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Characteristics of occupational entrants.

(Tables and Charts omitted)

Almost 19 million Americans employed in January 1987about 17 percent of all workers-entered their occupation during the previous 12 months, according to the January Current Population Survey. As might be expected, large numbers of occupational entrants were teenagers who entered the labor force for the first time and young adults who were job shopping. In addition, many entrants were mothers who returned to the lab or force, workers who changed occupations in the process of looking for rewarding and satisfying careers, and workers who lost one job and took another in a different occupation.

These workers were grouped into three categories according to their status in January 1986: Those who were employed in a different occupation (10 million); those who were unemployed (3.1 million); and those who were not in the labor force (5.9 million). For each group, information is available on the age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin of the workers and on whether the worker had previous experience in the field. According to the survey, workers under 20 and over 64 were most likely not to have been in the labor force 12 months earlier. Men were more likely than women to have been employed in another occupation. Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites and non-Hispanics to have been unemployed. Previous experience was found to be very common in fields such as teaching, nursing, and construction.

Data were also collected on workers' reasons for changing occupations. About 53 percent of the 10 million workers who changed occupations sought better pay or working conditions. Another 13 percent had lost their previous jobs due to plant closings or moves, abolition of their positions, slack work, or other reasons. Older workers were more likely than younger ones to say that their job shift was involuntary. Other reasons that employed persons changed occupations included moving to a different residence and switching from part-time work to full-time work or vice versa.

Economic conditions naturally have a significant impact on the occupational distribution of job entrants. The importance of growth in creating job openings, however, should not be overemphasized. For every opening created by growth, almost nine became available because of turnover when workers transferred to other occupations or left the labor force for retirement or other reasons. Even fields with declining employment usually had some job entrants because the replacement needs more than offset the decline. For example, despite a decrease in employment from 2.9 million to 2.7 million in farming, forestry, and fishing occupations during January 1986-87, more than 300,000 people found jobs in this group due to replacement needs.


The likelihood that a worker entered his or her occupation during the preceding 12 months decreased steadily with age. Many individuals get their first job during their teens, usually part time while attending school or during summer vacation. It is not surprising, therefore, that large proportions of young workers employed in January 1987 were new to their jobs. Over 58 percent of all workers 16 to 19 years old entered their occupations over the January 1986-January 1987 period. After leaving school, young adults 20 to 24 years of age frequently experiment with different occupations in an attempt to find a field of work that suits them. Almost 34 percent of all workers 20 to 24 years of age had not been in the labor force in January 1986.

Young workers are concentrated in a relatively few occupations. The variety of opportunities available to young jobseekers is limited because they lack education and training, and they frequently seek only part-time or temporary employment. Moreover, young people lack the experience necessary for many jobs. The 25 detailed occupations in chart 1 accounted for almost one-half of all entrants ages 16 to 24. People under 25 years old made up by far the largest supply of new workers in many occupations; they accounted for almost 89 percent of those who were food counterworkers, and roughly 80 percent of those who were waiters' and waitresses' assistants, and stock handlers and baggers . Young people also represented well over one-half of the new workers in many other occupations, including cashiers, waiters and waitresses, apparel sales workers, cooks, and automobile mechanics.

Older workers, naturally, are far less likely to be new to their occupation than are other groups. As workers get older, they are less likely to change jobs voluntarily because they may stand to lose more in terms of earnings, seniority rights, and pension benefits. Only 6 percent of the workers age 55 and over entered their occupations ftom January 1986 to January 1987. However, the small number of entrants ages 55 and over were similar to the youngest ones in some ways. Like their young counterparts, the oldest entrants were occupationally concentrated. In addition, a surprisingly large percentage of older workers were not in the labor force a year earlier; almost 29 percent of 55- to 64-year-old male entrants to occupations had not been in the labor force a year earlier. Youth and senior citizens also tended to find more service jobs than any other kind. Within the service group, however, the oldest entrants were more likely than teenagers to be janitors, guards, and childcare workers, and less likely to be in food service occupations. Another similarity is that both groups were more likely than others to be in part-time jobs. Several of the occupations in charts 1 and 2 have very high proportions of part-time workers, including cashier, stock handler, waiter and waitress, janitor, childcare worker, and nurses' aide,


Although more men than women were employed, more entrants were women. About 9.7 million, almost 20 percent, of the women employed in January 1987 entered their occupation during the previous 12 months, comparedto 9.2 million, or about 15 percent, of the men. More striking than this, however, is the difference in what men and women had been doing the previous year-in another occupation, unemployed, or not in the labor force. Less than one-tenth of the men ages 25 to 54 had been out of the labor force the previous year; in contrast, almost one-third of the women in this age group who were new to an occupation had not been in the labor force the previous year. The difference in occupational entry rates between the sexes is largely a result of the return to the labor force of many mothers who had quit jobs for home responsibilities.

