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The labor market in the Great Recession: an update


  • Michael Elsby
  • Bart Hobijn
  • Aysegül Sahin
  • Robert G. Valletta


Since the end of the Great Recession in mid-2009, the unemployment rate has recovered slowly, falling by only one percentage point from its peak. We find that the lackluster labor market recovery can be traced in large part to weakness in aggregate demand; only a small part seems attributable to increases in labor market frictions. This continued labor market weakness has led to the highest level of long-term unemployment in the U.S. in the postwar period, and a blurring of the distinction between unemployment and nonparticipation. We show that flows from nonparticipation to unemployment are important for understanding the recent evolution of the duration distribution of unemployment. Simulations that account for these flows suggest that the U.S. labor market is unlikely to be subject to high levels of structural long-term unemployment after aggregate demand recovers. ; Powerpoint supplement available at

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  • Michael Elsby & Bart Hobijn & Aysegül Sahin & Robert G. Valletta, 2011. "The labor market in the Great Recession: an update," Working Paper Series 2011-29, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2011-29

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nakajima, Makoto, 2012. "A quantitative analysis of unemployment benefit extensions," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(7), pages 686-702.
    2. Mary Daly & Bart Hobijn & Aysegul Sahin & Robert Valletta, 2011. "A Rising Natural Rate of Unemployment: Transitory or Permanent?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 11-160/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    3. Abraham, Katharine G & Katz, Lawrence F, 1986. "Cyclical Unemployment: Sectoral Shifts or Aggregate Disturbances?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 507-522, June.
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    5. Greg Kaplan & Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2012. "Interstate Migration Has Fallen Less Than You Think: Consequences of Hot Deck Imputation in the Current Population Survey," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(3), pages 1061-1074, August.
    6. Jesse Rothstein, 2011. "Unemployment Insurance and Job Search in the Great Recession," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 42(2 (Fall)), pages 143-213.
    7. Regis Barnichon & Michael Elsby & Bart Hobijn & Aysegül Sahin, 2010. "Which industries are shifting the Beveridge curve?," Working Paper Series 2010-32, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    8. Stephen Nickell, 1997. "Unemployment and Labor Market Rigidities: Europe versus North America," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 55-74, Summer.
    9. Robert Shimer, 2012. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 127-148, April.
    10. Daniel Aaronson & Bhashkar Mazumder & Shani Schechter, 2010. "What is behind the rise in long-term unemployment?," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q II, pages 28-51.
    11. Robert Shimer, 2008. "The Probability of Finding a Job," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 268-273, May.
    12. Poterba, James M & Summers, Lawrence H, 1995. "Unemployment Benefits and Labor Market Transitions: A Multinomial Logit Model with Errors in Classification," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 207-216, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elsby, Michael W.L. & Hobijn, Bart & Şahin, Ayşegül, 2015. "On the importance of the participation margin for labor market fluctuations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 64-82.
    2. Jaison R. Abel & Richard Deitz, 2017. "Underemployment in the Early Careers of College Graduates Following the Great Recession," NBER Chapters,in: Education, Skills, and Technical Change: Implications for Future U.S. GDP Growth National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kyong Hyun Koo, 2016. "The Evolution of Earnings Volatility During and After the Great Recession," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(4), pages 705-732, October.
    4. repec:spd:journl:v:67:y:2017:i:4:p:45-84 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Ronald Bachmann & Mathias Sinning, 2016. "Decomposing the Ins and Outs of Cyclical Unemployment," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 78(6), pages 853-876, December.
    6. Hall, Robert E. & Schulhofer-Wohl, Sam, 2015. "Measuring Job-Finding Rates and Matching Efficiency with Heterogeneous Jobseekers," Working Papers 721, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    7. Andreas I. Mueller, 2017. "Separations, Sorting, and Cyclical Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(7), pages 2081-2107, July.
    8. Sedláček, Petr, 2014. "Match efficiency and firms' hiring standards," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 123-133.
    9. Arpaia, Alfonso & Kiss, Aron & Turrini, Alessandro, 2014. "Is Unemployment Structural or Cyclical? Main Features of Job Matching in the EU after the Crisis," IZA Policy Papers 91, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Bellmann Lutz & Hübler Olaf, 2014. "The Skill Shortage in German Establishments Before, During and After the Great Recession," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 234(6), pages 800-828, December.
    11. Andreas Hornstein, 2012. "Accounting for unemployment: the long and short of it," Working Paper 12-07, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    12. Khalifa, Sherif, 2015. "Learning-by-doing and unemployment dynamics," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 180-187.
    13. Robert Shimer, 2012. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 127-148, April.

    More about this item


    Labor market ; Recessions;

    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
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor

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