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Labor-market polarization over the business cycle

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  • Christopher L. Foote
  • Richard W. Ryan

Abstract

During the last few decades, labor markets in advanced economies have become “polarized” as relative labor demand grows for high- and low-skill workers while it declines for middle-skill workers. This paper explores how polarization has interacted with the U.S. business cycle since the late 1970s. Consistent with previous work, the authors find that recessions are strongly synchronized across workers with different skills. Even high-skill workers favored by polarization suffer during recessions; this is particularly true during the last two downturns. Additionally, there is no evidence that polarization is driving the recent drop in the job-finding rate that has caused an adverse shift in the Beveridge curve. With this synchronization in mind, the authors then investigate the labor-market transitions of unemployed workers during recessions. When job-finding rates fall in recessions, middle-skill workers appear no more apt to leave the labor force or take low- or high-skill jobs than they are during booms. All in all, the results imply that current distress in the U.S. labor market extends far beyond middle-skill workers, and that recessions in general do not induce reallocation of middle-skill workers to jobs with better long-term outlooks.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher L. Foote & Richard W. Ryan, 2012. "Labor-market polarization over the business cycle," Public Policy Discussion Paper 12-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbpp:12-8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gregory Verdugo & Guillaume Allegre, 2017. "Labour force participation and job polarization : evidence from Europe during the great recession," Sciences Po publications 2017-16, Sciences Po.
    2. Paul Gaggl & Sylvia Kaufmann, 2014. "The Cyclical Component of Labor Market Polarization and Jobless Recoveries in the US," Working Papers 14.03, Swiss National Bank, Study Center Gerzensee.
    3. Brad Hershbein & Lisa B. Kahn, 2018. "Do Recessions Accelerate Routine-Biased Technological Change? Evidence from Vacancy Postings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(7), pages 1737-1772, July.
    4. Carrillo-Tudela, Carlos & Hobijn, Bart & She, Powen & Visschers, Ludo, 2016. "The extent and cyclicality of career changes: Evidence for the U.K," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 18-41.
    5. Jonathan Willis & Didem Tuzemen, 2017. "How Has Job Polarization Contributed to the Increase in Non-Participation of Prime-Age Men?," 2017 Meeting Papers 1516, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Yongseok Shin & Sang Yoon (Tim) Lee & Sangmin Aum, 2017. "Waxing Jobs and Waning Industries," 2017 Meeting Papers 1618, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Stephanie Aaronson & Tomaz Cajner & Bruce Fallick & Felix Galbis-Reig & Christopher Smith & William Wascher, 2014. "Labor Force Participation: Recent Developments and Future Prospects," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 45(2 (Fall)), pages 197-275.
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    9. Shim, Myungkyu & Yang, Hee-Seung, 2016. "New stylized facts on occupational employment and their implications: Evidence from consistent employment data," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 402-415.
    10. Hee-Seung Yang & Myungkyu Shim, 2013. "Job Polarization : Market Responses to Interindustry Wage Differentials," 2013 Meeting Papers 1200, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    11. repec:eee:jeborg:v:146:y:2018:i:c:p:141-160 is not listed on IDEAS
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    13. Brian Nolan & Sarah Voitchovsky, 2016. "Job loss by wage level: lessons from the Great Recession in Ireland," IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-29, December.
    14. Gustavsson, Magnus, 2017. "Is Job Polarization a Recent Phenomenon? Evidence from Sweden, 1950–2013, and a Comparison to the United States," Working Paper Series 2017:14, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    15. Modestino, Alicia Sasser & Shoag, Daniel & Ballance, Joshua, 2015. "Upskilling: Do Employers Demand Greater Skill When Workers Are Plentiful?," Working Paper Series rwp15-013, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    16. Guido Matias Cortes & Nir Jaimovich & Christopher J. Nekarda & Henry E. Siu, 2014. "The Micro and Macro of Disappearing Routine Jobs: A Flows Approach," NBER Working Papers 20307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labor market ; Unemployment ; Business cycles;

    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
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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