Understanding why the long-term unemployed have so much more trouble finding work is fundamental for characterising what happens during recessions. This column argues that rather than a change in the probability of any given unemployed individual finding a job, it was a change in the composition of people newly flowing into unemployment – which can arise for example from mismatch between idiosyncratic worker characteristics and available jobs – that was the key reason unemployment went so high and took so long to come down during the Great Recession.
Hie Joo Ahn, James Hamilton, 10 October 2016
Tito Boeri, Pietro Garibaldi, Espen Moen, 08 September 2016
The Eurozone's sustained rise in youth unemployment since 2008 threatens to create a 'lost generation'. This column presents evidence that this is, in part, an unintended consequence of pension reforms in southern Europe that locked in older workers. In future, reforms that create flexible retirement ages alongside variable pension levels could minimise the impact on youth unemployment without increasing the state's long-term pension liabilities.
Roger Farmer, Konstantin Platonov, 02 September 2016
The concept of 'secular stagnation' asserts that unemployment remains high and output below potential because investors are pessimistic. This column presents a way to rethink the IS-LM model to include investor expectations. This 'IS-LM-NAC' model explains the slow recovery from the Great Recession, provides a theory-consistent explanation for secular stagnation, and suggests policy options to escape it.
Kurt Mitman, Dirk Krueger, Fabrizio Perri, 30 August 2016
Previous research found that income and wealth inequality had little impact on the aggregate dynamics of consumption, investment and output. This reinforced the idea that we can study downturns in the economy using representative agents. This column argues that household inequality affects both the depth of a recession and the welfare losses of those affected by it. Therefore we should explicitly measure and model household heterogeneity when we consider the impact of business cycle fluctuations and the welfare consequences of economic crises.
Ramon Xifré, 29 August 2016
Spain implemented a host of structural reforms following the Global Crisis. But questions remain about whether the current economic condition is due to the reforms or to ‘automatic’ adjustment in public and private sectors. This column sheds light on these questions by examining changes in a set of economic indicators following the introduction of the reforms. Five stylised facts are presented that suggest limitations of the reforms. Much of the current climate appears to reflect inherent limitations of the Spanish economy.
Stefano Scarpetta, Mark Keese, Paul Swaim, 25 July 2016
The labour market recovery in OECD countries has been steady but slow since the Great Recession. More worrying is the fate of wage growth over the same period. This column assesses the implications of stagnation in the labour market for growth, wages, and inequality. It finds that structural weaknesses in labour market performance have become more visible as markets recover from the Great Recession. The policy response must include macroeconomic policies aimed at strengthening investment, and structural policies to support growth while nudging workers towards higher-skilled jobs.
Alisdair McKay, Ricardo Reis, 14 July 2016
Brexit has raised the possibility of a recession on both sides of the Atlantic. Unable to use traditional remedies like monetary or fiscal policy stimulus, policymakers may consider automatic fiscal stabilisers. This column examines the impact of automatic stabilisers through social insurance on the business cycle, and how its impact can be used to mitigate recession. Unemployment insurance or food stamps would be better than progressive taxes at stimulating aggregate demand. The main economic channels policymakers must consider are those related to risk and precautionary savings.
Sandra Black, Jason Furman, Emma Rackstraw, Nirupama Rao, 06 July 2016
Labour force participation among men ages 25-54 in the US has been falling for more than six decades. This column examines this longstanding decline, its potential causes, and its implications for public policy and the future of the US labour market.
Denis Fougère, Erwan Gautier, Sébastien Roux, 28 May 2016
In light of the Eurozone Crisis, some countries have implemented reforms to collective wage bargaining institutions, which can be responsible for wage rigidities that are problematic in the face of rising unemployment. This column describes collective wage bargaining in France and how national minimum wage increases are transmitted to wage floors set by industry-level agreements. An increase in the national minimum wage leads to an increase in negotiated industry-level wage floors, which firms then use as references for their wage policy. This might partly explain why French base wages have continued to increase despite recent rising unemployment.
Robert Dixon, Guay Lim, Jan van Ours, 03 May 2016
Okun’s law describes the positive empirical relationship between unemployment and the output gap. This column explores how this relationship differs depending on age and gender, taking into account different labour market institutions. Using data for 20 OECD countries over three decades, the authors find that the effect of Okun’s relationship decreases with age. Labour market institutions have similar effects on the unemployment rates of all groups, though magnitudes vary by age and gender.
