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Jobless recoveries and the wait-and-see hypothesis

  • Stacey L. Schreft
  • Aarti Singh
  • Ashley Hodgson

In January 2005, after more than three years of sluggish employment growth, the U.S. economy finally recovered the jobs lost during the 2001 recession. Baffled by such a delayed rebound in payrolls, many speculated about the cause. Inevitably, observers compared the 2001 and 1991 recoveries, both widely considered to have been jobless. Schreft and Singh showed previously that one common feature of the first year of the jobless recoveries was the greater use of just-in-time employment practices. They also speculated that the greater availability of just-in-time employment practices contributed to the recoveries’ lack of job growth. This explanation of delayed hiring is termed the “wait-and-see hypothesis.” Flexible hiring practices allow firms to more easily adjust output in the short term without hiring full-time, potentially permanent workers. This practice is especially effective around the troughs of business cycles, when there is uncertainty about the strength of the recovery. As a result, firms are willing to wait to hire until they see sufficient improvement in business conditions to justify expanding payrolls. Schreft, Singh, and Hodgson take a longer-term perspective, considering the behavior of employment in the first three years of the jobless recoveries. They also describe how a wait-and-see approach to hiring can contribute to such recoveries

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in its journal Economic Review.

Volume (Year): (2005)
Issue (Month): Q IV ()
Pages: 81-99

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedker:y:2005:i:qiv:p:81-99:n:v.90no.4
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