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The Micro and Macro of Disappearing Routine Jobs: A Flows Approach

  • Guido Matias Cortes
  • Nir Jaimovich
  • Christopher J. Nekarda
  • Henry E. Siu

The U.S. labor market has become increasingly polarized since the 1980s, with the share of employment in middle-wage occupations shrinking over time. This job polarization process has been associated with the disappearance of per capita employment in occupations focused on routine tasks. We use matched individual-level data from the CPS to study labor market flows into and out of routine occupations and determine how this disappearance has played out at the "micro" and "macro" levels. At the macro level, we determine which changes in transition rates account for the disappearance of routine employment since the 1980s. We find that changes in three transition rate categories are of primary importance: (i) that from unemployment to employment in routine occupations, (ii) that from labor force non-participation to routine employment, and (iii) that from routine employment to non-participation. At the micro level, we study how these transition rates have changed since job polarization, and the extent to which these changes are accounted for by changes in demographic composition or changes in the behavior of individuals with particular demographic characteristics. We find that the preponderance of changes is due to the propensity of individuals to make such transitions, and relatively little due to demographics. Moreover, we find that changes in the transition propensities of the young are of primary importance in accounting for the fall in routine employment.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 20307.

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Date of creation: Jul 2014
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20307
Note: EFG LS
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  1. David Autor & Frank Levy & Richard Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  2. Gary Solon & Ryan Michaels & Michael W. L. Elsby, 2009. "The Ins and Outs of Cyclical Unemployment," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 84-110, January.
  3. Firpo, Sergio & Fortin, Nicole M. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2011. "Occupational Tasks and Changes in the Wage Structure," IZA Discussion Papers 5542, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. David H. Autor & David Dorn & Gordon H. Hanson, 2013. "Untangling Trade and Technology: Evidence from Local Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 18938, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Moscarini, Giuseppe & Thomsson, Kaj, 2006. "Occupational and Job Mobility in the US," Working Papers 19, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  6. Autor, David & Dorn, David, 2012. "The Growth of Low Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the U.S. Labor Market," IZA Discussion Papers 7068, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Guido Matias Cortes, 2012. "Where Have the Routine Workers Gone? A Study of Polarization Using Panel Data," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 1224, Economics, The University of Manchester.
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