IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Partial Adjustment without Apology


  • Robert G. King

    () (Department of Economics, Boston University)

  • Julia K. Thomas

    () (Department of Economics, University of Minnesota)


Many kinds of economic behavior appear to be governed by discrete and occasional individual choices. Despite this, econometric partial adjustment models perform relatively well at the aggregate level. Analyzing the classic employment adjustment problem, we show how discrete and occasional microeconomic adjustment is well described by a new form of partial adjustment model that aggregates the actions of a large number of heterogeneous producers facing fixed costs of factor adjustment. In the market equilibrium of this model, employment responses to aggregate disturbances include changes both in a target employment selected by establishments and in the measure of establishments actively adjusting to this target. Yet the model retains a partial adjustment flavor in its aggregate responses. Previous research involving discrete factor adjustment has been conducted almost exclusively under the assumption of exogenous prices, given the complications presented by nontrivial heterogeneity in production. We demonstrate how such complications can be limited, allowing both general equilibrium analysis and the convenience of linear solution methods. We also show how our framework is easily generalized to accommodate persistent idiosyncratic shocks. This generalization allows both greater consistency with the microeconomic dynamics of factor adjustment, as well as application to a much broader set of questions involving discrete individual choices, within a tractable equilibrium model.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert G. King & Julia K. Thomas, 2005. "Partial Adjustment without Apology," Boston University - Department of Economics - Macroeconomics Working Papers Series WP2005-001, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bos:macppr:wp2005-001

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lucas, Robert E, Jr & Prescott, Edward C, 1971. "Investment Under Uncertainty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 39(5), pages 659-681, September.
    2. Julia K. Thomas, 2002. "Is Lumpy Investment Relevant for the Business Cycle?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 508-534, June.
    3. Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1989. "Labor Demand and the Structure of Adjustment Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 674-689, September.
    4. Michael Dotsey & Robert G. King & Alexander L. Wolman, 1999. "State-Dependent Pricing and the General Equilibrium Dynamics of Money and Output," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 655-690.
    5. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M. R. A. Engel, 1993. "Microeconomic Adjustment Hazards and Aggregate Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 359-383.
    6. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M. R. A. Engel, 1999. "Explaining Investment Dynamics in U.S. Manufacturing: A Generalized (S,s) Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 783-826, July.
    7. Khan, Aubhik & Thomas, Julia K., 2003. "Nonconvex factor adjustments in equilibrium business cycle models: do nonlinearities matter?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 331-360, March.
    8. King, Robert G. & Rebelo, Sergio T., 1999. "Resuscitating real business cycles," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 927-1007 Elsevier.
    9. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Gerard A. Pfann, 1996. "Adjustment Costs in Factor Demand," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(3), pages 1264-1292, September.
    10. Sargent, Thomas J, 1978. "Estimation of Dynamic Labor Demand Schedules under Rational Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 1009-1044, December.
    11. Hamermesh, Daniel S., 1990. "Aggregate employment dynamics and lumpy adjustment costs," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 93-129, January.
    12. Parente, Stephen L & Prescott, Edward C, 1994. "Barriers to Technology Adoption and Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 298-321, April.
    13. Caballero, Ricardo J & Engel, Eduardo M R A, 1992. "Beyond the Partial-Adjustment Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 360-364, May.
    14. Caballero, Ricardo J & Engel, Eduardo M R A & Haltiwanger, John, 1997. "Aggregate Employment Dynamics: Building from Microeconomic Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 115-137, March.
    15. Mortensen, Dale T, 1973. "Generalized Costs of Adjustment and Dynamic Factor Demand Theory," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 657-665, July.
    16. Kollintzas, Tryphon, 1985. "The Symmetric Linear Rational Expectations Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(4), pages 963-976, July.
    17. Kennan, John, 1979. "The Estimation of Partial Adjustment Models with Rational Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(6), pages 1441-1455, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    dynamic factor demand; generalized partial adjustment; discrete individual;

    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bos:macppr:wp2005-001. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Program Coordinator). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.