Clément Bosquet, Henry Overman, 29 April 2016
The effect of an individual’s place of residence on their life chances has long been discussed in public policy debates. This column uses British Household Panel Survey data to assess whether birthplace plays a role in determining future earnings. On average, an individual born in London in the 1970s will earn around 7% more than an individual of the same age and gender born in Manchester; who in turn will earn 5.5% more than an individual born in Cardiff. Parental sorting and the influence of birthplace in decisions about current location both play a role in explaining this effect.
Stefano Scarpetta, Sandrine Cazes, Andrea Garnero, 20 April 2016
Job quality plays a significant role in individuals’ well-being as well as promoting labour force participation, productivity, and economic performance. But it can be an elusive concept if not grounded in hard data. This column presents a new OECD framework to measure and assess the quality of jobs based on three measurable dimensions – earnings quality, labour market security, and quality of the working environment. The data reveal a great deal of heterogeneity in job quality across OECD countries and also across socioeconomic groups. Furthermore, the relationship between the quantity and quality of jobs is more complex in the short term, especially in the aftermath of the Global Crisis.
Ioana Marinescu, Jose Ignacio García Pérez, Judit Vall Castello, 07 April 2016
Short-term contracts are viewed as a way of stimulating youth employment. This column presents evidence that this is the case in Spain, but that such contracts are also detrimental to job stability and lifetime earnings. The negative effects get stronger the longer workers are exposed to fixed-term contracts.
Elias Einiö, Henry Overman, 07 April 2016
Areas experiencing poor economic performance are often targeted by governments with programmes aimed at improving employment. However, there are concerns that any increases in employment come at the cost of reduced employment elsewhere. This column examines the displacement effects of one such programme in the UK. While employment increased within the targeted areas, there were comparable decreases in employment just outside the areas’ boundaries. These findings suggest place-based policies should focus on traded activities that are less susceptible to local displacement effects.
Andrea Garnero, Alexander Hijzen, Sébastien Martin, 21 March 2016
Some economists argue that income inequality suggests intra-generational mobility in society. This column provides comprehensive evidence across a large number of advanced economies on the importance of intra-generational mobility and its relationship with earnings inequality. The findings do not support the belief that higher earnings inequality necessarily goes hand-in-hand with greater mobility over the working life. Higher inequalities are not systematically compensated by higher mobility opportunities.
Janet Currie, 15 January 2016
Studies of the effects of economic fluctuations on health have come to wildly different conclusions. This may be because the effects are different for different groups. Using US data, this column looks at the health consequences of the Great Recession on mothers, a sub-population that has thus far been largely neglected in the literature. Increases in unemployment are found to have large negative health effects and to increase incidences of smoking and substance abuse among mothers. These effects appear to be concentrated on disadvantaged groups such as minorities, and point to short- and long-term consequences for their children.
Daiji Kawaguchi, Ayako Kondo, 13 January 2016
Economists frequently discuss the ‘scarring effects’ the Great Recession has had on young people in Europe. This column tentatively challenges the received wisdom of permanent scarring. Young graduates mitigate some of the negative welfare effects of graduating during bad times by living with their parents for longer.
Patrick Arni, Rafael Lalive, Gerard Van den Berg, 11 January 2016
The standard empirical evaluations of labour market policy only consider the direct effects of single programmes on their participants. This column argues that this fails to capture important aspects of real-world labour market policy – policy regimes and strategies. Using Swiss data, it employs a novel empirical approach that concurrently examines the effects of supportive and punitive policies (‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’). Policy regimes are shown to exert economically relevant effects, and accounting for these effects is crucial when designing labour market policy.
Italo Colantone, Rosario Crinò, Laura Ogliari, 04 December 2015
Influential studies have shown that trade liberalisation is associated with substantial adjustment costs for workers in import-competing jobs. This column uses UK data to shed light on one such cost that has not been considered to date – subjective well-being. Import competition is found to substantially raise mental distress, through worsened labour market conditions and increased stress on the job. These findings provide evidence of an important hidden cost of globalisation.
Régis Barnichon, 12 November 2015
Many commentators have noted that the US has ridden out its post-crisis malaise rather skilfully, not least when it comes to reducing unemployment. This column argues that the US unemployment rate - despite being impressive, all things considered - still has substantial room to fall because desire to work among the non-employed is close to a record low.