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The relation between skill levels and the cyclical variability of employment, hours and wages

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  • Michael P. Keane
  • Eswar S. Prasad

Abstract

This paper uses micro data to examine differences in the cyclical variability of employment, hours, and wages for skilled and unskilled workers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we find that, at the aggregate level, skilled and unskilled workers are subject to essentially the same degree of cyclical variation in wages. That is, relative offer wage differentials between skilled and unskilled workers are acyclical. However, we do find important differences in the patterns of employment and hours variation for skilled vs. unskilled workers when a college degree is used as a proxy for skill. Workers with a college degree have little cyclical variation in employment or weekly hours, while uneducated workers have highly procyclical employment and hours. Thus, we find that the quality of labor input per manhour rises in recessions, thereby inducing a countercyclical bias in aggregate wage measures. We find substantial differences across industries in the cyclical variation of employment, hours, and wage differentials. We interpret these results as indicative of important inter-industry differences in labor contracting.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics with number 41.

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Date of creation: 1991
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmem:41

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Related research

Keywords: Employment (Economic theory) ; Wages ; Business cycles;

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References

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  1. Heckman, James J, 1974. "Shadow Prices, Market Wages, and Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(4), pages 679-94, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Solon, Gary & Barsky, Robert & Parker, Jonathan A, 1994. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important Is Composition Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(1), pages 1-25, February.
  2. Pourpourides, Panayiotis M., 2007. "Implicit Contracts and the Cyclicality of the Skill-Premium," Cardiff Economics Working Papers E2007/19, Cardiff University, Cardiff Business School, Economics Section, revised Apr 2010.
  3. Christopher Otrok & Panayiotis M. Pourpourides, 2011. "On The Cyclicality of Real Wages and Wage Di¤erentials," Working Papers 1116, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  4. Balleer, Almut & van Rens, Thijs, 2009. "Cyclical Skill-Biased Technological Change," IZA Discussion Papers 4258, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Stuart Glosser & Lonnie Golden, 2005. "Is labour becoming more or less flexible? Changing dynamic behaviour and asymmetries of labour input in US manufacturing," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 535-557, July.
  6. Otrok, Christopher & Pourpourides, Panayiotis M., 2008. "On The Cyclicality of Real Wages and Wage Differentials," Cardiff Economics Working Papers E2008/19, Cardiff University, Cardiff Business School, Economics Section, revised Mar 2009.
  7. Toshihiko Mukoyama & Aysegul Sahin, 2005. "Costs of Business Cycles for Unskilled Workers," Working Papers 05002, Concordia University, Department of Economics.
  8. Rui Castro & Daniele Coen-Pirani, 2008. "WHY HAVE AGGREGATE SKILLED HOURS BECOME SO CYCLICAL SINCE THE MID-1980s?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(1), pages 135-185, 02.

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