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European versus US Unemployment: Different Responses to Increased Demand for skill?

  • Richard Jackman
  • Richard Layard
  • Marco Manacorda
  • Barbara Petrongolo

According to Paul Krugman, "the European unemployment problem and the US inequality problem are two sides of the same coin". In other words, both continents have had the same shift in demand towards skill; in the US relative wages have adjusted and in Europe not. The implication of this hypothesis is that in Europe the unemployment rate for the unskilled will have risen but the unemployment rate for the skilled will have fallen. In fact it has risen. To investigate the hypothesis more systematically we develop an internally consistent model which allocates the change in a country's unemployment between that resulting from (a) shifts in relative demand for skill minus shifts in relative supply, (b) shifts in the relative intercepts of skilled and unskilled wage functions, (c) shifts in aggregate wage pressure. We show that the rise in British unemployment relative to the US since the 1970s is almost certainly due to shifts in aggregate wage pressure. Similarly for 5 other European countries the combination of (a) and (b) accounts for none of the increase in unemployment since the 1970s.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0349.

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Date of creation: Jun 1997
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0349
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  1. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  2. Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1995. "Differences and Changes in Wage Structures," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free95-1, August.
  3. Nickell, Stephen & Bell, Brian, 1995. "The Collapse in Demand for the Unskilled and Unemployment across the OECD," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 40-62, Spring.
  4. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 1991. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198284345, March.
  5. Paul Krugman, 1994. "Past and prospective causes of high unemployment," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q IV, pages 23-43.
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