During the last recession the US experienced some of the highest unemployment rates in its history, prompting the government to dramatically extend the duration of unemployment benefits. Economists have since debated whether this action helped or hindered the recovery of the labour market. This column finds evidence of a ‘silver lining’ effect – extended unemployment benefits led people to submit fewer job applications, but this reduction increased the chances of each application being successful. Hence the overall impact of extending benefits on aggregate unemployment was rather small.
Ioana Marinescu, 01 March 2016
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.
Torben Andersen, 27 September 2010
Springing from the debate over the Danish flexicurity system, the author of CEPR DP8025 outlines a model in which incentive effects of tax-financed unemployment benefits are balanced by direct and indirect insurance benefits. Such benefits may increase labour market flexibility by making job searches less risky for workers.