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Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity in the United States during and after the Great Recession

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Rigidity in wages has long been thought to impede the functioning of labor markets. One recent strand of the research on wage flexibility in the United States and elsewhere has focused on the possibility of downward nominal wage rigidity and what implications such rigidity might have for the macroeconomy at low levels of inflation. The Great Recession of 2008-09, during which the unemployment rate topped 10 percent and price deflation was at times seen as a distinct possibility, along with the subsequent slow recovery and persistently low inflation, has added to the relevance of this line of inquiry. In this paper, we use establishment-level data from a nationally representative establishment-based compensation survey collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to investigate the extent to which downward nominal wage rigidity is present in U.S. labor markets. We use several distinct methods proposed in the literature to test for downward nominal wage rigidity, and to assess whether such rigidity is more severe at low rates of inflation and in the presence of negative economic shocks than in more normal economic times. Like earlier studies, we find evidence of a significant amount of downward nominal wage rigidity in the United States. We find no evidence that the high degree of labor market distress during the Great Recession reduced the amount of downward nominal wage rigidity and some evidence that operative rigidity may have increased during that period.

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  • Bruce Fallick & Michael Lettau & William L. Wascher, 2016. "Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity in the United States during and after the Great Recession," Working Papers (Old Series) 1602, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcwp:1602
    DOI: 10.26509/frbc-wp-201602
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    Cited by:

    1. Anne Kathrin Funk & Daniel Kaufmann, 2022. "Do Sticky Wages Matter? New Evidence from Matched Firm Survey and Register Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 89(355), pages 689-712, July.
    2. John Grigsby & Erik Hurst & Ahu Yildirmaz, 2021. "Aggregate Nominal Wage Adjustments: New Evidence from Administrative Payroll Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 111(2), pages 428-471, February.
    3. Daniel Schaefer & Carl Singleton, 2023. "The Extent of Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity: New Evidence from Payroll Data," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 51, pages 60-76, December.
    4. Kazuma Inagaki, & Yoshiyasu Ono & Takayuki Tsuruga, 2022. "Accounting for the slowdown in output growth after the Great Recession: A wealth preference approach," ISER Discussion Paper 1174, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    5. Komarek, Timothy M. & Butts, Kyle & Wagner, Gary A., 2022. "Government Contracting, Labor Intensity, and the Local Effects of Fiscal Consolidation: Evidence from the Budget Control Act of 2011," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C).
    6. Wataru Hirata & Toshitaka Maruyama & Tomohide Mineyama, 2020. "Flattening of the Wage Phillips Curve and Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity: The Japanese Experience in the 2010s," Bank of Japan Working Paper Series 20-E-4, Bank of Japan.
    7. Iwasaki, Yuto & Muto, Ichiro & Shintani, Mototsugu, 2021. "Missing wage inflation? Estimating the natural rate of unemployment in a nonlinear DSGE model," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 132(C).
    8. Osborne Jackson, 2020. "An Approach to Predicting Regional Labor Market Effects of Economic Shocks: The COVID-19 Pandemic in New England," Current Policy Perspectives 88244, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

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    More about this item

    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
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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