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Volatility, labor heterogeneity and asset prices

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  • Marcelo Ochoa

Abstract

This paper shows that a firm's reliance on skilled labor is an underlying determinant of its exposure to aggregate volatility risk. I present a model in which firms make hiring and firing decisions in an environment of time-varying aggregate volatility, and face linear adjustment costs that increase with the skill of a worker. In the model, an increase in aggregate volatility slows a firm's labor demand reaction to changes in economic conditions, reducing its ability to smooth cash flows. The rise in aggregate volatility has a more pronounced impact on firms with a high share of skilled labor because their labor is more costly to adjust. Therefore, the compensation for volatility risk and its contribution to risk compensation increases with a firm's reliance on skilled labor. I empirically test the implications of the model using occupational estimates to construct a measure of a firm's reliance on skilled labor, and find a positive and statistically significant cross-sectional relation between the reliance on skilled labor and expected returns. In times of high aggregate volatility, firms with a high share of skilled workers earn an annual return of 2.7% above those with a high share of unskilled workers. This spread reduces by one third in times when volatility is back to normal.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcelo Ochoa, 2013. "Volatility, labor heterogeneity and asset prices," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2013-71, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2013-71
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    Cited by:

    1. Frederico Belo & Xiaoji Lin & Jun Li & Xiaofei Zhao, 2015. "Labor-Force Heterogeneity and Asset Prices: the Importance of Skilled Labor," NBER Working Papers 21487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Xiaoji Lin & Ding Luo & Andres Donangelo & Frederico Belo, 2017. "Labor Hiring, Aggregate Dividends, and Return Predictability in the Time Series," 2017 Meeting Papers 885, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. repec:oup:rfinst:v:30:y:2017:i:10:p:3669-3709. is not listed on IDEAS

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