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What Caused the Recession of 2008? Hints from Labor Productivity

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  • Casey Mulligan

Abstract

A labor market tautology says that any change in labor usage can be decomposed into a movement along a marginal productivity schedule and a shift of the schedule. I calculate this decomposition for the recession of 2008, assuming an aggregate Cobb-Douglas marginal productivity schedule, and find that all of the decline in employment and hours since December 2007 is a movement along the schedule. This finding suggests that a reduction in labor supply and/or an increase in labor market distortions are major factors in the 2008 recession. The decline in aggregate consumption suggests that the reduction in labor supply (if any) is neither a wealth nor an intertemporal substitution effect. "Sticky real wages" or the emergence of significant work disincentives are possible explanations for these findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Casey Mulligan, 2009. "What Caused the Recession of 2008? Hints from Labor Productivity," NBER Working Papers 14729, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14729
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1992. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963–1987: Supply and Demand Factors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 35-78.
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    3. Crucini, Mario J. & Kahn, James, 1996. "Tariffs and aggregate economic activity: Lessons from the Great Depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 427-467, December.
    4. Hall, Robert E, 1997. "Macroeconomic Fluctuations and the Allocation of Time," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 223-250, January.
    5. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-1370, November.
    6. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2007. "Business Cycle Accounting," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(3), pages 781-836, May.
    7. Casey B. Mulligan, 2002. "A Century of Labor-Leisure Distortions," NBER Working Papers 8774, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 1999. "The Great Depression in the United States from a neoclassical perspective," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-24.
    9. Casey B. Mulligan, 2008. "A Depressing Scenario: Mortgage Debt Becomes Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 14514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2004. "New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 779-816, August.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Tellynomics
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2010-03-02 20:19:14

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:macchp:v2-1013 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Casey B. Mulligan, 2010. "Aggregate Implications of Labor Market Distortions: The Recession of 2008-9 and Beyond," NBER Working Papers 15681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Michael W. L. Elsby & Bart Hobijn & Aysegul Sahin, 2010. "The Labor Market in the Great Recession," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 41(1 (Spring), pages 1-69.
    4. Jesse Rothstein, 2012. "The Labor Market Four Years into the Crisis: Assessing Structural Explanations," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 65(3), pages 467-500, July.
    5. Kalemli-Ozcan, Sebnem & Papaioannou, Elias & Perri, Fabrizio, 2013. "Global banks and crisis transmission," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2), pages 495-510.
    6. Casey B. Mulligan, 2011. "Means-Tested Subsidies and Economic Performance Since 2007," NBER Working Papers 17445, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Brinca, P. & Chari, V.V. & Kehoe, P.J. & McGrattan, E., 2016. "Accounting for Business Cycles," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    8. Maciej Bukowski & Piotr Lewandowski & Iza Sobiech & Andrzej Zurawski & Jan Gaska & Aleksander Sniegocki, 2011. "Employment in Poland 2010. Integration and Globalization," Books and Reports published by IBS, Instytut Badan Strukturalnych, number zwp2010 edited by Maciej Bukowski, january.

    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
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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