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Large Employers Are More Cyclically Sensitive

  • Giuseppe Moscarini
  • Fabien Postel-Vinay

    ()

We provide new evidence that large firms or establishments are more sensitive than small ones to business cycle conditions. Larger employers shed proportionally more jobs in recessions and create more of their new jobs late in expansions, both in gross and net terms. The differential growth rate of employment between large and small firms varies by about 5% over the business cycle. Omitting cyclical indicators may lead to conclude that, on average, these cyclical effects wash out and size does not predict subsequent growth (Gibrat's law). We employ a variety of measures of relative employment growth, employer size and classification by size. We revisit two statistical fallacies, the Regression and Reclas- sification biases, that can affect our results, and we show empirically that they are quantitatively modest given our focus on relative cyclical behavior. We exploit a va- riety of (mostly novel) U.S. datasets, both repeated cross-sections and job flows with employer longitudinal information, starting in the mid 1970’s and now spanning four business cycles. The pattern that we uncover is robust to different treatments of entry and exit of firms and establishments, and occurs within, not across broad industries, regions and states. Evidence on worker flows suggests that the pattern is driven at least in part by excess layoffs by large employers in and just after recessions, and by excess poaching by large employers late in expansions. We find the same pattern in similar datasets in four other countries, including full longitudinal censuses of employers from Denmark and Brazil. Finally, we sketch a simple firm-ladder model of turnover that can shed light on these facts, and that we analyze in detail in companion papers.

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File URL: http://www.efm.bris.ac.uk/economics/working_papers/pdffiles/dp09609.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK in its series Bristol Economics Discussion Papers with number 09/609.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bri:uobdis:09/609
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  1. Rasmus Lentz & Dale T. Mortensen, 2008. "An Empirical Model of Growth Through Product Innovation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1317-1373, November.
  2. Fabien Postel-Vinay & Giuseppe Moscarini, 2008. "The Timing of Labor Market Expansions: New Facts and a New Hypothesis," 2008 Meeting Papers 326, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Fabien Postel-Vinay & Giuseppe Moscarini, 2009. "Non-Stationary Search Equilibrium," 2009 Meeting Papers 31, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Sharpe, Steven A, 1994. "Financial Market Imperfections, Firm Leverage, and the Cyclicality of Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 1060-74, September.
  5. Orietta Marsili, 2006. "Stability and Turbulence in the Size Distribution of Firms: Evidence from Dutch Manufacturing," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(2), pages 255-272.
  6. Arthur M. Okun, 1973. "Upward Mobility in a High-Pressure Economy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 4(1), pages 207-262.
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