The distribution of entrants by major occupational group also varies somewhat by sex. Almost 16 percent of the males entered precision production, craft, and repair occupations, compared to just 2 percent of the women. Similarly, 29 percent of the men became operators, fabricators, and laborers, whereas just 9 percent of the women did. On the other hand, more than 24 percent of the women were entrants to service occupations, while fewer than 16 percent of the men were; and almost 28 percent of the women were in administrative support, including clerical occupations, and less than 8 percent of the men were.

Some shifts in the occupational distribution of entrants by sex did take place with advances in age. For example, as they became older, an increasing proportion of male entrants were executives, administrators, and managers, for the reason that promotion to some of these positions may require years of training in subordinate jobs. At the same time, a large but declining proportion of male entrants were operators, fabricators, and laborers-perhaps because, with growth in work experience, there were more opportunities to become supervisors or get better jobs in other occupational groups. Interestingly, the pattern for women was the opposite in that, as age advanced, the percentage of entrants who were executives, administrators, and managers decreased somewhat while the percentage who were operators, fabricators, and laborers increased.

Race and Ethnicity

White workers greatly outnumbered those from minority groups, and this is reflected in the breakdown of job entrants; 45 percent were white women and 42 percent were white men. In relative terms, black and Hispanic workers were more likely than others to be entrants because they were younger and more affected by unemployment. The entry rate for black women, however, was lower than the rates for other women. Because of lower family incomes, black women have been less able than white women to interrupt their careers and leave the work force to care for children.

Previous Experience

Not all workers who entered an occupation between January 1986 and January 1987 were new to it. About 23 percent of the total had previous work experience in their occupation. In general, workers who had previously worked in high- to moderately highpaying occupations were most likely to return to the field they had left. The proportion of reentrants was much higher than average among professional specialty workers; executives, administrators, and managers; and precision production, craft, and repair workers. A higher than average proportion of entrants in technician and related support jobs also was experienced.

Some occupations that employ a preponderance of women and some that employ a preponderance of men had especially high reentry rates, though for different reasons. Almost 50 percent of the individuals who entered elementary school teaching jobs had previous experience in their occupation, as did almost 47 percent of those who took jobs as registered nurses, and 41 percent of those who became prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers. Most of these returnees had not been in the labor force the previous year. Reentry rates also were high in construction crafts. Because building activity fluctuates with economic conditions, workers such as carpenters and painters time and again reenter their occupations after periods of unemployment or work in other fields.

Prior experience was uncommon in the service, sales, and operator-fabricatorlaborer groups, but there were exceptions. For example, almost 57 percent of the individuals who found work as welders had been welders before.


On average, entrants represented about 17 percent of all workers, but the rate varied greatly among different occupations. Entrants in service occupations made up a greater proportion of total employment in that group (25 percent) than in any other major occupational group. Food service workers in particular were likely to be new. Sales workers also had much higher than average entry rates, as did operators, fabricators, and laborers-a group consisting largely of the low to moderately skilled workers needed in construction, manufacturing, and transportation.

The proportion of new workers generally was highest in jobs that required minimal qualifications, and consequently did not have earnings sufficient to hold workers. In two of these occupations, approximately one-half of the people were entrants: Waiters' and waitresses' assistants; and food counter, fountain, and related occupations. The total turnover of employees was even greater than the rates imply because many people took jobs after January 1986 and left them before January 1987; therefore, they were not counted.

Among the occupations with the lowest entry rates were farmer, airplane pilot, aerospace engineer, locomotive operator, dietitian, and author. Some of these occupations were declining. Others were very desirable because of earnings and other reasons, making few positions available as a result of turnover. And for some others, employers sought applicants with qualifications that few people possess.

Table w shows detailed occupations that had 20,000 or more entrants during the January 1986-87 period. The entry rate presents entrants as a percent of total employment in the occupation. Also presented is the percentage of total entrants who had prior work experience in the occupation.
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Author:Carey, Max L.
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1989
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