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Why Have Aggregate Skilled Hours Become So Cyclical Since the Mid-1980's?

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  • CASTRO, Rui
  • COEN-PIRANI, Daniele

Abstract

This paper documents and discusses a dramatic change in the cyclical behavior of aggregate hours worked by individuals with a college degree (skilled workers) since the mid-1980’s. Using the CPS outgoing rotation data set for the period 1979:1-2003:4, we find that the volatility of aggregate skilled hours relative to the volatility of GDP has nearly tripled since 1984. In contrast, the cyclical properties of unskilled hours have remained essentially unchanged. We evaluate the extent to which a simple supply/demand model for skilled and unskilled labor with capital-skill complementarity in production can help explain this stylized fact. Within this framework, we identify three effects which would lead to an increase in the relative volatility of skilled hours: (i) a reduction in the degree of capital-skill complementarity, (ii) a reduction in the absolute volatility of GDP (and unskilled hours), and (iii) an increase in the level of capital equipment relative to skilled labor. We provide empirical evidence in support of each of these effects. Our conclusion is that these three mechanisms can jointly explain about sixty percent of the observed increase in the relative volatility of skilled labor. The reduction in the degree of capital-skill complementarity contributes the most to this result.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/1866/548
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques in its series Cahiers de recherche with number 2005-19.

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Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mtl:montde:2005-19

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Keywords: Macroeconomics; Business Cycles; Volatility; Skilled Hours; Skill Premium; Catal- Skill Comementarity;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Konstantinos Angelopoulos & Stylianos Asimakopoulos & James Malley, 2013. "The optimal distribution of the tax burden over the business cycle," Working Papers 2013_16, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  2. Nir Jaimovich & Seth Pruitt & Henry E. Siu, 2009. "The demand for youth: implications for the hours volatility puzzle," International Finance Discussion Papers 964, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Fatih Guvenen & Serdar Ozkan & Jae Song, 2013. "The nature of countercyclical income risk," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2013-25, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Chandranath Amarasekara & George J. Bratsiotis, 2012. "Monetary policy and real wage cyclicality," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(33), pages 4391-4408, November.
  5. 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.
  6. Jonathan A. Parker & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2010. "The Increase in Income Cyclicality of High-Income Households and its Relation to the Rise in Top Income Shares," NBER Working Papers 16577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Steven Lugauer, 2012. "Estimating the Effect of the Age Distribution on Cyclical Output Volatility Across the United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 896-902, November.
  8. Andre Kurmann & Julien Champagne, 2010. "The Great Increase in Relative Volatility of Real Wages in the United States," 2010 Meeting Papers 674, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Christopher L. Foote & Richard W. Ryan, 2014. "Labor-Market Polarization Over the Business Cycle," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2014, Volume 29 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Jongsuk Han, 2013. "Cyclical Employment and Learning Ability," 2013 Meeting Papers 1022, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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