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The Cyclical Behavior of Industrial Labor Markets: A Comparison of the Pre-War and Post-War Eras

  • Ben S. Bernanke
  • James L. Powell

This paper studies the cyclical behavior of a number of industrial labor markets of the pre-war (1923-1939) and post-war (1954-1982) eras. In the spirit of Burns and Mitchell we do not test a specific structural model of the labor market but instead concentrate on describing the qualitative features of the (monthly, industry-level) data.The two principal questions we ask are: First, how is labor input (as measured by the number of workers, the hours of work, and the intensity of utilization) varied over the cycle ? Second, what is the cyclical behaviorof labor compensation (as measured by real wages, product wages, and real weekly earnings) ? We study these questions in both the frequency domain and the time domain. Many of our findings simply reinforce, or perhaps refine, existing perceptions of cyclical labor market behavior. However, we do find some interesting differences between the pre-war and the post-war periods in ther elative use of layoffs and short hours in downturns, and in the cyclical behavior of the real wage.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w1376.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1376.

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Date of creation: Jun 1984
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Publication status: published as Bernanke, Ben S. and James L. Powell. "The Cyclical Behavior of Industrial Labor Markets: A Comparison of the Pre-War and Post-War Eras." The American Business Cycle: Continuity and Change, editedby Robert J. Gordon. Chicago: UCP, 1986, pp. 583-621 and 633-637.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1376
Note: EFG
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  1. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1970. "Capacity, Overtime, and Empirical Production Functions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(2), pages 23-27, May.
  2. Rosen, Sherwin & Nadiri, M Ishaq, 1974. "A Disequilibrium Model of Demand for Factors of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(2), pages 264-70, May.
  3. Ronald G. Bodkin, 1969. "Real Wages and Cyclical Variations in Employment: A Re-Examination of the Evidence," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 2(3), pages 353-374, August.
  4. Morrison, C. J. & Berndt, E. R., 1981. "Short-run labor productivity in a dynamic model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 339-365, August.
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