Redefining the labor market. SF Fed economists Rob Valletta, Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau, and Mary C. Daly share their thoughts on the U.S. labor market with fellow economist President John Williams
Changes in demographics, and in employer and worker needs, have redefined the U.S. labor market. We discuss the "new normal" in our 2015 annual report, What We've Learned?and why it matters. Observations include how the gig economy?or sharing economy?is affecting the part-time workforce. We also look at influences on labor force participation rates and clarify the math behind sluggish wage growth. A consideration for both is the retirement of higher-earning baby boomers and the increase in steady employment for lower-wage workers.
Changes in labor participation and household income
The percentage of people active in the labor force has dropped substantially over the past 15 years. Part of this decline appears to be the result of secular factors like the aging of the workforce. However, the participation rate among people in their prime working years?ages 25 to 54?has also fallen. Recent research suggests this decline among prime-age workers can be attributed in large part to lower participation from among the higher-income half of U.S. households.
Why Aren’t U.S. Workers Working?
Labor force participation among U.S. men and women ages 25 to 54 has been declining for nearly 20 years, a stark contrast with rising participation in Canada over this period. Three-fourths of the difference between the two countries can be explained by the growing gap in labor force attachment of women. A key factor is the extensive parental leave policies in Canada. If the United States could reverse the trend in participation of prime-age women to match Canada, it would see 5 million additional prime-age workers join the labor force.
Unemployment: Lower for Longer?
Unemployment is running near its 50-year low, but inflation has not picked up as expected. This suggests that the unemployment rate consistent with stable inflation has fallen. Combining a conventional Phillips curve tradeoff between unemployment and inflation with a noninflationary unemployment rate that can change over time shows that estimates of this unemployment threshold have declined toward 4% in recent years. One possible reason for this decline is improvements in how job matches are made, reflected in unusually favorable job-finding rates for disadvantaged groups.
Job-to-Job Transitions in an Evolving Labor Market
Job mobility in the United States has been slowing for almost two decades. The most prominent measure of mobility is direct transitions from one job to another. This measure has declined substantially among young workers ages 16 to 24 since the late 1990s, which helps explain the majority of the overall decline in job-to-job transition rates. However, for workers ages 25 and older, the labor market is essentially as dynamic today as it was 20 years ago.
Disentangling goods, labor, and credit market frictions in three European economies
We build a flexible model with search frictions in three markets: credit, labor, and goods markets. We then apply this model (called CLG) to three different economies: a flexible, finance-driven economy (the UK), an economy with wage moderation (Germany), and an economy with structural rigidities (Spain). In the three countries, goods and credit market frictions play a dominant role in entry costs and account for 75% to 85% of total entry costs. In the goods market, adverse supply shocks are amplified through their propagation to the demand side, as they also imply income losses for ...
Efficiency in Sequential Labor and Goods Markets
This paper studies the optimal sharing of value added between consumers, producers, and labor. We first define a constrained optimum. We then compare it with the decentralized allocation. They coincide when the price maximizes the expected marginal revenue of the firm in the goods market, an outcome of the competitive search equilibrium, and when the wage exactly offsets the congestion externality of firm entry in the labor market, which is the traditional Hosios condition. Under price and wage bargaining, this allocation is achieved under a double Hosios condition combining the logic of ...
The renewal of interest in macroeconomic theories of search frictions in the goods market requires a deeper understanding of the cyclical properties of the intensive margins in this market. We review the theoretical mechanisms that promote either procyclical or countercyclical movements in time spent searching for consumer goods and services, and then use the American Time Use Survey to measure shopping time through the Great Recession. Average time spent searching declined in the aggregate over the period 2008-2010 compared to 2005-2007, and the decline was largest for the unemployed who ...
Unemployment Paths in a Pandemic Economy
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the U.S. economy and labor market. We assess the initial spike in unemployment due to the virus response and possible paths for the official unemployment rate through 2021. Substantial uncertainty surrounds the path for measured unemployment, depending on the path of the virus and containment measures and their impact on reported job search activity. We assess potential unemployment paths based on historical patterns of monthly flows in and out of unemployment, adjusted for unique features of the virus economy. The possible paths vary widely, but absent ...
Financial Frictions, the Housing Market, and Unemployment
We develop a two-sector search-matching model of the labor market with imperfect mobility of workers, augmented to incorporate a housing market and a frictional goods market. Homeowners use home equity as collateral to finance idiosyncratic consumption opportunities. A financial innovation that raises the acceptability of homes as collateral raises house prices and reduces unemployment. It also triggers a reallocation of workers, with the direction of the change depending on firms? market power in the goods market. A calibrated version of the model under adaptive learning can account for ...