Hie Joo Ahn, James Hamilton, 14 August 2020

The COVID-19 crisis in the US sent the unemployment rate soaring just as labour force participation crashed. A closer look at the data reveals several inconsistencies across labour force measures and the resulting unemployment estimates. This column highlights large discrepancies between the number of unemployment insurance claims and the count of unemployed in recent months, as well as in the number of people outside the labour force who wanted a job at the time. It argues that the actual unemployment rate was two percentage points higher prior to the pandemic than reported, and this gap has likely widened since the crisis.

Uri Alon, Eran Yashiv, 27 April 2020

Countries are facing stark choices between ending the lockdown to revive people’s lives and risking the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. This column proposes an exit strategy from lockdown based on a vulnerability in the coronavirus transmission mechanism, i.e. the latent period in which most infected people do not infect others. An optimal work/lockdown cycle based on this weak spot could minimise infection risks while greatly improving the painful trade-offs faced by policymakers.

Teresa Barbieri, Gaetano Basso, Sergio Scicchitano, 27 April 2020

Many countries are now designing exit strategies from the sectoral lockdowns put in place to contain the outbreak of Covid-19. This column provides new evidence from Italy on the degree of workplace risk of exposure to the virus. Unsurprisingly, the health sector is the most exposed to diseases and infections, while the services sector is the most risky in terms of physical proximity. These and other findings can help in deciding which activities to reopen first and where to reinforce security measures.

Simona Bignami-Van Assche, Daniela Ghio, Ari Van Assche, 17 April 2020

It is well understood that COVID-19 severity varies with age. However, little consideration has been given to the differential trend of infections across age groups. By drawing from the Italian experience, this column shows how the effectiveness of strategies to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections crucially depends on workforce demographics. It suggests that restricting the age of essential workers may be useful to mitigate the work–security trade-off while keeping the economy going.

Bastien Chabé-Ferret, Paula Gobbi, 26 January 2019

Between the early 1940s and the late 1960s, the secular decline in fertility that started at the turn of the 19th century in most developed countries was interrupted by a massive baby-boom. This column argues that although much attention has focused on this boom, fertility rates preceding it were abnormally low. The evidence suggests that economic uncertainty can explain a substantial part of the major swings in fertility over the 20th century.

Satoshi Shimizutani, 14 January 2019

Social security reforms in advanced economies may give people incentives to work past retirement age. The column estimates the financial incentives to work or retire at each age for elderly men and women in Japan. There is a correlation between series of social security reforms to reduce generosity and the recent recovery of employment rates for men aged 60-69 and for women aged 55-64.

Ilyana Kuziemko, Jessica Pan, Jenny Shen, Ebonya Washington, 22 September 2018

Despite women having surpassed men in earning college degrees, having children later than ever, and accumulating increasing amounts of on-the-job experience, convergence in labour force participation between men and women has stalled. This column argues that one reason for this is women failing to anticipate the effect that children will have on their careers. The findings also suggest that the employment costs of motherhood have risen unexpectedly, and especially so for educated mothers.

Pamela Campa, Michel Serafinelli, 22 June 2018

Attitudes towards work and gender simultaneously shape, and are shaped by, the conventions, practices, and policies in a given place and time. This column explores how politico-economic regimes affect attitudes towards gender roles and labour, exploiting the rise and fall of the Iron Curtain. Results show that women in state-socialist regimes tended to have less negative and less traditional views of work and labour force participation.

Axel Börsch-Supan, Irene Ferrari, Nicolas Goll, Johannes Rausch, 26 January 2018

Retirement ages in industrialised countries have been rising over the last three decades as more people work later into their lives. This column focuses on Germany, examining this trend and the contributing factors. Despite comparable trends in health, educational attainment, and spouse’s labour force participation, these three factors do not appear to explain the rise in retirement age. Instead, changes to public pension rules seem to be the key driver.

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.

Jason Furman, 20 February 2015

The US economy has strengthened considerably in recent years, presenting an opportunity to address the 40-year stagnation in incomes for the middle class. This column provides historical and international context for the key factors affecting middle-class incomes: productivity growth, labour force participation, and income inequality. It also outlines President Obama’s approach to economic policies – what he terms “middle-class economics” – which is designed to improve all three.

Steven Braun, John Coglianese, Jason Furman, Betsey Stevenson, Jim Stock, 18 August 2014

The labour force participation rate in the US has fallen dramatically since 2007. This column traces this decline to three main factors: the ageing of the population, cyclical effects from the Great Recession, and an unexplained portion, which might be due to pre-existing trends unrelated to the first two. Of these three, the ageing of the population plays the largest role since it is responsible for half of the decline. Taken together, these factors suggest a roughly stable participation rate in the short-term, followed by a longer-term decline as the baby boomers continue to age. However, policy can play a
meaningful role in mitigating this trend.

Hans Holter, Indraneel Chakraborty, Serhiy Stepanchuk, 18 May 2012

It is no secret that Americans work more than Europeans – 30% more according to recent studies. Many economists point to higher taxes in Europe as a major cause. This column suggests that divorce rates also play a role, particularly for women's labour supply.


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