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The declining volatility of U.S. employment: was Arthur Burns right?

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  • M. V. Cacdac Warnock
  • Francis E. Warnock
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    Abstract

    This paper attempts to add to the understanding of changes in the magnitude of business cycle fluctuations by examining disaggregated employment data. Specifically, we use a stochastic variance approach on monthly employment data for the 1946-1996 period to highlight two stylized facts of aggregate U.S. employment - greater volatility in recessions than expansions and reduced volatility since the early 1980s. These patterns are not, however, apparent in each sector of the economy. Asymmetric volatility is only evident in manufacturing and trade; other sectors, such as construction or the narrowly defined services sector, are just as likely to exhibit high volatility in expansions. A general reduction in volatility is evident only in goods-producing sectors; some industries in the broad service-producing sector have become more volatile over time. Our results highlight the close relationship between aggregate and manufacturing volatility, and suggest that to understand why the U.S. business cycle has become more muted, researchers should strive to understand the forces at work that are reducing volatility in the manufacturing sector.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series International Finance Discussion Papers with number 677.

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    Date of creation: 2000
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:677

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    Keywords: Business cycles ; Employment (Economic theory);

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    References

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    1. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson, 1999. "Has The U.S. Economy Become More Stable? A Bayesian Approach Based On A Markov-Switching Model Of The Business Cycle," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 608-616, November.
    2. Mark W. French & Daniel E. Sichel, 1991. "Cyclical patterns in the variance of economic activity," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 161, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    3. David E. Lebow & Daniel E. Sichel, 1992. "Is the shift toward employment in services stabilizing?," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 123, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Donald S. Allen, 1995. "Changes in inventory management and the business cycle," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 17-26.
    5. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles Evans, 1994. "The effects of monetary policy shocks: evidence from the flow of funds," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Apr.
    6. Joseph A. Ritter, 1994. "Job creation and destruction: the dominance of manufacturing," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 3-12.
    7. Harvey, Andrew & Ruiz, Esther & Shephard, Neil, 1994. "Multivariate Stochastic Variance Models," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(2), pages 247-64, April.
    8. Victor Zarnowitz & Geoffrey H. Moore, 1986. "Major Changes in Cyclical Behavior," NBER Chapters, in: The American Business Cycle: Continuity and Change, pages 519-582 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Ruiz, Esther, 1994. "Quasi-maximum likelihood estimation of stochastic volatility models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 289-306, July.
    10. Gerald Carlino & Robert DeFina, 1995. "The differential effects of monetary policy shocks on regional economic activity," Working Papers 95-15, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    11. Andrew J. Filardo, 1995. "Recent evidence on the muted inventory cycle," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q II, pages 27-43.
    12. Andrew C Harvey & N.G. Shephard, 1993. "Estimation and Testing of Stochastic Variance Models," STICERD - Econometrics Paper Series /1993/268, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    13. Joe Ganley & Chris Salmon, 1997. "The Industrial Impact of Monetary Policy Shocks: Some Stylised Facts," Bank of England working papers 68, Bank of England.
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    Cited by:
    1. JONATHAN McCARTHY & EGON ZAKRAJSEK, 2007. "Inventory Dynamics and Business Cycles: What Has Changed?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(2-3), pages 591-613, 03.
    2. Steven J. Davis & James A. Kahn, 2008. "Interpreting the Great Moderation: Changes in the Volatility of Economic Activity at the Macro and Micro Levels," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 155-80, Fall.
    3. Colm Kearney & Frank Barry, 2005. "MNEs and Industrial Structure in Host Countries:A Mean Variance Analysis of Ireland’s Manufacturing Sector," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp023, IIIS.
    4. Mike Artis & Hans-Martin Krolzig & Juan Toro, 2002. "The European Business Cycle," Economic Working Papers at Centro de Estudios Andaluces E2002/19, Centro de Estudios Andaluces.
    5. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles Nelson & Jeremy M. Piger, 2003. "The less volatile U.S. economy: a Bayesian investigation of timing, breadth, and potential explanations," Working Papers 2001-016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    6. Eggers, Andrew & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2006. "The role of output composition in the stabilization of US output growth," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 585-595, September.
    7. Irvine, F. Owen, 2007. "Sales persistence and the reduction in GDP volatility," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(1-2), pages 22-30, July.
    8. James A. Kahn & Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez-Quiros, 2002. "On the causes of the increased stability of the U.S. economy," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue May, pages 183-202.
    9. F. Owen Irvine & Scott Schuh, 2005. "Interest sensitivity and volatility reductions: cross-section evidence," Working Papers 05-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

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