Boomers job hopped a dozen times: BLS study

Boomer woman working
Dan Wilton | E+ | Getty Images

The days of working for one company your whole career, and retiring with a gold watch, are gone.

In fact, they've been gone for decades, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The study, which has been tracking the careers of nearly 10,000 baby boomers since 1979, found that the average boomer changed jobs nearly a dozen times between ages 18 and 48. The most rapid job hopping happened early on, with those aged 18 to 24 switching employers nearly six times. By their 40s, boomers had settled in and switched a little more than twice in a decade.

The survey, which covered workers born between 1957 and 1964, the later stage of part of the baby boom, also tracked how long they were out of work over the last 35 years.

Between the ages of 18 and 48, the average boomer was employed for 78 percent of the time, unemployed for 5 percent and out of the workforce for 18 percent. Not surprisingly, women spent much more time out of the workforce than men: a quarter of the period versus just 11 percent, respectively.

The study also confirmed that wage gains for boomer women lagged those of men during their careers. Wage gains were also higher for those with higher levels of education. For all groups, annual wage gains tapered off on a percentage basis as they grew older and their salaries grew.

The latest data confirm other research on the frequency of job changes among younger generations. But some millennials may be surprised to learn how many jobs they can expect to have in their careers.

A Harris survey in 2011 found that while millennials expect to have three different careers during their working lives, they'll change jobs fewer than five times. Older millennials (ages 26-31) expect to have more careers (3.4 on average) than those aged 21-25 (2.5 careers on average. And college graduates expect to change jobs an average of 5.5 times—compared with just 3.8 times for those with less education.