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Employment Dynamics in a Signaling Model with Workers' Incentives
Many firms adjust employment in a "lumpy" manner -- infrequently and in large bursts. In this paper, I show that lumpy adjustments can arise from concerns about the incentives of remaining workers. Specifically, I develop a model in which a firm's productivity depends on its workers' effort and workers' income prospects depend on the firm's profitability. I use this model to analyze the consequences of demand shocks that are observed by the firm but not by its workers, who can only try to infer the firm's profitability from its employment decisions. I show that the resulting signaling model ...
Job Polarization and the Natural Rate of Unemployment in the United States
I present a new estimate of the natural rate of unemployment in the United States that accounts for changes in the age, sex, and skill composition of the labor force. Using micro-level data from the Current Population Survey for the period 1994-2017, I find that the natural rate of unemployment declined by 0.5 percentage point since 1994 and currently stands at 4.5 percent. My projections show that ongoing demographic and technological changes could lower the trend rate further to 4.4 percent by the end of 2022.
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 ...
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 ...
No Longer Qualified? Changes in the Supply and Demand for Skills within Occupations
Using a novel database of 159 million online job postings, we examine changes in employer skill requirements for education and specific skillsets between 2007 and 2017. We find that upskilling—in terms of increasing demands for bachelor’s degrees as well as software skills—was a persistent trend among high-skill occupations, but either a temporary or non-existent phenomenon among middle-skill and low-skill occupations. We also find evidence that persistentupskilling in the high-skill sector contributed to greater occupational mismatch that remained elevated during the recovery from the ...
The Future of Labor: Automation and the Labor Share in the Second Machine Age
We study the effect of modern automation on firm-level labor shares using a 2018 survey of 1,618 manufacturing firms in China. We exploit geographic and industry variation built into the design of subsidies for automation paid under a vast government industrialization program, “Made In China 2025,” to construct an instrument for automation investment. We use a canonical CES framework of automation and develop a novel methodology to structurally estimate the elasticity of substitution between labor and automation capital among automating firms, which for our preferred specification is 3.8. ...
Are the Job Prospects of Recent College Graduates Improving?
The promise of finding a good job upon graduation has always been an important consideration when weighing the value of a college degree. In our final post of this week’s blog series, we take a look at the job prospects of recent college graduates. While unemployment among recent graduates has continued to fall since 2011, underemployment has continued to climb—meaning that fewer graduates are finding jobs that make use of their degrees. Do these trends mean that there has been a decline in the demand for those with college degrees? Using data on online job postings, we show that after ...