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Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity in the United States: New Evidence from Worker-Firm Linked Data

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  • André Kurmann
  • Erika McEntarfer

Abstract

This paper examines the extent and consequences of Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity (DNWR) using administrative worker-firm linked data from the Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics (LEHD) program for a large representative U.S. state. Prior to the Great Recession, only 7-8% of job stayers are paid the same nominal hourly wage rate as one year earlier - substantially less than previously found in survey-based data - and about 20% of job stayers experience a wage cut. During the Great Recession, the incidence of wage cuts increases to 30%, followed by a large rise in the proportion of wage freezes to 16% as the economy recovers. Total earnings of job stayers exhibit even fewer zero changes and a larger incidence of reductions than hourly wage rates, due to systematic variations in hours worked. The results are consistent with concurrent findings in the literature that reductions in base pay are exceedingly rare but that firms use different forms of non-base pay and variations in hours worked to flexibilize labor cost. We then exploit the worker-firm link of the LEHD and find that during the Great Recession, firms with indicators of DNWR reduced employment by about 1.2% more per year. This negative effect is driven by significantly lower hiring rates and persists into the recovery. Our results suggest that despite the relatively large incidence of wage cuts in the aggregate, DNWR has sizable allocative consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • André Kurmann & Erika McEntarfer, 2019. "Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity in the United States: New Evidence from Worker-Firm Linked Data," Working Papers 19-07, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:19-07
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Schaefer & Carl Singleton, 2020. "Nominal Wage Adjustments and the Composition of Pay: New Evidence from Payroll Data," Economics Discussion Papers em-dp2020-01, Department of Economics, Reading University.
    2. Jardim, Ekaterina & Solon, Gary & Vigdor, Jacob, 2019. "How Prevalent Is Downward Rigidity in Nominal Wages? Evidence from Payroll Records in Washington State," IZA Discussion Papers 12124, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Effrosyni Adamopoulou & Ernesto Villanueva, 2020. "Wage determination and the bite of collective contracts in Italy and Spain: evidence from the metal working industry," Working Papers 2036, Banco de España.
    4. Bruce Fallick & Daniel Villar Vallenas & William L. Wascher, 2016. "Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity in the United States During and After the Great Recession," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2016-001r1, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), revised 15 May 2020.
    5. Christopher Busch & David Domeij & Fatih Guvenen & Rocio Madera, 2020. "Skewed Idiosyncratic Income Risk over the Business Cycle: Sources and Insurance," Working Papers 1180, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    6. Malak Kandoussi & François Langot, 2021. "On the heterogeneous impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on US unemployment," TEPP Working Paper 2021-01, TEPP.
    7. Schaefer, Daniel & Singleton, Carl, 2019. "Cyclical labor costs within jobs," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 120(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E30 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General

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