IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/24266.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

New Evidence on Cyclical Variation in Labor Costs in the U.S

Author

Listed:
  • Grace Weishi Gu
  • Eswar Prasad

Abstract

Employer-provided nonwage benefit expenditures now account for one-third of U.S. firms' labor costs. We show that a broad measure of real labor costs including such benefit expenditures has become countercyclical during 1982-2014, contrary to the conventional view that labor costs are procyclical. Using BLS establishment-job data, we find that even real wages, the main focus of prior literature, have become countercyclical. Benefit expenditures are less rigid than nominal wages, although both components of labor costs have become more rigid. These rigidities, along with the rising relative importance of aggregate demand shocks (including the financial crisis), help explain countercyclical labor costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Grace Weishi Gu & Eswar Prasad, 2018. "New Evidence on Cyclical Variation in Labor Costs in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 24266, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24266
    Note: IFM
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w24266.pdf
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text is generally limited to series subscribers, however if the top level domain of the client browser is in a developing country or transition economy free access is provided. More information about subscriptions and free access is available at http://www.nber.org/wwphelp.html. Free access is also available to older working papers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Christopher Huckfeldt & Antonella Trigari & Mark Gertler, 2015. "Unemployment Fluctuations, Match Quality, and the Wage Cyclicality of New Hires," 2015 Meeting Papers 438, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. John C. Haltiwanger & Henry R. Hyatt & Lisa B. Kahn & Erika McEntarfer, 2018. "Cyclical Job Ladders by Firm Size and Firm Wage," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 52-85, April.
    3. Mark Gertler & Simon Gilchrist, 1994. "Monetary Policy, Business Cycles, and the Behavior of Small Manufacturing Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 309-340.
    4. 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.
    5. Neil Mehrotra & Nicolas Crouzet, 2017. "Small and Large Firms over the Business Cycle," 2017 Meeting Papers 600, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2015. "Is the Phillips Curve Alive and Well after All? Inflation Expectations and the Missing Disinflation," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 197-232, January.
    7. Gary Solon & Robert Barsky & Jonathan A. Parker, 1994. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important is Composition Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 1-25.
    8. Mehrotra, Neil & Crouzet, Nicolas, 2017. "Small and Large Firms over the Business Cycle," Working Papers 741, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    9. Bankim Chadha & Eswar Prasad, 1993. "Interpreting the Cyclical Behavior of Prices," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 40(2), pages 266-298, June.
    10. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-1370, November.
    11. Blank, Rebecca M, 1990. "Why Are Wages Cyclical in the 1970s?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages 16-47, January.
    12. Shin, Donggyun, 1994. "Cyclicality of real wages among young men," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 137-142, October.
    13. Katharine G. Abraham & John C. Haltiwanger, 1995. "Real Wages and the Business Cycle," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(3), pages 1215-1264, September.
    14. Brandolini, Andrea, 1995. " In Search of a Stylised Fact: Do Real Wages Exhibit a Consistent Pattern of Cyclical Variability?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(2), pages 103-163, June.
    15. Teresa C Fort & John Haltiwanger & Ron S Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2013. "How Firms Respond to Business Cycles: The Role of Firm Age and Firm Size," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 61(3), pages 520-559, August.
    16. Michael K. Lettau, 2003. "New Estimates for Wage Rate Inequality Using the Employment Cost Index," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(4).
    17. Grace Weishi Gu, 2018. "Employment and the Cyclical Cost of Worker Benefits," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 28, pages 96-120, April.
    18. Keane, Michael & Moffitt, Robert & Runkle, David, 1988. "Real Wages over the Business Cycle: Estimating the Impact of Heterogeneity with Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(6), pages 1232-1266, December.
    19. Robert A. Hart & J. Elizabeth Roberts, 2013. "Industrial Composition, Methods of Compensation and Real Earnings in the Great Depression," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 226(1), pages 17-29, November.
    20. Neftci, Salih N, 1978. "A Time-Series Analysis of the Real Wages-Employment Relationship," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages 281-291, April.
    21. Cooley, Thomas F. & Ohanian, Lee E., 1991. "The cyclical behavior of prices," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 25-60, August.
    22. Kydland, Finn E. & Prescott, Edward C., 1988. "The workweek of capital and its cyclical implications," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 343-360.
    23. Wankyo Chung, 2003. "Fringe Benefits and Inequality in the Labor Market," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(3), pages 517-529, July.
    24. Robert Hart & James Malley & Ulrich Woitek, 2009. "Real earnings and business cycles: new evidence," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 51-71, September.
    25. Kudlyak, Marianna & Sanchez, Juan M., 2016. "Revisiting Gertler-Gilchrist Evidence on the Behavior of Small and Large Firms," Working Paper 16-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    26. Chadha, Bankim & Prasad, Eswar, 1994. "Are prices countercyclical? Evidence from the G-7," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 239-257, October.
    27. Hart, Robert A., 2008. "Piece work pay and hourly pay over the cycle," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 1006-1022, October.
    28. Peter Gottschalk, 2005. "Downward Nominal-Wage Flexibility: Real or Measurement Error?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 556-568, August.
    29. repec:aea:aecrev:v:107:y:2017:i:5:p:349-52 is not listed on IDEAS
    30. Bils, Mark, 1987. "The Cyclical Behavior of Marginal Cost and Price," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 838-855, December.
    31. Donggyun Shin & Gary Solon, 2007. "New Evidence On Real Wage Cyclicality Within Employer-Employee Matches," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 54(5), pages 648-660, November.
    32. Anger, Silke, 2011. "The Cyclicality of Effective Wages within Employer–Employee Matches in a Rigid Labor Market," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 786-797.
    33. Bils, Mark J, 1985. "Real Wages over the Business Cycle: Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(4), pages 666-689, August.
    34. Christopher J. Nekarda & Valerie A. Ramey, 2013. "The Cyclical Behavior of the Price-Cost Markup," NBER Working Papers 19099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    35. Sumner, Scott & Silver, Stephen, 1989. "Real Wages, Employment, and the Phillips Curve," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 706-720, June.
    36. Smith, R Todd, 1992. "The Cyclical Behavior of Prices," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 24(4), pages 413-430, November.
    37. Marcus Hagedorn & Iourii Manovskii, 2013. "Job Selection and Wages over the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(2), pages 771-803, April.
    38. Katharine G. Abraham & James R. Spletzer & Michael Harper, 2010. "Labor in the New Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abra08-1, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    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
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24266. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.