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The Cross-Section of Labor Leverage and Equity Returns

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  • Andres Donangelo
  • Francois Gourio
  • Matthias Kehrig
  • Miguel Palacios

Abstract

Using a standard production model, we demonstrate theoretically that, even if labor is fully flexible, it generates a form of operating leverage if (a) wages are smoother than productivity and (b) the capital-labor elasticity of substitution is strictly less than one. Our model supports using labor share?the ratio of labor expenses to value added?as a proxy for labor leverage. We show evidence for conditions (a) and (b), and we demonstrate the economic significance of labor leverage: High labor-share firms have operating profits that are more sensitive to shocks, and they have higher expected asset returns.

Suggested Citation

  • Andres Donangelo & Francois Gourio & Matthias Kehrig & Miguel Palacios, 2017. "The Cross-Section of Labor Leverage and Equity Returns," Working Paper Series WP-2017-22, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-2017-22
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    Cited by:

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    2. Qianwei Ying & Tahir Yousaf & Qurat ul Ain & Yasmeen Akhtar & Muhammad Shahid Rasheed, 2019. "Stock Investment and Excess Returns: A Critical Review in the Light of the Efficient Market Hypothesis," Journal of Risk and Financial Management, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(2), pages 1-22, June.
    3. 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.
    4. Rong, Yuen & Tian, Cunzhi & Li, Lifang & Zheng, Xinwei, 2020. "Labor hiring and stock return: A model and new evidence from China," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 59(C).
    5. Wagner, Konstantin, 2020. "Competition, cost structure, and labour leverage: Evidence from the U.S. airline industry," IWH Discussion Papers 21/2020, Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH).
    6. Nuno Silva & Sónia Félix & Pedro Moreira, 2021. "On the measurement of Portuguese firms’ fixed operating costs," Economic Bulletin and Financial Stability Report Articles and Banco de Portugal Economic Studies, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
    7. Mahlstedt, Robert & Weber, Rüdiger, 2020. "Risk Sharing Within and Outside the Firm: The Disparate Effects of Wrongful Discharge Laws on Expected Stock Returns," IZA Discussion Papers 13941, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labor leverage; labor mobility; labor supply; wage; productivity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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