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The Ins and Outs of Cyclical Unemployment

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  • Michael W. Elsby
  • Ryan Michaels
  • Gary Solon

Abstract

One of the strongest trends in recent macroeconomic modeling of labor market fluctuations is to treat unemployment inflows as acyclical. This trend stems in large part from an influential paper by Shimer on "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," i.e., the extent to which increased unemployment during a recession arises from an increase in the number of unemployment spells versus an increase in their duration. After broadly reviewing the previous literature, we replicate and extend Shimer's main analysis. Like Shimer, we find an important role for increased duration. But contrary to Shimer's conclusions, we find that even his own methods and data, when viewed in an appropriate metric, reveal an important role for increased inflows to unemployment as well. This finding is further strengthened by our refinements of Shimer's methods of correcting for data problems and by our detailed examination of particular components of the inflow to unemployment. We conclude that a complete understanding of cyclical unemployment requires an explanation of countercyclical inflow rates as well as procyclical outflow rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael W. Elsby & Ryan Michaels & Gary Solon, 2007. "The Ins and Outs of Cyclical Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 12853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12853
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mortensen, Dale & Pissarides, Christopher, 2011. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 1-19.
    2. Eran Yashiv, 2008. "U.S. Labor Market Dynamics Revisited," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 109(4), pages 779-806, March.
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    4. Cole, Harold L & Rogerson, Richard, 1999. "Can the Mortensen-Pissarides Matching Model Match the Business-Cycle Facts?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 40(4), pages 933-959, November.
    5. Julio J. Rotemberg, 2008. "Cyclical Wages in a Search-and-Bargaining Model with Large Firms," NBER Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2006, pages 65-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. 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.
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    9. Stephen T. Marston, 1976. "Employment Instability and High Unemployment Rates," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 7(1), pages 169-210.
    10. Robert E. Hall, 2005. "Employment Efficiency and Sticky Wages: Evidence from Flows in the Labor Market," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 397-407, August.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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