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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 Prasad

Abstract

This paper uses micro panel data to examine differences in the cyclical variability of employment, hours, and real 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. However, important differences emerge in the patterns of employment and hours variation for skilled versus unskilled workers, especially when a college degree is used as a proxy for skills. We find that the quality of labor input per manhour tends to rise in recessions, thereby inducing a countercyclical bias in aggregate measures of the real wage. We also find substantial differences across industries in the cyclical variation of employment, hours, and wage differentials, which we interpret as indicative of important inter-industry differences in labor contracting.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 93/44.

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Length: 38
Date of creation: 01 May 1993
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:93/44

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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. 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.
  2. Pourpourides, Panayiotis M., 2011. "Implicit contracts and the cyclicality of the skill-premium," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(6), pages 963-979, June.
  3. MUKOYAMA, Toshihiko & ŞAHIN, Ayşegül, 2005. "Costs of Business Cycles for Unskilled Workers," Cahiers de recherche 15-2005, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Balleer, Almut & van Rens, Thijs, 2009. "Cyclical Skill-Biased Technological Change," IZA Discussion Papers 4258, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. 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.

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