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The Masking of the Decline in Manufacturing Employment by the Housing Bubble

Listed author(s):
  • Kerwin Kofi Charles
  • Erik Hurst
  • Matthew J. Notowidigdo

The employment-to-population ratio among prime-aged adults aged 25–54 has fallen substantially since 2000. The explanations proposed for the decline in the employment-to-population ratio have been of two broad types. One set of explanations emphasizes cyclical factors associated with the recession; the second set of explanations focuses on the role of longer-run structural factors. In this paper, we argue that while the decline in manufacturing and the consequent reduction in demand for less-educated workers put downward pressure on their employment rates in the pre-recession 2000–2006 period, the increased demand for less-educated workers because of the housing boom was simultaneously pushing their employment rates upwards. For a few years, the housing boom served to "mask" the labor market effects of manufacturing decline for less-educated workers. When the housing market collapsed in 2007, there was a large, immediate decline in employment among these workers, who faced not only the sudden disappearance of jobs related to the housing boom, but also the fact that manufacturing's steady decline during the early 2000s left them with many fewer opportunities in that sector than had existed at the start of the decade.

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File URL: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.30.2.179
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File URL: https://www.aeaweb.org/jep/data/3002/30020179_data.zip
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 30 (2016)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 179-200

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:30:y:2016:i:2:p:179-200
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.30.2.179
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  1. Kory Kroft & Fabian Lange & Matthew J. Notowidigdo & Lawrence F. Katz, 2016. "Long-Term Unemployment and the Great Recession: The Role of Composition, Duration Dependence, and Nonparticipation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S1), pages 7-54.
  2. Henry S. Farber & Robert G. Valletta, 2015. "Do Extended Unemployment Benefits Lengthen Unemployment Spells?: Evidence from Recent Cycles in the U.S. Labor Market," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(4), pages 873-909.
  3. Veronica Guerrieri & Guido Lorenzoni, 2011. "Credit Crises, Precautionary Savings, and the Liquidity Trap," NBER Working Papers 17583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. David Autor & Nicole Maestas & Kathleen Mullen & Alexander Strand, 2011. "Does Delay Cause Decay? The Effect of Administrative Decision Time on the Labor Force Participation and Earnings of Disability Applicants," Working Papers wp258, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  5. Nicole Maestas & Kathleen J. Mullen & Alexander Strand, 2013. "Does Disability Insurance Receipt Discourage Work? Using Examiner Assignment to Estimate Causal Effects of SSDI Receipt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1797-1829, August.
  6. Andrew C. Johnston & Alexandre Mas, 2015. "Potential Unemployment Insurance Duration and Labor Supply: The Individual and Market-Level Response to a Benefit Cut," Working Papers 590, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Mulligan, Casey B., 2012. "The Redistribution Recession: How Labor Market Distortions Contracted the Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199942213.
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