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Employment, Hours, and Earnings in the Depression: An Analysis of EightManufacturing Industries

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  • Ben S. Bernanke

Abstract

This paper employs monthly, industry-level data in a study of Depression-era labor markets. The underlying analytical framework is one in which, as in Lucas (1970), employers can vary total labor input not only by changing the number of workers but also by varying the length of the work-week. This framework appears to be particularly relevant to the 1930s, a period in which both employment and hours of work fluctuated sharply. With aggregate demand treated as exogenous, it is shown that an econometric model based on this framework, in conjunction with some additional elements (notably, the adjustment of workers' pay to permanent but not transitory variations in the cost of living, and the effects of New Deal legislation) can provide a good explanation of the behavior of the keytime series. In particular, the empirical model is able to explain the puzzle of increasing real wages during a period of high unemployment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1642.

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Date of creation: Jun 1985
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Publication status: published as Bernanke, Ben S."Employment, Hours, and Earnings in the Drpression: An Analysis of Eight Manufacturing Industries," American Economic Review, Vol. 76 , No. 1, pp. 82-109, March 1986.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1642

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  1. Bernanke, Ben S, 1983. "Nonmonetary Effects of the Financial Crisis in Propagation of the Great Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 257-76, June.
  2. Yellen, Janet L, 1984. "Efficiency Wage Models of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 200-205, May.
  3. Lucas, Robert E, Jr & Rapping, Leonard A, 1969. "Real Wages, Employment, and Inflation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(5), pages 721-54, Sept./Oct.
  4. Ashenfelter, Orley, 1980. "Unemployment as Disequilibrium in a Model of Aggregate Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(3), pages 547-64, April.
  5. Weiss, Andrew W, 1980. "Job Queues and Layoffs in Labor Markets with Flexible Wages," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(3), pages 526-38, June.
  6. Rosen, Harvey S & Quandt, Richard E, 1978. "Estimation of a Disequilibrium Aggregate Labor Market," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(3), pages 371-79, August.
  7. 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.
  8. Plessner, Yakir & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1983. "Unemployment and Wage Rigidity: The Demand Side," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 202-12, July.
  9. Altonji, Joseph & Ashenfelter, Orley, 1980. "Wage Movements and the Labour Market Equilibrium Hypothesis," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 47(187), pages 217-45, August.
  10. Altonji, Joseph G, 1982. "The Intertemporal Substitution Model of Labour Market Fluctuations: An Empirical Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(5), pages 783-824, Special I.
  11. Rees, Albert, 1970. "On Equilibrium in Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(2), pages 306-10, March-Apr.
  12. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1970. "Capacity, Overtime, and Empirical Production Functions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(2), pages 23-27, May.
  13. Rotemberg, Julio J, 1982. "Sticky Prices in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1187-1211, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Hart, Robert A., 2008. "Piece work pay and hourly pay over the cycle," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 1006-1022, October.
  2. repec:cge:warwcg:146 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Eichengreen, Barry & Hatton, Tim, 1988. "Interwar Unemployment in International Perspective," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt7bw188gk, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  4. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Productivity in Manufacturing and the Length of the Working Day: Evidence from the 1880 Census of Manufactures," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_317, Levy Economics Institute.
  5. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1984. "The Dynamic Demand for Capital and Labor," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 735, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  6. Edward E. Leamer & Christopher F. Thornberg, 2000. "Effort and Wages: A New Look at the Interindustry Wage Differentials," NBER Chapters, in: The Impact of International Trade on Wages, pages 37-84 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Klein, Alexander & Otsuy, Keisuke, 2013. "Efficiency, Distortions and Factor Utilization during the Interwar Period," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 147, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  8. Gadi Barlevy & Daniel Tsiddon, 2004. "Earnings Inequality and the Business Cycle," NBER Working Papers 10469, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Tony Syme, 2000. "Public Policy and Unemployment in Interwar France: An Empirical Approach," Economics Series Working Papers 55, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  10. Ángel Luis Martin Roman & Alfonso Moral de Blas, 2002. "Efectos de las variaciones en el tiempo de trabajo sobre la ocupación adolescente y juvenil en el sector industrial: un análisis regional," Revista de Estudios Regionales, Universidades Públicas de Andalucía, vol. 1, pages 51-77.
  11. Taylor, Jason E. & Neumann, Todd C., 2013. "The effect of institutional regime change within the new deal on industrial output and labor markets," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 582-598.
  12. Alex Klein & Keisuke Otsu, 2013. "Efficiency, Distortions and Factor Utilization during the Interwar Period," Studies in Economics 1317, Department of Economics, University of Kent.
  13. Margarita Katsimi & Sarantis Kalyvitis & Thomas Moutos, 2009. ""Unwarranted" Wage Changes and the Return on Capital," CESifo Working Paper Series 2804, CESifo Group Munich.
  14. Hart, Robert A. & Roberts, J. Elizabeth, 2010. "Real Wages, Working Time, and the Great Depression: What Does Micro Evidence Tell Us?," IZA Discussion Papers 4977, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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