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The Economics of Labor Adjustment: Mind the Gap

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  • Russell W. Cooper
  • Jonathan L. Willis

Abstract

We study the inferences about labor adjustment costs obtained by the 'gap methodology' of Caballero and Engel [1993] and Caballero, Engel and Haltiwanger [1997]. In that approach, the policy function of a manufacturing plant is assumed to depend on the gap between a target and the current level of employment. Using time series observations, these studies reject the quadratic cost of adjustment model and find that aggregate employment dynamics depend on the cross sectional distribution of employment gaps. We argue that these conclusions may not be justified. Instead these findings may reflect difficulties measuring the gap. Thus it appears that the gap methodology, as currently employed, may be unable to: (i) identify the costs of labor adjustment and (ii) assess the aggregate implications of labor adjustment costs.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8527.

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Date of creation: Oct 2001
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Publication status: published as Cooper, Russell and Jonathan L. Willis. "A Comment On The Economics Of Labor Adjustment: Mind The Gap," American Economic Review, 2004, v94(4,Sep), 1223-1237.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8527

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  1. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1988. "Labor Demand and the Structure of Adjustment Costs," NBER Working Papers 2572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Steve J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1991. "Gross job creation, gross job destruction and employment reallocation," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 91-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  3. Russell W. Cooper & John C. Haltiwanger, 2006. "On the Nature of Capital Adjustment Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(3), pages 611-633.
  4. Gary D. Hansen, 1989. "Technical Progress and Aggregate Fluctuations," UCLA Economics Working Papers 546, UCLA Department of Economics.
  5. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
  6. Olley, G Steven & Pakes, Ariel, 1996. "The Dynamics of Productivity in the Telecommunications Equipment Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1263-97, November.
  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. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1986. "The Dynamic Demand for Capital and Labor," NBER Working Papers 1899, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Steven J. Davis & John C. Haltiwanger & Scott Schuh, 1998. "Job Creation and Destruction," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262540932, December.
  10. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo Engel & John Haltiwanger, 1996. "Aggregate Employment Dynamics: Building from Microeconomic Evidence," Documentos de Trabajo 6, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
  11. Caballero, Ricardo J & Engel, Eduardo M R A, 1993. "Microeconomic Adjustment Hazards and Aggregate Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 359-83, May.
  12. Bils, Mark, 1987. "The Cyclical Behavior of Marginal Cost and Price," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 838-55, December.
  13. Nickell, S J, 1978. "Fixed Costs, Employment and Labour Demand over the Cycle," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 45(180), pages 329-45, November.
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