Exploring the big jump in the Spanish unemployment rate: Evidence on an 'added-worker' effect
Spain is destroying more jobs than any other European country. In the third quarter of 2009, the unemployment rate stood at 17.9%, the second-highest rate in the 27-nation EU and the highest rate in the euro area (EA-16). The exponential growth of the Spanish unemployment rate is the by-product of falling employment rates. However, there is a second explanation which is often overlooked by unemployment forecasters: changes in labour force participation rates. On the one hand, in times of recession participation rates tend to increase in order to safeguard sustainable household incomes. This phenomenon is known as the 'added-worker' effect. On the other hand, there is also an opposite effect in that individuals leave the labour force in recessions because chances to find employment are low. This is the 'discouraged-worker' effect. Applying a threshold cointegration model to Spanish quarterly data over the period 1976-2008, we find that the added-worker effect dominates the discouraged-worker effect, but only when unemployment is below 11.7%. Above this threshold, the two effects cancel each other out so that the participation rate is not influenced by further deteriorations of economic conditions. Since Spain recently passed the 11.7% unemployment threshold, our model predicts that there will be no further increases in the participation rate in the near future.
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