF LABOR FORCE SINCE LAST INTERVIEW
  • NUMBER OF WEEKS OUT OF LABOR FORCE IN PAST CALENDAR YEAR
  • NUMBER OF WEEKS UNEMPLOYED SINCE LAST INTERVIEW
  • NUMBER OF WEEKS UNEMPLOYED IN PAST CALENDAR YEAR
  • PERCENT WEEKS UNACCOUNTED FOR SINCE LAST INTERVIEW
  • PERCENT WEEKS UNACCOUNTED FOR IN PAST CALENDAR YEAR
  • WEEKS SINCE LAST INTERVIEW
  • WEEKS IN ACTIVE MILITARY SERVICE SINCE LAST INTERVIEW
  • WEEKS IN ACTIVE MILITARY SERVICE IN PAST CALENDAR YEAR

Note: For Created Weekly Work History arrays, see Work History Data section.

 

Important Definitions to Know: CPS Job and CPS Employer

The terms "CPS job" and "CPS employer" are found multiple times in the Work Experience section. A respondent's CPS job is his/her current/most recent (main) job, and the CPS employer is the name of the employer for that job. CPS stands for the Current Population Survey, a survey sponsored jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the majority of the survey years, the CPS sections of the NLSY79 instruments were those questions that replicated (as much as possible) the questions asked in the CPS.  There was no CPS section in the 2000-2004 and 2008-present NLSY79 survey years; however, in all years the CPS employer is defined as the respondent's current/most recent (main) job. See the Labor Force Status section for more details.

 

Each survey collects the following employment information:

  • a full work history of employment, including characteristics of the current or most recent employer and of any other employers for whom the respondent worked since the date of the last interview
  • military service since the date of the last interview
  • any gaps in employment since the date of the last interview

From this information and other retrospective information, a longitudinal record spanning from the date of, and to some extent the time preceding, the first interview through the most current interview date can be constructed for each respondent.  The longitudinal record is maintained even for respondents who are not interviewed in interim years.  Each year's questionnaire incorporates retrospective questions designed to recover as completely as possible information lost (or incorrectly reported or recorded) during previous survey years. 

For example, a respondent interviewed in 1984 and not interviewed again until 1989 will have a complete labor force history as of the 1989 interview, as information for the intervening period will be recovered in 1989.  Researchers should be alert to the possibility of gaps and discrepancies in some records over time due to inconsistencies in respondent reporting or interviewer error.  These inconsistencies have not appeared to be a major factor in the quality and completeness of the NLSY79 employment and labor force history.

The ability to link identical employers through survey years allows longitudinal examination of not only general labor force activity, but also employer-specific experience. Appendix 9: Linking Jobs Through Survey Years and Appendix 18: Work History Data both found in the NLSY79 Codebook Supplement, provide additional information. The Employer History Roster data, recently made available, provides other employer-specific characteristics.

Longitudinal Work Experience Record

This section discusses information on various aspects of the longitudinal work experience record available for each respondent of the NLSY79.

Number of Employers: The most basic longitudinal information available for respondents is the total number of employers for whom a respondent worked during a given period and the total number of employers (part-time and full-time) ever reported by a respondent. It is possible to construct fairly complete inventory of the number of jobs for all respondents from the age of 18 years and older; note the age effects discussion below.

"Employers" versus "Jobs": Unless explicitly noted, the NLSY79 work event history data are employer-based. Therefore, any reference to "job" is a reference to a specific employer. Information about specific duties and positions or changes in duties or position is collected, with reference to a specific employer, only at the point of interview (with limited exceptions in specific survey years). For example, a respondent may regard himself/herself as having held a number of "jobs" or positions with employer #1 (Job #1). However, any information collected about these different positions would be included as information about the respondent's experience with that employer (#1) at the point of interview for a specific year. Based upon this characteristic of these data, researchers are cautioned that counting changes in occupations can not necessarily be equated with total job changes or employer changes. For example, it is possible for a respondent to hold more than one occupation with the same employer during the time between interviews. Yet, except in restricted survey years, the only occupation specifically reported at the point of interview would be the current/most recent occupation. Likewise, a respondent may hold the same occupation through his or her tenure with several employers.

Effect of Age of Respondent on Employment Information: For those respondents who were 18 or older at the time of the first interview (1979), information about work history is recovered retrospectively to the age of 18. Information preceding this age may be relatively limited for these respondents. However, reported employers became part of the ongoing survey record of respondents who were younger than 18 at the time of the first survey. The depth of information for all jobs but the CPS job for respondents younger than 16 is somewhat restricted during the early survey years. Despite restrictions, a good deal of information is still available for those who were 15 years of age or under at the first interview point. More information on age restrictions is available in Employment: An Introduction (see Table 1 in that section).

