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The Role of Worker Flows in the Dynamics and Distribution of UK Unemployment

  • Elsby, Michael

    ()

    (University of Edinburgh)

  • Smith, Jennifer C.

    ()

    (University of Warwick)

  • Wadsworth, Jonathan

    ()

    (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Unemployment varies substantially over time and across subgroups of the labour market. Worker flows among labour market states act as key determinants of this. We examine how the structure of unemployment across groups and its cyclical movements across time are shaped by changes in labour market flows. Using novel estimates of flow transition rates for the UK over the last 35 years, we decompose unemployment variation into parts accounted for by changes in rates of job loss, job finding and flows via non-participation. Close to two-thirds of the volatility of unemployment in the UK over this period can be traced to rises in rates of job loss that accompany recessions. The share of this inflow contribution has been broadly the same in each of the past three recessions. Decreased job-finding rates account for around one-quarter of unemployment cyclicality and the remaining variation can be attributed to flows via non-participation. Digging deeper into the structure of unemployment by gender, age and education, the flow-approach is shown to provide a richer understanding of the unemployment experiences across population subgroups.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5784.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 2011, 27 (2), 338-363
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5784
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  1. Robert Shimer, 2007. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 13421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jennifer C. Smith, 2011. "The Ins and Outs of UK Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(552), pages 402-444, 05.
  3. Gary Solon & Ryan Michaels & Michael W. L. Elsby, 2009. "The Ins and Outs of Cyclical Unemployment," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 84-110, January.
  4. Michael W. L. Elsby & Bart Hobijn & Ayşegül Şahin, 2013. "Unemployment Dynamics in the OECD," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 530-548, May.
  5. Shigeru Fujita & Garey Ramey, 2009. "The Cyclicality Of Separation And Job Finding Rates," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(2), pages 415-430, 05.
  6. Gomes, Pedro, 2012. "Labour market flows: Facts from the United Kingdom," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 165-175.
  7. Louis S. Jacobson & Robert J. LaLonde & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1992. "Earnings losses of displaced workers," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 92-28, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  8. Simon Burgess & Hélène Turon, 2005. "Unemployment dynamics in Britain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(503), pages 423-448, 04.
  9. Peter J. Kuhn (ed.), 2002. "Losing Work, Moving On: International Perspectives on Worker Displacement," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number lwmo, June.
  10. Michael W.L. Elsby & Jennifer C. Smith, 2010. "The Great Recession In The Uk Labour Market: A Transatlantic Perspective," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 214(1), pages R26-R37, October.
  11. George L. Perry, 1972. "Unemployment Flows in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 3(2), pages 245-292.
  12. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 1991. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198284345, March.
  13. Gregg, Paul & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 1995. "A Short History of Labour Turnover, Job Tenure, and Job Security, 1975-93," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 73-90, Spring.
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