Downsized & Out? Job Security and American Workers

September 1, 1999

Two decades ago, workers entering new jobs in established firms could look about and see that most of their older and more tenured fellow workers had climbed a fairly steep wage ladder and appeared to enjoy a relatively high degree of job security. Over the past 20 years intense media attention and some dramatic downsizing among large companies have created a widespread perception that corporate layoffs among senior workers, at all skill levels, have seriously eroded the prospects for job security as a reward for long service.

How accurate is this perception? Has job stability significantly worsened for the average American worker? What is the cost of layoffs to workers with substantial job tenure, and have these costs been rising?