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The economics of labor adjustment : mind the gap

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  • Russell Cooper
  • Jonathan L. Willis

Abstract

We study inferences about the dynamics of labor adjustment obtained by the "gap methodology" of Caballero and Engel [1993] and Caballero, Engel and Haltiwanger [1997]. In that approach, the policy function for employment growth is assumed to depend on an unobservable gap between the target and current levels of employment. Using time series observations, these studies reject the partial adjustment model and find that aggregate employment dynamics depend on the cross-sectional distribution of employment gaps. Thus, nonlinear adjustment at the plant level appears to have aggregate implications. We argue that this conclusion is not justified: these findings of nonlinearities in time series data may reflect mismeasurement of the gaps rather than the aggregation of plant-level nonlinearities.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in its series Research Working Paper with number RWP 03-05.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedkrw:rwp03-05

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Keywords: Labor productivity ; Employment (Economic theory);

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  1. Russell W. Cooper & John C. Haltiwanger, 2006. "On the Nature of Capital Adjustment Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(3), pages 611-633.
  2. Shapiro, Matthew D, 1986. "The Dynamic Demand for Capital and Labor," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(3), pages 513-42, August.
  3. Sargent, Thomas J, 1978. "Estimation of Dynamic Labor Demand Schedules under Rational Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 1009-44, December.
  4. George S Olley & Ariel Pakes, 1992. "The Dynamics Of Productivity In The Telecommunications Equipment Industry," Working Papers 92-2, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  5. Steve J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1991. "Gross job creation, gross job destruction and employment reallocation," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 91-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  6. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M.R.A. Engel, 1992. "Microeconomic Adjustment Hazards and Aggregate Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 4090, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
  8. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M.R.A. Engel & John Haltiwanger, 1995. "Aggregate Employment Dynamics: Building From Microeconomic Evidence," NBER Working Papers 5042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1988. "Labor Demand and the Structure of Adjustment Costs," NBER Working Papers 2572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Bils, Mark, 1987. "The Cyclical Behavior of Marginal Cost and Price," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 838-55, December.
  11. Steven J. Davis & John C. Haltiwanger & Scott Schuh, 1998. "Job Creation and Destruction," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262540932, December.
  12. Gary D. Hansen, 1989. "Technical Progress and Aggregate Fluctuations," UCLA Economics Working Papers 546, UCLA Department of Economics.
  13. Nickell, S J, 1978. "Fixed Costs, Employment and Labour Demand over the Cycle," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 45(180), pages 329-45, November.
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