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Optimal Unemployment Insurance Over the Business Cycle

Author

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  • Camille Landais
  • Pascal Michaillat
  • Emmanuel Saez

Abstract

This paper characterizes optimal unemployment insurance (UI) over the business cycle using a model of equilibrium unemployment in which jobs are rationed in recession. It offers a simple optimal UI formula that can be applied to a broad class of equilibrium unemployment models. In addition to the usual statistics (risk aversion and micro-elasticity of unemployment with respect to UI), a macro-elasticity appears in the formula to capture the macroeconomic impact of UI on unemployment. In a model with job rationing, the formula implies that optimal UI is countercyclical. This result arises because in recession, jobs are lacking irrespective of job search. Therefore (1) a higher aggregate search effort cannot reduce aggregate unemployment much; and (2) individual search effort creates a negative externality by reducing other jobseekers' probability of finding a job as in a rat race. Hence the social benefits of job search are low. In a calibrated model, optimal UI increases significantly in recession. This quantitative result holds whether the government adjusts the level or duration of benefits; whether it balances its budget each period or uses deficit spending.

Suggested Citation

  • Camille Landais & Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance Over the Business Cycle," CEP Discussion Papers dp1078, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1078
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Unemployment insurance; business cycle; job rationing; matching frictions;
    All these keywords.

    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
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies

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