02/14/2012 12:04 pm ET

Job Moves Stay Low During Recovery, Hurting Workers, Growth

Feel stuck in your job?

You probably are.

While unemployment is dropping, the job market needs more "churn," or job-to-job moves, to truly recover, write Stanford economics professor Edward Lazear and Bureau of Labor Statistics economist James Spletzer in a recent working paper.

A couple of things are going on. The recession has left workers fearful of leaving the stability of their current position and companies are still not replacing all their employees, the authors write.

The number of job moves per quarter plunged 29 percent between the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2009 and has not recovered, according to paper. While the number of job-to-job moves hovered above 8 million per quarter between 2004 and 2007, that number now has reached a new normal of about 6 million per quarter, according to the paper.

All those stuck-in-place workers are dragging down the economy, write the authors. Workers just collecting paychecks aren't always a great fit and usually aren't putting forth their grandest effort. The hit to economic growth can be "permanent," Lazear and Spletzer write. They estimate that the gross domestic product has grown about 0.4 percent less per year since the start of the recession because workers have been less able to move.

The job market now is not flexible enough to absorb enough new graduates or unemployed workers, since not enough people are quitting, according to The Wall Street Journal. 1.9 million people quit their jobs in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: just two-thirds the typical number before the recession, according to the WSJ.

"When people cease to change jobs, the system grinds to a halt," the WSJ wrote.

The economy needs "a lot" of growth for workers to gain enough leverage to leave their jobs and find new opportunities, The Economist wrote.