Christian Merkl, Enzo Weber, 07 April 2020

The spread of COVID-19 and the ensuing drastic lockdowns are placing economies and labour markets worldwide in a state of emergency. Governments are struggling to safeguard jobs and firms. Short-time work and comprehensive liquidity support for businesses and the self-employed are some measures being used. This column illustrates the consequences of a substantial hiring stall on unemployment and proposes hiring subsidies – directly reduce firms’ costs and thereby stimulate hiring – as a cost-effective stimulus measure for European countries to reduce the risk of unemployment hysteresis effects.

Giulia Giupponi, Camille Landais, 01 April 2020

Short-time work is a subsidy for temporary reductions in the number of hours worked in firms affected by temporary shocks. Evidence suggests that it can have large positive effects on employment and can be more effective than unemployment insurance or universal transfers. This column discusses how the COVID-19 crisis – with its mandated reduction in hours of work and massive liquidity crunch for firms – is a textbook case for the use of short-time work. Taking into account available evidence and the current situation, it proposes guidelines to effectively implement short-term work.

Josef Zweimüller, 28 February 2020

Can differences in culture and attitudes towards work explain differences in unemployment across time and space?

Céline Carrère, Anja Grujovic, Frédéric Robert-Nicoud, 13 November 2019

Unemployment is absent from most quantitative trade models in the academic literature. Using a trade model that also includes unemployment and data between 2001 and 2008, this column shows that repealing NAFTA and the imposition of 20% bilateral tariffs between the US and Mexico in all sectors would reduce welfare by 0.31% in the US and by 6.6% in Mexico. An US increase of trade barriers on motor vehicles against imports from all countries bar Mexico and Canada would lead to a decrease in long-run welfare and employment in both Mexico and the US as well as in major car-producing countries. 

Price Fishback, 12 November 2019

The US became the ‘arsenal of democracy’ by producing a massive amount of military goods that raised real GDP by 72% between 1940 and 1945. Yet, multiplier estimates for this expansion in government spending are less than one. Long-range studies at subnational levels show that military spending was associated with small effects on per capita activity. Military spending in the context of a quasi-command economy crowded out private consumption and investment and forced people into the military. In essence, Americans sacrificed heavily to win the war, while their Allies sacrificed even more.  

Roger Farmer, Giovanni Nicolò, 20 May 2019

The economies of many countries are operating close to full capacity, but unemployment and inflation are both low. Using data from the US, UK and Canada, this column compares differences in the macroeconomic behaviour of real GDP, the inflation rate and the yields on three-month Treasury securities in the three countries. It shows that the Farmer monetary model, closed with a belief function, outperforms the New Keynesian model, closed with the New Keynesian Phillips curve. The data fit the multiple equilibria emphasised in the Farmer model well, rather than the mean-reverting processes assumed by the New Keynesian model. 

Pascal Michaillat, Emmanuel Saez, 13 May 2019

Academics and policymakers alike have debated how to structure an optimal stimulus package since the Great Recession. This column revisits the arguments related to the size of the multiplier and the usefulness of public spending, and offers a blueprint for future stimulus packages. It finds that the relationship between the multiplier and stimulus spending is hump-shaped, and that a well-designed stimulus package should depend on the usefulness of public expenditure. The output multiplier is not a robust statistic to use, and instead the ‘unemployment multiplier’ should be used. 

Bas van der Klaauw, Lennart Ziegler, 02 May 2019

Although temporary jobs are often characterised by lower pay, advocates of temporary work argue that taking up such jobs can increase the chances to find regular work in the long run. This column reviews evidence on the effectiveness of a labour market ‘speed date’ programme in the Netherlands, where unemployed job seekers are matched with temporary work agencies. The speed dates are effective in reducing the costs of unemployment insurance but, in the long run, temporary work does not serve as a stepping stone towards regular employment. 

Reamonn Lydon, Thomas Y. Mathä, Stephen Millard, 19 February 2019

Short-time work schemes are a fiscal stabiliser in Europe. Between 2010 and 2013, they were used by 7% of firms, employing 9% of workers in the region. This column uses ECB data to show that firms use the schemes to offset negative shocks and retain high-productivity workers. High firing costs and wage rigidity increase the use of short-time work, which in turn reduces the fall in employment brought on by a recession. 

