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Implicit Contracts, Labor Mobility, and Unemployment


  • Arnott, Richard J
  • Hosios, Arthur J
  • Stiglitz, Joseph E


Firms' inability to monitor their employees' search effort forces a tradeoff between risk-bearing and incentive considerations when designing employment-related insurance. Since the provision of insurance against firm-specific shocks adversely affects workers' incentives to find better jobs, the optimal contract provides only partial insurance: it prescribes low (high) wages and under (over) employment to encourage workers to leave (stay) at low (high) productivity firms; and it employs quits and layoffs as alternative means of inducing separations at low productivity firms, with the mix depending upon the relative efficiency of the on- and off-the-job search technologies. Our analysis of implicit contracts with asymmetric search information establishes that any consistent explanation for worksharing, layoffs, severance pay, quits and unemployment must focus on questions of labor mobility.
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Suggested Citation

  • Arnott, Richard J & Hosios, Arthur J & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1988. "Implicit Contracts, Labor Mobility, and Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1046-1066, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:78:y:1988:i:5:p:1046-66

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jahn, Elke J. & Wagner, Thomas, 2005. "Contractual Employment Protection and the Scarring Risk of Unemployment," IZA Discussion Papers 1813, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Bo Sandemann Rasmussen, 2014. "An Interpretation of the Gini Coefficient in a Stiglitz Two-Type Optimal Tax Problem," Economics Working Papers 2014-15, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    3. Leonard, J.S. & Van Audenrode, M., 1998. "The Dynamics of Wages and Employment," Papers 9806, Laval - Recherche en Politique Economique.
    4. Tsoulouhas, Theofanis, 1996. "Labor and credit contracts with asymmetric information and bankruptcy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(8), pages 1665-1682, November.
    5. Lam, Kit-Chun & Liu, Pak-Wai & Wong, Yue-Chim, 1995. "Wage structure when wage offers are private," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 19-32, March.
    6. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2002. "Information and the Change in the Paradigm in Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(3), pages 460-501, June.
    7. Engström, Per, 2002. "Optimal Non-Linear Income Taxation in Search Equilibrium," Working Paper Series 2002:18, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    8. Tomi Kyyrä & Ralf A. Wilke, 2007. "Reduction in the Long-Term Unemployment of the Elderly: A Success Story from Finland," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(1), pages 154-182, March.
    9. Burguet, Roberto & Caminal, Ramon, 2008. "Does the market provide sufficient employment protection?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 406-422, June.
    10. Kyyrä, Tomi & Wilke Ralf A., 2006. "Reduction in the Long-Term Unemployment of the Elderly: A Success Story from Finland Revised," Discussion Papers 396, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    11. Jonathan P. Thomas, 1999. "Fair Pay and a Wagebill Arguement for Wage Rigidity and Excessive Employment Variability," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 199919, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
    12. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1991. "Methodological Issues and the New Keynesian Economics," NBER Working Papers 3580, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Bo Rasmussen, 2015. "An interpretation of the Gini coefficient in a Stiglitz two-type optimal tax problem," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 13(1), pages 17-26, March.
    14. Hakola Tuulia, 2002. "Economic Incentives and Labour Market Transitions of the Aged Finnish Workforce," Research Reports 89, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    15. Rosen, Sherwin, 1985. "Implicit Contracts: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 23(3), pages 1144-1175, September.
    16. Arnott, Richard & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1986. "Moral hazard and optimal commodity taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-24, February.
    17. Bengt Holmstrom, 1980. "Equilibrium Long-Term Labor Contracts," Discussion Papers 414R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    18. Wang, Yanguo & Jaenicke, Edward C., 2005. "Pooling, Separating, and Cream-Skimming In Relative-Performance Contracts," 2005 International Congress, August 23-27, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark 24639, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    19. Wang, Yanguo & Jaenicke, Edward C., 2005. "Pooling, Separating, and Cream-Skimming In Relative-Performance Contracts," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19522, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    20. Guerrazzi, Marco & Meccheri, Nicola, 2012. "From wage rigidity to labour market institution rigidity: A turning-point in explaining unemployment?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 189-197.

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