The generosity of unemployment insurance is often cited as a reason for long spells of joblessness. But this view neglects other important, and potentially positive, economic aspects of such programmes. Using Austrian data, this column presents evidence that unemployment insurance has a positive effect on the quality of jobs that recipients find. This can in turn have a positive effect on future tax revenues, and has implications for the debate on optimal insurance generosity.
Arash Nekoei, Andrea Weber, 10 July 2015
Jeffrey Brown, Chichun Fang, Francisco Gomes, 23 March 2015
College-educated workers are less likely to experience unemployment, but their lifetime earnings are also much more uncertain. This column estimates the risk-adjusted value of college education to be between $225,000 and almost $600,000, corresponding to risk-adjusted increases in total present-value lifetime wealth of 35% to 48%. Increased earnings volatility actually decreased the risk-adjusted value of college between 1968–1980 and 1991–2011 by almost $50,000, even though expected lifetime income increased by about $150,000. Nevertheless, even the most conservative estimates of the value of college education are still positive.
Jan van Ours, 27 February 2015
The Great Recession has been characterised by an unprecedented decline in GDP, and unemployment rates remain above pre-Great Recession levels in many countries. This column argues that economic growth is a ‘one size fits all’ solution for the problem of unemployment, because the unemployment rates of different kinds of workers are strongly correlated within countries. That said, economic growth affects above all the position of young workers, and so benefits mostly those who need it the most.
Juan Dolado, 09 February 2015
Youth unemployment has been a problem in Europe for several decades, but some European countries have fared much better than others in recent years. This column summarises the policy lessons to be drawn from a new VoxEU.org eBook that compares the labour market experiences of different European countries and provides an early evaluation of the European Commission’s Youth Guarantee scheme.
Philip Jung, Moritz Kuhn, 04 February 2015
Given the pressing need for labour market reforms in Europe, policymakers are looking to the Hartz I-IV reforms conducted in Germany in the mid-2000s for inspiration. To successfully apply their lessons one must understand why they worked. This column argues that the success of the Hartz reforms lay in improving matching efficiency between unemployed workers and vacancies – particularly effective in Germany where employment inflows are the main driver of labour market adjustment, in contrast to the US, where outflows play the primary role.
Claudio Michelacci, Hernán Ruffo, 18 November 2014
Like any insurance mechanism, unemployment benefits involve a trade-off between risk sharing and moral hazard. Whereas previous studies have concluded that unemployment insurance is close to optimal in the US, this column argues that replacement rates should vary over the life cycle. Young people typically have little means to smooth consumption during a spell of unemployment, while the moral hazard problems are minor – regardless of replacement rates, the young want jobs to improve their lifetime career prospects and to build up human capital.
Brian Clark, Clement Joubert, Arnaud Maurel, 16 November 2014
There are large rewards of higher education in terms of earnings. However, a sizeable fraction of workers hold occupations that not require as much schooling as they have. This column considers the effects of being overeducated on future employment and wages for a representative cohort of Americans. Around 38% of the college graduates in the sample have higher education than the typical worker in their profession. Rather than transitory, the bulk of overeducation persists in the long run. Even if workers manage to transit to better jobs, they experience wage penalties similar to those after unemployment.
Hugh Rockoff, 04 October 2014
World War I profoundly altered the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. However, this column argues that the US learnt the wrong lessons from the war, partly because a halo of victory surrounded wartime policies and personalities. The methods used for dealing with shortages during the war were simply inappropriate for dealing with the Great Depression, and American isolationism in the 1930s had devastating consequences for world peace.
Nicholas Crafts, 27 August 2014
It is well-known that World War I was expensive for Britain. The indirect economic costs were also huge. This column argues that the adverse implications of the Great War for post-war unemployment and trade – together with the legacy of a greatly increased national debt – significantly reduced the level of real GDP throughout the 1920s. A ballpark calculation suggests the loss of GDP during this period roughly doubled the total costs of the war to Britain.
Pascal Michaillat, Emmanuel Saez, 12 August 2014
High US unemployment rates following the crisis are a primary policy concern, but are poorly explained by existing models. This column introduces a new model of frictional labour and product markets. Price rigidities yield testable predictions pointing to the source of unemployment and product market tightness. Evidence suggests that unemployment fluctuations are driven mostly by aggregate demand shocks.