Michèle Belot, Philipp Kircher, Paul Muller, 22 December 2018

Economic theory and the empirical evidence are mixed regarding the effect of wages on the volume of applications for job vacancies. This column presents the results of an experiment in which subjects saw artificial vacancies with randomly varying salaries. Results show that higher wages attract more interest on average, but that some job seekers prefer the lower wage jobs. Surveys suggest this is likely to be because they suspect less competition. 

Hideki Nakamura, Joseph Zeira, 11 December 2018

The fear that technological innovation will increase unemployment is not new, and various theories in response suggest technology does not necessarily pose a threat to jobs. This column goes one step further, arguing that because automation requires rising wages and that requires increasing the set of labour tasks, innovation should ultimately reduce unemployment.

Lionel Cottier, Yves Flückiger, Pierre Kempeneers, Rafael Lalive, 27 October 2018

In contrast to other labour market interventions, job search assistance appears to be effective in helping job seekers to find jobs. This column examines the effects of such a programme targeting the long-term unemployed in Geneva. Those participating in the programme experience a short-term increase in employment compared to other job seekers, but this gain evaporates in the second year after assignment. These results suggest that the programme places job seekers in lower-quality jobs.

David Bell, David Blanchflower, 24 September 2018

The most widely available measure of underemployment is the share of involuntary part-time workers in total employment. This column argues that this does not fully capture the extent of worker dissatisfaction with currently contracted hours. An underemployment index measuring how many extra or fewer hours individuals would like to work suggests that the US and the UK are a long way from full employment, and that policymakers should not be focused on the unemployment rate in the years after a recession, but rather on the underemployment rate.  

Gabriel Ahlfeldt, Duncan Roth, Tobias Seidel, 04 September 2018

While there is a large and controversial literature on the implications of minimum wages for employment and the distribution of income, little is known about the consequences across regions. This column describes how the implementation of a minimum wage in Germany in 2015 has raised incomes in the lower part of the wage distribution without affecting employment of low-wage workers. However, there is no clear evidence that the minimum wage has led to a net in-migration or out-migration in poorer German counties.

Miguel Ampudia, Dimitris Georgarakos, Michele Lenza, Jiri Slacalek, Oreste Tristani, Philip Vermeulen, Gianluca Violante, 14 August 2018

Quantitative easing has recently been shown to affect households differently depending on the composition of their income and wealth. Using euro area data, this column reviews the relevance of the direct and indirect effects of monetary policy on households’ incomes, which varies depending on employment status. The indirect income channel is found to be quantitatively more powerful, and especially beneficial for households holding few or no liquid assets. This implies that expansionary monetary policy in the euro area has led to a reduction in inequality. 

Pierre Cahuc, Francis Kramarz, Sandra Nevoux, 16 July 2018

Short-time work programmes aim to preserve jobs at firms that are experiencing temporarily low revenues, for example during a recession. This column assesses how the short-time work programme implemented in France during the Great Recession affected employment. Results confirm that the programme saved jobs and increased hours worked, and that participating firms recovered faster than non-participating firms. 

Jason Furman, Wilson Powell, 15 June 2018

The fraction of Americans employed fell between 2007 and 2017, during which time employment rates rose in many other advanced economies despite these countries also facing a similar headwind of an ageing population. This column shows how the biggest driver of this was employment among women, which stagnated in the US while increasing in most of the other advanced economies.

Mário Centeno, Miguel Castro Coelho, 06 June 2018

Portugal has turned a corner. Having gone through a mild boom, a slump, and a severe recession, all packed into less than two decades, the Portuguese economy has re-emerged with a newfound strength. This column examines this recovery in detail, focusing on important structural reforms that have taken place in the last couple of decades in key areas such as skills, investment, export orientation, labour market, financial intermediation, and public finances. The effects of these reforms were compounded by time as well as efforts to reignite demand.

Andrea Bassanini, Federico Cingano, 16 April 2018

Structural reforms can trigger and sustain economic growth, but they can also present transitory costs that policymakers seek to avoid during economic downturns. This column analyses the short-term response of employment levels to product and labour market reforms. While reforms entail non-negligible transitory employment losses on average, the losses are smaller for reforms implemented during economic upswings and in countries with significant labour market dualism.



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