Reassessing the Shimer facts
In a recent influential paper, Shimer uses CPS duration and gross flow data to draw two conclusions: (1) separation rates are nearly acyclic; and (2) separation rates contribute little to the variability of unemployment. In this paper the authors assert that Shimer's analysis is problematic, for two reasons: (1) cyclicality is not evaluated systematically; and (2) the measured contributions to unemployment variability do not actually decompose total unemployment variability. The authors address these problems by applying a standard statistical measure of business cycle comovement, and constructing a precise decomposition of unemployment variability. Their results disconfirm Shimer's conclusions. More specifically, separation rates are highly countercyclical under various business cycle measures and filtering methods. The authors also find that fluctuations in separation rates make a substantial contribution to overall unemployment variability.
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