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What Caused the Recession of 2008? Hints from Labor Productivity

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  • Casey Mulligan

Abstract

A labor market tautology says that any change in labor usage can be decomposed into a movement along a marginal productivity schedule and a shift of the schedule. I calculate this decomposition for the recession of 2008, assuming an aggregate Cobb-Douglas marginal productivity schedule, and find that all of the decline in employment and hours since December 2007 is a movement along the schedule. This finding suggests that a reduction in labor supply and/or an increase in labor market distortions are major factors in the 2008 recession. The decline in aggregate consumption suggests that the reduction in labor supply (if any) is neither a wealth nor an intertemporal substitution effect. "Sticky real wages" or the emergence of significant work disincentives are possible explanations for these findings.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14729.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14729

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  1. Jordi Galí & Mark Gertler & J. David López-Salido, 2003. "Markups, Gaps, and the Welfare Costs of Business Fluctuations," Working Papers 45, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  2. Katz, L.F. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1580, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "New Deal policies and the persistence of the Great Depression: a general equilibrium analysis," Working Papers 597, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Crucini, Mario J. & Kahn, James, 1996. "Tariffs and aggregate economic activity: Lessons from the Great Depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 427-467, December.
  5. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2007. "Business Cycle Accounting," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(3), pages 781-836, 05.
  6. Casey B. Mulligan, 2002. "A Century of Labor-Leisure Distortions," NBER Working Papers 8774, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Robert E. Hall, 1997. "Macroeconomic Fluctuations and the Allocation of Time," NBER Working Papers 5933, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  9. Casey B. Mulligan, 2008. "A Depressing Scenario: Mortgage Debt Becomes Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 14514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 1999. "The Great Depression in the United States from a neoclassical perspective," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-24.
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  1. Tellynomics
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2010-03-02 14:19:14
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Cited by:
  1. Rothstein, Jesse, 2012. "The Labor Market Four Years Into the Crisis: Assessing Structural Explanations," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt2x576316, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  2. Kalemli-Ozcan, Sebnem & Papaioannou, Elias & Perri, Fabrizio, 2012. "Global Banks and Crisis Transmission," CEPR Discussion Papers 9044, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Michael W. Elsby & Bart Hobijn & Aysegul Sahin, 2010. "The Labor Market in the Great Recession," NBER Working Papers 15979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Casey B. Mulligan, 2011. "Means-Tested Subsidies and Economic Performance Since 2007," NBER Working Papers 17445, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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