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Is Modern Technology Responsible for Jobless Recoveries?


  • Graetz, Georg

    () (Uppsala University)

  • Michaels, Guy

    () (London School of Economics)


Since the early 1990s, recoveries from recessions in the US have been plagued by weak employment growth. One possible explanation for these "jobless" recoveries is rooted in technological change: middle-skill jobs, often involving routine tasks, are lost during recessions, and the displaced workers take time to transition into other jobs (Jaimovich and Siu, 2014). But technological replacement of middle-skill workers is not unique to the US – it also takes place in other developed countries (Goos, Manning, and Salomons, 2014). So if jobless recoveries in the US are due to technology, we might expect to also see them elsewhere in the developed world. We test this possibility using data on recoveries from 71 recessions in 28 industries and 17 countries from 1970-2011. We find that though GDP recovered more slowly after recent recessions, employment did not. Industries that used more routine tasks, and those more exposed to robotization, did not recently experience slower employment recoveries. Finally, middle-skill employment did not recover more slowly after recent recessions, and this pattern was no different in routine-intensive industries. Taken together, this evidence suggests that technology is not causing jobless recoveries in developed countries outside the US.

Suggested Citation

  • Graetz, Georg & Michaels, Guy, 2017. "Is Modern Technology Responsible for Jobless Recoveries?," IZA Discussion Papers 10470, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10470

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    14. Kurt Mitman & Stanislav Rabinovich, 2014. "Unemployment Benefit Extensions Caused Jobless Recoveries!?," PIER Working Paper Archive 14-013, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
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    1. repec:aea:aecrev:v:107:y:2017:i:5:p:168-73 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Georg Graetz & Guy Michaels, 2017. "Is Modern Technology Responsible for Jobless Recoveries?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 168-173, May.
    3. Dauth, Wolfgang & Findeisen, Sebastian & S�dekum, Jens & Woessner, Nicole, 2017. "German Robots - The Impact of Industrial Robots on Workers," CEPR Discussion Papers 12306, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item


    job polarization; jobless recoveries; routine-biased technological change; robots;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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