Part-time versus Full-time Employers: If respondents report part-time or short-term employers who are not the CPS employers, there are restrictions on what information was gathered about industry, occupation, wages and class of worker. For a table of the universe restrictions, go to the section on Industries. This is also the case for year-specific modules, such as the 1990 promotion series. However, other basic information for part-time employers is available, such as start and stop dates, gaps within tenure with part-time or temporary employers, and hours worked per day and per week. In the event that a part-time/short-term employer is the CPS employer, complete data, including industry, occupation, and class of worker, are collected regardless of the nature of the job. Therefore, reasonable opportunity exists for comparisons of part-time/short-term and full-time employers, particularly if the part-time/short-term employer is the CPS employer.

Double-Counting of Employers: Users should be aware that a small degree of double-counting of employers may occur when data are collected.  Until 1998 employers were only tracked between contiguous interview years in which information was collected on the specific employer. It is therefore conceivable that a respondent who works for a particular employer during one year, leaves that employer, and then returns to that same employer after a year or more, would appear to be working for a new employer during the second tenure because the previous tenure with that employer would have slipped out of scope for tracking purposes (see also the Jobs & Employers section). Starting in 1998, the NLSY79 began keeping a roster of all employers to enable the CAPI instrument to recognize when a respondent returns to an employer that they left a number of years earlier.

Despite some limitations, NLSY79 data allow for the construction of a relatively complete and detailed employment history for respondents from January 1, 1978 (and possibly points preceding), through the most current year in which a respondent was interviewed.

Tenure with Specific Employer

A second type of basic information that can be constructed from NLSY79 longitudinal labor force experience data is a history of tenure (in weeks) with each employer reported up to the most current survey year for a given respondent. Tenure excludes any unpaid within-job gaps. (see the Time & Tenure with Employer section for additional information).

A total tenure through contiguous survey years is available for all employers, full- and part-time, for whom valid start and stop dates of employment are reported. This is accomplished by linking identical employers through contiguous survey years; see Appendix 9 in the NLSY79 Codebook Supplement for more information. The construction of employer tenure occurs within the more expansive programming structure that produces the separate NLSY79 Work History data items. For more information on the consequences of missing start and stop dates, users should refer to the Work History section, which is devoted to a discussion of these data.

"Employer" Tenure versus "Job" Tenure:  Researchers must be cognizant of the employer-based nature of these data (see the discussion above on "Number of Employers"). Tenure figures reflect time with a specific employer, not time performing a specific occupation with an employer. However, by using data on reported timing and nature of promotions present in two survey years for the CPS job and in 1990 for all jobs, it may be possible to impose some sense of change in occupations over certain periods of time.

Double-Counting of Employers and "Broken" Tenure: The limited possibility of double-counting of employers (discussed above) allows a slight chance of tenure with a single employer being calculated as tenure with two separate employers. An employer for whom the elapsed time between stints exceeds the capacity for continuous tracking will likely appear as two separate employers with two separate (and shorter) total tenure periods.

Gaps within Tenure with Specific Employer: Total tenure with an employer extends from reported start date to stop date. In addition, respondents may report gaps of a week or more during the period of association with an employer that fall within the period between start and stop dates. Unpaid gaps within tenure with the same employer are reported in association with a specific employer. They occur between the start and stop dates given for an employer. The respondent may not consider himself/herself completely disassociated from the relevant employer during these periods, although he or she was not actively working for that employer. Specific variables for each gap include start and stop dates; the reason that the respondent was not working during a given gap; the number of weeks that a respondent was unemployed (looking for work or on layoff) or out of the labor force (OLF or not looking for work) during a given gap; and, for those who were OLF at some time during a gap, the reason they were not looking for work.

Although a respondent may report himself or herself to be out of the labor force or unemployed during these gaps, these weeks are included in the calculation of total tenure with that employer because they occur before the respondent has reported an actual stop date for his or her association with that employer.  Therefore, these weeks are considered part of the period for which the respondent considers himself/herself associated with that employer.

Users wishing to adjust total tenure with an employer to reflect such gaps must do so by calculating the length of reported gaps and eliminating them from the total tenure value. This can be done over the total of reported gaps or selectively, depending upon the reason or labor force activity classification (out of the labor force versus unemployed) of individual gaps.