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By what measure? A comparison of French and US labor market performance with new indicators of employment adequacy

  • David Howell
  • Anna Okatenko

Comparisons of national labor market performance have conventionally relied on standard unemployment and employment rates (UR and ER) and these two 'quantity-of-employment' indicators have framed policy debates on the merits of reforms that would move European labor markets closer to the 'American Model.' This paper compares French and US performance using a variety of alternative indicators, including new measures that account for job quality. While the UR was much higher for France between 1984 and 2007, it was lower than the US rate before 1984 and the rates have since converged. It is also significant but not well-known that both prime-age ERs and youth unemployment-to-population rates have been quite similar in recent decades. We calculate two new summary indicators from each country's main household survey for 1993-2005 designed to account for the adequacy of pay and hours of work as well as the number of unemployed and employed (the underemployed share of the labor force and the adequately employed share of the working age population). France shows superior performance on both, especially for less-educated workers, and the French advantage has grown substantially since the late 1990s.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal International Review of Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 24 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 333-357

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Handle: RePEc:taf:irapec:v:24:y:2010:i:3:p:333-357
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