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Sectoral shift theories of unemployment: evidence from panel data

  • Michael P. Keane

This paper examines the response of sectoral real wages and location probabilities to oil price shocks using U.S. micro-panel data (the National Longitudinal Survey of Young Men). The goal is to determine whether the observed response patterns are consistent with so-called “sectoral shift” theories of unemployment. These theories predict that shocks that change sectoral relative wages should increase unemployment in the short run and lead to labor reallocation in the long run. Consistent with these predictions, the oil price changes of the 1970s resulted in substantial movements in industry relative wages and significant reallocation of labor across industries, while both oil price increases and decreases resulted in short run increases in unemployment. However, equilibrium sectoral models imply that real shocks that change relative wages across sectors should induce flows of labor into those sectors where relative wages rise. In fact, real oil price shocks are found to have substantially reduced respondents’ location probability in the construction industry, which had a wage increase relative to all large industries. The industry with the greatest increase in employment share was services, which had among the greatest wage declines. These are clear contradictions of the predictions of equilibrium sectoral models. Nevertheless, a more general class of models where both relative wage movements and quantity constraints generate labor flows appears to be quite consistent with the data.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics with number 28.

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Date of creation: 1990
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmem:28
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  1. Katharine G. Abraham & Lawrence F. Katz, 1984. "Cyclical Unemployment: Sectoral Shifts or Aggregate Disturbances?," NBER Working Papers 1410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Shaw, Kathryn L, 1989. "Wage Variability in the 1970s: Sectoral Shifts or Cyclical Sensitivi ty," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(1), pages 26-36, February.
  3. Michael R. Darby & John C. Haltiwanger & Mark W. Plant, 1985. "Unemployment-Rate Dynamics and Persistent Unemployment Under Rational Expectations," NBER Working Papers 1558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Geary, Patrick T & Kennan, John, 1982. "The Employment-Real Wage Relationship: An International Study," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(4), pages 854-71, August.
  5. Hamilton, James D, 1988. "A Neoclassical Model of Unemployment and the Business Cycle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(3), pages 593-617, June.
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  7. Hansen, Gary D., 1985. "Indivisible labor and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 309-327, November.
  8. Lawrence F. Katz, 1988. "Some recent developments in labor economics and their implications for macroeconomics," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 507-530.
  9. Topel, Robert H, 1986. "Local Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages S111-43, June.
  10. Martin S. Eichenbaum & Kenneth J. Singleton, 1986. "Do Equilibrium Real Business Cycle Theories Explain Post-War U.S. Business Cycles?," NBER Working Papers 1932, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Berndt, Ernst R & Wood, David O, 1975. "Technology, Prices, and the Derived Demand for Energy," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 57(3), pages 259-68, August.
  12. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-42, March.
  13. Loungani, Prakash & Rogerson, Richard, 1989. "Cyclical fluctuations and sectoral reallocation : Evidence from the PSID," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 259-273, March.
  14. Avery, Robert B & Hansen, Lars Peter & Hotz, V Joseph, 1983. "Multiperiod Probit Models and Orthogonality Condition Estimation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(1), pages 21-35, February.
  15. Lilien, David M, 1982. "Sectoral Shifts and Cyclical Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(4), pages 777-93, August.
  16. Humphrey, David Burras & Moroney, John R, 1975. "Substitution among Capital, Labor, and Natural Resource Products in American Manufacturing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(1), pages 57-82, February.
  17. Robert E. Hall, 1975. "The Rigidity of Wages and the Persistence of Unemployment," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 6(2), pages 301-350.
  18. Pissarides, Christopher A, 1978. "The Role of Relative Wages and Excess Demand in the Sectoral Flow of Labour," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 453-67, October.
  19. Chung, Jae Wan, 1987. "On the Estimation of Factor Substitution in the Translog Model," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(3), pages 409-17, August.
  20. Loungani, Prakash, 1986. "Oil Price Shocks and the Dispersion Hypothesis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(3), pages 536-39, August.
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