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On the Cyclicality of Real Wages and Wage Differentials

  • Christopher Otrok


    (University of Missouri)

  • Panayiotis M. Pourpourides


    (Central Bank of Cyprus)

In this paper we investigate the cyclicality of real wages. The approach we take is to search for the largest possible common cyclical component in a statistical sense. This contrasts with the existing literature which uses observable variables to proxy for a common cycle. We do so by using a Bayesian dynamic latent factor model and longitudinal microdata. We find that the comovement of real wages can be related to a common factor that exhibits a significant but far from perfect correlation with the national unemployment rate. Our findings indicate that (i) the common factor explains, on average, no more than 9% of wage variation, (ii) the common factor accounts for 20% or less of the wage variability for 88% of the workers in the sample and (iii) roughly half of the wages move procyclically while half move countercyclically. These facts are inconsistent with claims of a strong systematic relationship between real wages and the business cycle. We show that these results are inconsistent with models of Walrasian labor markets typically used in DSGE models. We also confirm findings of previous studies in which skilled and unskilled wages exhibit roughly the same degree of cyclical variation.

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Paper provided by Central Bank of Cyprus in its series Working Papers with number 2011-4.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cyb:wpaper:2011-4
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