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The Ins and Outs of Unemployment in the Long Run: Unemployment Flows and the Natural Rate

  • Murat Tasci


    (Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland)

This paper proposes an empirical method for estimating a long-run trend for the unemployment rate that is grounded in the modern theory of unemployment. I write down an unobserved components model and identify the cyclical and trend components of the underlying unemployment flows, which in turn imply a time varying estimate of the unemployment trend, the natural rate. I identify a sharp decline in the outflow rate - job finding rate- since 2000, which was partly offset by the secular decline in the inflow rate separation rate since 1980s, implying a relatively stable natural rate, currently at 6 percent. Numerical examples show that slower labor reallocation along with the weak output growth explains most of the persistence in unemployment since the Great Recession. Contrary to the business-cycle movements of the unemployment rate, a significant fraction of the low-frequency variation can be accounted for by changes in the trend of the inflows, especially prior to 1985. Finally, I highlight several desirable features of this natural rate concept that makes it a better measure than traditional counterparts. These include statistical precision, the significance of required revisions to past estimates with subsequent data additions, policy relevance and its tight link with the theory.

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Paper provided by Koc University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum in its series Koç University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum Working Papers with number 1233.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:koc:wpaper:1233
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  1. Mary Daly & Bart Hobijn, 2010. "Okun’s law and the unemployment surprise of 2009," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue mar8.
  2. Regis Barnichon & Andrew Figura, 2010. "What drives movements in the unemployment rate? a decomposition of the Beveridge curve," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-48, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Regis Barnichon & Christopher J. Nekarda, 2013. "The ins and outs of forecasting unemployment: Using labor force flows to forecast the labor market," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2013-19, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Jesse Rothstein, 2012. "The Labor Market Four Years into the Crisis: Assessing Structural Explanations," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 65(3), pages 437-500, July.
  5. Gordon, Robert J, 1996. "The Time-varying NAIRU and its Implications for Economic Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 1492, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Matthias S. Hertweck & Oliver Sigrist, 2012. "The Aggregate Effects of the Hartz Reforms in Germany," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2012-38, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
  7. Hertweck, Matthias Sebastian & Sigrist, Oliver, 2013. "The Aggregate Effects of the Hartz Reforms in Germany," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79942, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  8. Michael R. Darby & John Haltiwanger & Mark Plant, 1984. "Unemployment-Rate Dynamics and Persistent Unemployment Under RAtional Expectations," UCLA Economics Working Papers 339, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Christopher A. Pissarides, 2000. "Equilibrium Unemployment Theory, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262161877, June.
  10. Edmund S. Phelps, 1968. "Money-Wage Dynamics and Labor-Market Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 678.
  11. Clark, Peter K, 1987. "The Cyclical Component of U.S. Economic Activity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(4), pages 797-814, November.
  12. Mary C. Daly & Bart Hobijn & Aysegül Sahin & Robert G. Valletta, 2012. "A Search and Matching Approach to Labor Markets: Did the Natural Rate of Unemployment Rise?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 3-26, Summer.
  13. Richard Rogerson, 1997. "Theory Ahead of Language in the Economics of Unemployment," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 73-92, Winter.
  14. Abowd, John M & Zellner, Arnold, 1985. "Estimating Gross Labor-Force Flows," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(3), pages 254-83, June.
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