Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Public sector workers stay in their jobs longer than private sector workers, a possible indication of the value of the defined benefit type retirement programs that are still the rule in the former group but the exception in the latter group.


A report from the Employee Benefits Research Institute examined average tenure in a job since 1983, and found that overall, the concept of people remaining for extended periods in a job is overstated. "Career jobs never existed for most workers and have continued not to exist for most workers,” it said.

Median tenure for workers age 25 and older was 5.4 years, compared with 5.0 years in 1983, possibly indicating that employees have been tending to stick with their jobs longer overall due to the recent job market.

Also, older workers do tend to stay longer, with males age 55-64 for example having an average of 10.7 years in their jobs. There also was a significant difference between the private and public sectors (including both federal employees and state and local workers): Median tenure in public sector jobs is 8.3 years overall, about twice that of private sector workers.

Said the report: "Since defined benefit (DB) pensions that are final-average plans have formulas based on tenure and average salary, workers who frequently change jobs may not receive the maximum benefit from this type of plan because they do not remain with the same employers for extended periods; in fact, short-tenure workers (with less than five years in their jobs) may not qualify for any pension benefit at all. Since the median length of employment for all wage and salary workers age 25 or older is just 5.4 years, even many American workers who are currently participating in a DB plan are not likely to receive a significant benefit from the plan.