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Inflation and Labor-Market Adjustment

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  • Daniel S. Hamermesh

Abstract

The implications of downward nominal and ex ante real wage rigidity,and of wage contracting for the dispersion of relative wage changes in the presence of price inflation are examined. Rigidity implies that unexpected inflation will raise the variability of relative wage changes; contracting implies unexpected inflation reduces variability. Using data on manufacturing industries for 1955-81, and on private nonfarm industries for1965-81,these hypotheses are studied. The dispersion in relative wage cnanges is reduced by greater price inflation. Most of the reduction is a response to unexpected inflation: Expected inflation has little impact on dispersion.These findings hold for subperiods within the sample, and are robust to different choices of measures of price expectations,including those of the Livingston survey, the Survey Research Center household data, and ARMA forecasts. They stand in striking contrast to the commonly accepted result that price inflation is associated with greater dispersion of relative price changes. They suggest that inflation reduces the ability of relative wages to signal disequilibria among labor markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1983. "Inflation and Labor-Market Adjustment," NBER Working Papers 1153, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1153
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    1. Cukierman, Alex & Wachtel, Paul, 1982. "Relative Price Variability and Nonuniform Inflationary Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 146-157, February.
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    13. Fischer, Stanley, 1982. "Relative price variability and inflation in the United States and Germany," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 171-196.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andre Portela Souza, 2002. "Wage Inequality Changes in Brazil: Market Forces, Macroeconomic Instability and Labor Market Institutions (1981-1997)," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0215, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    2. Allen, Steven G, 1987. "Relative Wage Variability in the United States, 1860-1983," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(4), pages 617-626, November.
    3. Erica L. Groshen & Mark E. Schweitzer, 1996. "Macro- and microeconomic consequences of wage rigidity," Working Paper 9607, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    4. Smith, Peter N. & Thomas, Stephen H., 1991. "Wage dispersion and inflation : Evidence from U.K. manufacturing industries," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 357-362, December.
    5. Erica L. Groshen & Mark E. Schweitzer, 1994. "The effects of inflation on wage adjustments in firm-level data: grease or sand?," Working Paper 9418, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

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