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Author:Ballance, Joshua 

Working Paper
Downskilling: changes in employer skill requirements over the business cycle
Using a novel database of 82.5 million online job postings, we show that employer skill requirements fell as the labor market improved from 2010 to 2014. We find that a 1 percentage point reduction in the local unemployment rate is associated with a roughly 0.27 percentage point reduction in the fraction of jobs requiring at least a bachelor?s degree and a roughly 0.23 percentage point reduction in the fraction requiring five or more years of experience. This pattern is established using multiple measures of labor availability, is bolstered by similar trends along heretofore unmeasured dimensions of skill, and even occurs within firm?job title pairs. We further confirm the causal effect of labor market tightening on skill requirements using a natural experiment based on the fracking boom in the United States as an exogenous shock to the local labor supply in tradable, non?fracking industries. These industries are not plausibly affected by local demand shocks or natural gas extraction technology, but still show fewer skill requirements in response to tighter labor markets. Our results imply this labor market?induced downskilling reversed much of the cyclical increase in education and experience requirements that occurred during the Great Recession.
AUTHORS: Ballance, Joshua; Shoag, Daniel; Modestino, Alicia Sasser
DATE: 2016-02-29

Working Paper
Upskilling: do employers demand greater skill when skilled workers are plentiful?
The Great Recession and subsequent recovery have been particularly painful for low-skilled workers. From 2007 to 2012, the unemployment rate rose by 6.4 percentage points for noncollege workers while it rose by only 2.3 percentage points for the college educated. This differential impact was evident within occupations as well. One explanation for the differential impact may be the ability of highly skilled workers to take middle- and low-skilled jobs. Indeed, over this period the share of workers with a college degree in traditionally middle-skill occupations increased rapidly. Such growth in skill requirements within occupations has become known colloquially as "upskilling." It is not clear from employment outcomes alone whether the increasing share of high-skilled workers in middle- and low-skill occupations reflects changing behavior by employers. Few researchers have been able to quantify rising employer requirements due to the difficulty in isolating labor demand from labor supply. In this paper, using a novel dataset of online job vacancy postings, the authors tackle the question of whether the education and experience requirements for job postings have risen between 2007 and 2012, and if so, whether this rise was driven by the state of the local labor market.
AUTHORS: Ballance, Joshua; Shoag, Daniel; Modestino, Alicia Sasser
DATE: 2015-01-30

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