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The dynamics of labor market polarization

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  • Christopher L. Smith

Abstract

It has been well documented that the share of the working-age population employed in "middle-skill" occupations has been falling for some time, while the share in lower- and higher-skill jobs has been rising--i.e. "polarization" of the labor market (e.g. Autor 2010). However, the dynamics and related mechanism behind these employment trends are not fully understood; nor is it well understood what happens to workers who are displaced from middle-skill jobs. In this paper, I use data from the matched monthly CPS, the March CPS supplement, and the Displaced Worker Survey to answer two primary questions. First, into what employment states or occupations do unemployed persons who were formerly employed in low-, middle-, or high-skill occupations transition? Second, how have transitions between job types and employment states changed over time, and how have these changes contributed to trends in employment shares by job-type? I find that the decline in the share of workers in middle-skill jobs is due both to a decline in inflows into these jobs (particularly from non-employment and for younger workers) and because of a rise in outflows from these jobs (to non-employment and to other jobs); the increase in the share of workers in lower-skill jobs appears due to an increase in worker transitions from other job types (evident within all demographic groups); and the increase in the share of workers in higher-skill jobs appears due to an increase in worker transitions from other job types and is also somewhat compositional in nature (because there are more college-educated workers).

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher L. Smith, 2013. "The dynamics of labor market polarization," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2013-57, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2013-57
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green & Benjamin M. Sand, 2016. "The Great Reversal in the Demand for Skill and Cognitive Tasks," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S1), pages 199-247.
    2. Nir Jaimovich & Henry E. Siu, 2012. "The Trend is the Cycle: Job Polarization and Jobless Recoveries," NBER Working Papers 18334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Guy Michaels & Ashwini Natraj & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Has ICT Polarized Skill Demand? Evidence from Eleven Countries over 25 years," NBER Working Papers 16138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2006. "Technical Change, Job Tasks, and Rising Educational Demands: Looking outside the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 235-270, April.
    5. Regis Barnichon & Christopher J. Nekarda, 2012. "The Ins and Outs of Forecasting Unemployment: Using Labor Force Flows to Forecast the Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 43(2 (Fall)), pages 83-131.
    6. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    7. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2007. "Lousy and Lovely Jobs: The Rising Polarization of Work in Britain," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(1), pages 118-133, February.
    8. Francesca Mazzolari & Giuseppe Ragusa, 2013. "Spillovers from High-Skill Consumption to Low-Skill Labor Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 74-86, March.
    9. Jaison R. Abel & Richard Deitz, 2012. "Job polarization and rising inequality in the nation and the New York-northern New Jersey region," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 18(Oct).
    10. 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.
    11. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2013. "Housing Booms, Manufacturing Decline, and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 18949, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Musa Orak, 2017. "Capital-Task Complementarity and the Decline of the U.S. Labor Share of Income," International Finance Discussion Papers 1200, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. 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.

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