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What drives movements in the unemployment rate? a decomposition of the Beveridge curve


  • Regis Barnichon
  • Andrew Figura


This paper presents a framework to interpret movements in the Beveridge curve and analyze unemployment fluctuations. We decompose the unemployment rate into three main components: (1) a component driven by changes in labor demand--movements along the Beveridge curve and shifts in the Beveridge curve due to layoffs--(2) a component driven by changes in labor supply--shifts in the Beveridge curve due to quits, movements in-and-out of the labor force and demographics--and (3) a component driven by changes in the efficiency of matching unemployed workers to jobs. We find that cyclical movements in unemployment are dominated by changes in labor demand, but that changes in labor supply due to movements in-and-out of the labor force also play an important role. Further, cyclical changes in labor demand lead cyclical changes in labor supply. Changes in matching efficiency generally play a small role but can decline substantially in recessions. At low-frequencies, labor demand displays no trend, and changes in labor supply explain virtually all of the secular trend in unemployment since 1976.

Suggested Citation

  • Regis Barnichon & Andrew Figura, 2010. "What drives movements in the unemployment rate? a decomposition of the Beveridge curve," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-48, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2010-48

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Steven J. Davis & R. Jason Faberman & John Haltiwanger, 2006. "The Flow Approach to Labor Markets: New Data Sources and Micro-Macro Links," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 3-26, Summer.
    2. Aysegül Sahin & Joseph Song & Bart Hobijn, 2010. "The unemployment gender gap during the 2007 recession," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 16(Feb).
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Murat Tasci, 2012. "The Ins and Outs of Unemployment in the Long Run: Unemployment Flows and the Natural Rate," Koç University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum Working Papers 1233, Koc University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum.
    3. 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.
    4. Bart Hobijn & Aysegul Sahin, 2013. "Beveridge Curve Shifts across Countries since the Great Recession," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 61(4), pages 566-600, December.
    5. Francesco Furlanetto & Nicolas Groshenny, 2012. "Matching efficiency and business cycle fluctuations," Working Paper 2012/07, Norges Bank.
    6. Beauchemin, Kenneth & Tasci, Murat, 2014. "Diagnosing Labor Market Search Models: A Multiple-Shock Approach," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(03), pages 548-572, April.
    7. Wesselbaum, Dennis, 2011. "Evaluating the federal reserve's policy," Kiel Policy Brief 23, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    8. Herz, Benedikt & van Rens, Thijs, 2015. "Accounting for Mismatch Employment," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1061, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    9. William T. Dickens & Robert K. Triest, 2012. "Potential effects of the Great Recession on the U.S. labor market," Working Papers 12-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    10. Campolmi, Alessia & Gnocchi, Stefano, 2016. "Labor market participation, unemployment and monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 17-29.
    11. Modestino, Alicia Sasser & Shoag, Daniel & Ballance, Joshua, 2016. "Downskilling: changes in employer skill requirements over the business cycle," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 333-347.
    12. Lin, Ching-Yang & Miyamoto, Hiroaki, 2012. "Gross worker flows and unemployment dynamics in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 44-61.
    13. Bart Hobijn, 2012. "The industry-occupation mix of U.S. job openings and hires," Working Paper Series 2012-09, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    14. Marcelo Veracierto, 2011. "Worker flows and matching efficiency," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q IV, pages 147-169.

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