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Large Employers Are More Cyclically Sensitive

  • Moscarini, Giuseppe
  • Postel-Vinay, Fabien

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 Reclassification 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 variety 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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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7173.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7173
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  1. Fabien Postel-Vinay & Giuseppe Moscarini, 2009. "Non-Stationary Search Equilibrium," 2009 Meeting Papers 31, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. 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.
  3. Lentz, Rasmus & Mortensen, Dale T., 2005. "An Empirical Model of Growth Through Product Innovation," IZA Discussion Papers 1685, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. 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.
  5. Steven A. Sharpe, 1993. "Financial market imperfections, firm leverage and the cyclicality of employment," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 93-10, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Giuseppe Moscarini & Fabien Postel-Vinay, 2009. "The Timing of Labor Market Expansions: New Facts and a New Hypothesis," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2008, Volume 23, pages 1-51 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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