Whenever I look at employee turnover statistics, I encounter values of 30%, 40%, 50% per year. Of course, the annual turnover rate varies in different industries, but it is never below some 12%. The turnover rate across the whole private sector is around 50%, and it is similarly high in other countries, too.
I cannot make sense of this data, as it strongly contradicts my personal experience. In every company I worked for, I estimate the turnover to be much closer to 5%. In fact, my current company is worried that its turnover rate doubled over the past few years and is now at 4.5%, as the increasing loss of qualified can cause serious problems. From my friends in other industries I get the impression that the turnover rates are similarly low, even if the working conditions are worse than where I work.
Of course this may be due to a bias, but I also have difficulties imagining that any company (except maybe those requiring only unqualified labor) could thrive with an annual employee turnover rate of 20%, as this would mean that every 5 years the whole staff has rotated. I imagine this would be disastrous for most companies. Also, people do not usually switch jobs until retirement, but rather settle with one employer where they stay for 20 years or more.
Can somebody help me interpret the numbers for the annual turnover rate?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes official monthly turnover rates. The evolution of the monthly rate over the past year can be found here. According to this document the monthly turnover rate is about 4%, which corresponds to about 30% per year. Only considering voluntary quits, the rate is about 2.6% per month, or still about 30% per year. Other sites mention similar numbers.