Is the Tide Lifting All Boats? A Closer Look at the Earnings Growth Experiences of U.S. Workers
The growth rate of hourly earnings is a widely used indicator to assess the economic progress of U.S. workers, as well as the health of the labor market. It is also a measure of wage pressures that could potentially spill over into inflationary pressures in a tightening labor market. Hourly earnings growth, on average, has gradually risen over the course of the current expansion, under way since the end of the Great Recession. But how have different groups of workers fared in this regard? Have hourly earnings risen uniformly at all points of the wage distribution, or have some segments of the ...
What Do Data on Millions of U.S. Workers Reveal about Life-Cycle Earnings Dynamics?
We study individual earnings dynamics over the life cycle using panel data on millions of U.S. workers. Using nonparametric methods, we first show that the distribution of earnings changes exhibits substantial deviations from lognormality, such as negative skewness and very high kurtosis. Further, the extent of these nonnormalities varies significantly with age and earnings level, peaking around age 50 and between the 70th and 90th percentiles of the earnings distribution. Second, we estimate nonparametric impulse response functions and find important asymmetries: positive changes for ...
What Do Data on Millions of U.S. Workers Reveal about Life-Cycle Earnings Risk?
We study the evolution of individual labor earnings over the life cycle using a large panel data set of earnings histories drawn from U.S. administrative records. Using fully nonparametric methods, our analysis reaches two broad conclusions. First, earnings shocks display substantial deviations from lognormality?the standard assumption in the incomplete markets literature. In particular, earnings shocks display strong negative skewness and extremely high kurtosis?as high as 30 compared with 3 for a Gaussian distribution. The high kurtosis implies that in a given year, most individuals ...
Measuring Labor Market Slack: Are the Long-Term Unemployed Different?
There has been some debate in the Liberty Street Economics blog and in other outlets, such as Krueger, Cramer, and Cho (2014) and Gordon(2013), about whether the short-term unemployment rate is a better measure of slack than the overall unemployment rate. As the chart below shows, the two measures are sending different signals, with the short-term unemployment rate back to its pre-recession level while the overall rate is still elevated because of a high long-term unemployment rate. One can argue that the unemployment rate is exaggerating the extent of underutilization in the labor market, ...
Job Ladders and Careers
Workers in the United States experience vast differences in lifetime earnings. Individuals in the 90th percentile earn around seven times more than those in the 10th percentile, and those in the top percentile earn almost twenty times more. A large share of these differences arise over the course of people?s careers. What accounts for these vastly different outcomes in the labor market? Why do some individuals experience much steeper earnings profiles than others? Previous research has shown that the ?job ladder??in which workers obtain large pay increases when they switch to better jobs or ...
How Should the Government Spend the Fiscal Budget during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
A mix of expanded unemployment insurance benefits and payroll subsidies to employers may be more effective in speeding up the recovery than implementing just one of those policies.
The Long-Term Unemployed and the Wages of New Hires
This is the third in a series of blog posts on the topic of measuring labor market slack. In this post, we assess the relationships between short- and long-term unemployment and wages by comparing the differences in states? experiences over the business cycle. While all states felt the impact of the Great Recession, some fared better than others. Consequently, it is possible to use differences in the composition and shifts of short- and long-term unemployment to determine whether short-term unemployment exerts a greater influence on wage determination. The results suggest that there is little ...
Whither Labor Force Participation?
Halting a nearly decade-long downward trend, the U.S. labor force participation rate (LFPR) has flattened since 2016, fluctuating within a narrow range a little below 63 percent. What role has the economy played in this change and what can we expect for the future? In this post, we investigate the extent to which the recent flattening of participation can be attributed to the simultaneous robust improvement in the labor market. We also assess the future path of participation in the medium run should labor market conditions improve further.
Do Unemployment Benefits Expirations Help Explain the Surge in Job Openings?
Job openings are arguably one of the most important indicators of recovery in the labor market, as they reflect employers? willingness to hire. The number of job openings has recovered steadily since the recession, yet through the end of 2013, the openings rate was still substantially below its pre-recession peak (see chart below). Starting in January 2014, however, the number of job openings increased dramatically, up by 20 percent through June 2014, and job openings relative to employment jumped back to the peak of the previous expansion. In this post, we argue that the expiration of the ...
Geographical reallocation and unemployment during the Great Recession: the role of the housing bust
This paper quantitatively evaluates the hypothesis that the housing bust in 2007 decreased geographical reallocation and increased the dispersion and level of unemployment during the Great Recession. We construct an equilibrium model of multiple locations with frictional housing and labor markets. When house prices fall, the amount of home equity declines, making it harder for homeowners to afford the down payment on a new house after moving. Consequently, the decline in house prices reduces migration and causes unemployment to rise differently in different locations. The model accounts for ...