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June 1997, Vol. 120, No. 6
Thomas Nardone, Jonathan Veum, and Julie Yates
It has been argued that in order to control costs, firms are increasingly seeking more flexibility in their use of labor. This argument has been widely made in both the academic and the popular press.1 Employers have sought this additional flexibility within their own work forces, as well as from sources outside their organizations. Internally, they have hired workers on a temporary basis; externally, they have obtained labor through temporary help agencies or by contracting with firms or individuals to provide specific services. Anecdotal evidence of the trend toward more flexible employment arrangements is fairly extensive; measuring the extent of such employment in the labor force as a whole, however, has been more problematic.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has collected some information that can be used to analyze job security in the United States. In periodic supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS), individuals are asked about job tenuretime spent with their current employer. In February 1995, the Bureau conducted the first supplement to the CPS designed to obtain more information on another aspect of this issue: contingent and alternative employment arrangements. Contingent jobs, as defined in the supplement, are structured to last only a limited period; alternative employment arrangements include those made through intermediaries and those without stand-ard work schedules.2 In this article, data from recent CPS supplements are used to examine the quality and the nature of variables that are utilized to measure job security.3
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1 See, for example, Richard Belous, The Contingent Economy: The Growth of the Temporary, Part-time and Subcontracted Workforce (Washington, National Planning Association, 1989); Flexible Workstyles: A Look at Contingent Labor, Conference Summary (U.S. Department of Labor, Womens Bureau, 1988); New Policies for Part-time and Contingent Workers (San Francisco, New Ways to Work, 1992); "The Downsizing of America," The New York Times, Mar. 3Mar. 9, 1996; and Lance Marrow, "The Temping of America," Time, Mar. 29, 1993.
2 The material regarding the contingent and alternative employment supplement previously appeared in Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements, Report 900 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 1995); and in Anne E. Polivka, "Contingent and alternative work arrangements, defined," Monthly Labor Review, October 1996, pp. 39.
3 For an analysis of a number of measures of self-perceived economic insecurity not available in the cps, see Jeff Dominitz and Charles F. Manski, Perceptions of Economic Insecurity: Evidence from the Survey of Economic Expectations, nber Working Paper No. 5690 (Cambridge, MA, National Bureau of Economic Research, July 1996).
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