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Last Hired, First Fired? Black-White Unemployment and the Business Cycle

  • Couch, Kenneth A.

    ()

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Fairlie, Robert W.

    ()

    (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Past studies have tested the claim that blacks are the last hired during periods of economic growth and the first fired in recessions by examining the movement of relative unemployment rates over the business cycle. Any conclusion drawn from this type of analysis must be viewed as tentative because the cyclical movements in the underlying transitions into and out of unemployment are not examined. Using Current Population Survey data matched across adjacent months from 1989 to 2004, this paper provides the first detailed examination of labor market transitions for prime-age black and white men to test the last-hired, first-fired hypothesis. Considerable evidence is presented that blacks are the first fired as the business cycle weakens. However, no evidence is found that blacks are the last hired. Instead, blacks appear to be initially hired from the ranks of the unemployed early in the business cycle and later are drawn from non-participation. The narrowing of the racial unemployment gap near the peak of the business cycle is driven by a reduction in the rate of job loss for blacks rather than increases in hiring.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3713.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as 'Black-White Unemployment and the Business Cycle' in: Demography, 2010, 47 (1), 227-247
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3713
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  1. Ralph E. Smith & Jean E Vanski & Charles C. Holt, 1974. "Recession and the Employment of Demographic Groups," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 5(3), pages 737-760.
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  3. Note: For best results & the figures should be printed on a non-Postscript printer. Hoynes & H., . "The Employment, Earnings, and Income of Less-Skilled Workers over the Business Cycle," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1199-99, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  4. Finis Welch, 2003. "Catching Up: Wages of Black Men," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 320-325, May.
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  6. Harry J. Holzer, 1986. "Reservation Wages and Their Labor Market Effects for Black and White Male Youth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(2), pages 157-177.
  7. Brigitte C. Madrian & Lars John Lefgren, 1999. "A Note on Longitudinally Matching Current Population Survey (CPS) Respondents," NBER Technical Working Papers 0247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Davis, Steven J & Haltiwanger, John C, 1992. "Gross Job Creation, Gross Job Destruction, and Employment Reallocation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 819-63, August.
  9. Kim B. Clark & Lawrence H. Summers, 1979. "Labor Market Dynamics and Unemployemnt: A Reconsideration," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 10(1), pages 13-72.
  10. Harry J. Holzer & Paul Offner, 2001. "Trends in Employment Outcomes of Young Black Men, 1979-2000," JCPR Working Papers 245, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  11. John Bound & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "What Went Wrong? The Erosion of Relative Earnings and Employment Among Young Black Men in the 1980s," NBER Working Papers 3778, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  13. Fairlie, Robert W & Sundstrom, William A, 1997. "The Racial Unemployment Gap in Long-Run Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 306-10, May.
  14. Kenneth A. Couch & Mary C. Daly, 2004. "The Improving Relative Status of Black Men," Working papers 2004-12, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  15. Lawrence H. Summers, 1981. "Measuring Unemployment," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 12(2), pages 609-620.
  16. Baker, Michael, 1992. "Unemployment Duration: Compositional Effects and Cyclical Variability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 313-21, March.
  17. Lynch, Lisa M, 1989. "The Youth Labor Market in the Eighties: Determinants of Re-employment Probabilities for Young Men and Women," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(1), pages 37-45, February.
  18. Richard B. Freeman & William M. Rodgers III, 1999. "Area Economic Conditions and the Labor Market Outcomes of Young Men in the 1990s Expansion," NBER Working Papers 7073, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Katharine G. Abraham & Robert Shimer, 2001. "Changes in Unemployment Duration and Labor Force Attachment," NBER Working Papers 8513, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. M. Badgett, 1994. "Rising black unemployment: Changes in job stability or in employability?," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 55-75, March.
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  22. Nancy S. Barrett & Richard D. Morgenstern, 1974. "Why Do Blacks and Women Have High Unemployment Rates?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 9(4), pages 452-464.
  23. Welch, Finis, 1990. "The Employment of Black Men," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages S26-74, January.
  24. Kenneth Couch, 2002. "Black-White Wage Inequality in the 1990s: a Decade of Progress," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(1), pages 31-41, January.
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