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The economics of labor adjustment : mind the gap

  • Russell Cooper
  • Jonathan L. Willis

We study the inferences about labor adjustment costs obtained by the "gap methodology" of Caballero and Engel [1993] and Caballero, Engel and Haltiwanger [1997]. In that approach, the policy function of a manufacturing plant is assumed to depend on the gap between a target and the current level of employment. Using time series observations, these studies reject the quadratic cost of adjustment model and find that aggregate employment dynamics depend on the cross sectional distribution of employment gaps. We argue that these conclusions may not be justified. Instead these findings may reflect difficulties measuring the gap. Thus it appears that the gap methodology as currently employed, may be unable to: (i) identify the costs of labor adjustment and (ii) assess the aggregate implications of labor adjustment costs.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in its series Research Working Paper with number RWP 01-06.

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Date of creation: 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedkrw:rwp01-06
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  1. Thomas J. Sargent, 1978. "Estimation of dynamic labor demand schedules under rational expectations," Staff Report 27, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Bils, Mark, 1987. "The Cyclical Behavior of Marginal Cost and Price," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 838-55, December.
  3. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
  4. Gary D. Hansen, 1989. "Technical Progress and Aggregate Fluctuations," UCLA Economics Working Papers 546, UCLA Department of Economics.
  5. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo Engel & John Haltiwanger, 1996. "Aggregate Employment Dynamics: Building from Microeconomic Evidence," Documentos de Trabajo 6, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
  6. Steven J. Davis & John C. Haltiwanger & Scott Schuh, 1998. "Job Creation and Destruction," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262540932, June.
  7. Caballero, Ricardo J & Engel, Eduardo M R A, 1993. "Microeconomic Adjustment Hazards and Aggregate Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 359-83, May.
  8. Shapiro, Matthew D, 1986. "The Dynamic Demand for Capital and Labor," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(3), pages 513-42, August.
  9. Olley, G Steven & Pakes, Ariel, 1996. "The Dynamics of Productivity in the Telecommunications Equipment Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1263-97, November.
  10. Russell W. Cooper & John C. Haltiwanger, 2006. "On the Nature of Capital Adjustment Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(3), pages 611-633.
  11. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1988. "Labor Demand and the Structure of Adjustment Costs," NBER Working Papers 2572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Steve J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1991. "Gross job creation, gross job destruction and employment reallocation," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 91-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  13. Nickell, S J, 1978. "Fixed Costs, Employment and Labour Demand over the Cycle," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 45(180), pages 329-45, November.
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