Separation, Unemployment, and Job Search
Separation from one's job is an important dimension of the experience of a worker. If separations are dominated by involuntary actions, such as a layoff or being fired, the worker's experience is obviously diminished. Voluntary separation, however, may or may not be an indicator of a positive situation. On the one hand, voluntary separation (quitting) may indicate that workers are able to respond to better job opportunities through labor market mobility. On the other hand, excessive voluntary separations may reflect instability among that group of workers. This may be of particular importance for disabled workers who may need to voluntarily quit jobs for health reasons. The first analysis in this chapter considers a group of labor force participants who have experienced a recent job separation and evaluates the determinants, including disability status, of the type of separation. 1
Unemployment is another important dimension of the labor market experience. In a given month in 2000, an average of 3.3 million people flowed into unemployment. 2 Between the ages of 18 and 27, individuals average 4.4 unemployment spells and spend an average of 31 weeks unemployed (Veum and Weiss 1993). In addition, Figure 5.1 shows that, in 1999, workers in the CPS data used here spent from roughly one to two weeks on average looking for work. 3Figure 5.1 also shows that while the disabled clearly spend more of their time in a given year looking for work, the movement of weeks spent in this activity essentially mirrors the trend for the nondisabled. The next sections will look more closely at this time spent looking for work.
Job separation is only one reason why a worker might be unemployed. Workers entering the labor market for the first time and rejoining the labor market after an absence are also considered unemployed until they find a job. Examining the composition of the unemployed over time can tell us something about flows into and out of the labor market. The second analysis of this chapter will explore the probabilities of unemployment categories as a function of disability status.