Michele Battisti, Gabriel Felbermayr, Giovanni Peri, Panu Poutvaara, 08 August 2014
Immigration continues to be a hotly debated topic in most OECD countries. Economic models emphasising the benefits of immigration for natives have typically neglected unemployment and redistribution – precisely the things voters are most concerned about. This column analyses the effects of immigration in a world with labour market rigidities and income redistribution. In two-thirds of the 20 countries analysed, both high-skilled and low-skilled natives would benefit from a small increase in immigration from current levels. The average welfare gains from immigration are 1.25% and 1.00% for high- and low-skilled natives, respectively.
Liu Yang, 19 July 2014
In China, both unemployment and a labour shortage have emerged as problems in recent years. This column explains their co-existence by a decrease in the matching efficiency in the labour market. One way to improve the matching efficiency, though difficult to implement in the short-run, is through the creation of more employment agencies. Companies can benefit if they invest more in recruiting activities.
Kerem Cosar, Nezih Guner, James Tybout, 07 July 2014
Trade liberalisations are often accompanied by labour market reforms, making it difficult to isolate their effects. This column discusses the effects of trade liberalisation, globalisation, and labour-market reforms on the Colombian labour market. Reduced trade frictions increased cross-firm wage inequality and shifted the firm-size distribution rightward, with offsetting effects on overall wage inequality. Average income increased, but the gains were concentrated among employees of large, productive firms with access to export markets. Greater trade openness also increased job turnover.
Laurence Ball, 01 July 2014
Whereas textbook macroeconomic theory suggests that output should return to potential after a recession, there is mounting evidence that deep recessions have highly persistent effects on output. This column reports estimates of the long-term damage caused by the Great Recession. In most countries in the sample, the loss of potential output – 8.4% on average – has been almost as large as the loss of actual output. In the countries hit hardest by the recession, the growth rate of potential output is much lower today than it was before 2008.
João Pessoa, John Van Reenen, 28 June 2014
The fall in productivity in the UK following the Great Recession was particularly bad, whereas the hit to jobs was less severe. This column discusses recent research exploring this puzzle. Although the mystery has not been fully solved, an important part of the explanation lies in the flexibility of wages combined with very low investment.
David Blanchflower, Stephen Machin, 12 May 2014
The pain of the UK’s Great Recession has been spread more evenly than previous downturns, with falling real wages across the distribution. This column asks why this happened, how it compares with the US experience, and what the prospects are for recovering lost wage gains.
Christian Dustmann, Bernd Fitzenberger, Uta Schönberg, Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 03 February 2014
In a slow-growth, high-unemployment continent, Germany’s performance stands out. The success is often ascribed to the politically difficult Hartz labour-market reforms. This column discusses evidence to the contrary. The Hartz reforms played no essential role. Rather, the key was the threat of offshoring to central Europe together with the pre-Hartz structure and autonomy of the German labour-market institutions. This structure allowed trade unions to make wage concessions necessary to adapt to the new realities. Other nations should decentralise bargaining to the firm level while keeping workers’ representatives.
Miguel Cardoso, Rafael Doménech, Juan Ramón García, Camilo Ulloa, 20 December 2013
After witnessing the destruction of almost 18% of its employment during the crisis, the Spanish economy is now recovering. Understanding the effects of the recent labour market reform and wage moderation is crucial in accelerating employment creation. Correctly implemented and accompanied by appropriate policies at the European level, labour and products market structural policies could be the solution to the anomalously high unemployment rate in Spain
Borağan Aruoba, Francis Diebold, Jeremy Nalewaik, Frank Schorfheide, Dongho Song, 03 December 2013
GDP can be estimated by measuring either expenditure or income. Since a penny spent is a penny earned, both methods should give the same answer, but there is substantial measurement error in both estimates. This column presents a new method of measuring US GDP that blends these two estimates. According to the new measure, GDP growth is about twice as persistent as the current headline measure implies. The new measure also makes the current recovery look stronger, especially in 2013.
Jens Nordvig, 25 November 2013
Having promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure the survival of the euro, the ECB now faces the problem of record high unemployment combined with a strong currency. There is accumulating evidence that the ECB is more willing to fight currency appreciation than the Bundesbank would have been. Capital inflows have been a key source of recent upward pressure on the euro. Should this continue, the ECB may need to intervene more aggressively in order to promote economic recovery in the Eurozone.