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The Lack of Wage Growth and the Falling NAIRU

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  • David N.F. Bell
  • David G. Blanchflower

Abstract

There remains a puzzle around the world over why wage growth is so benign given the unemployment rate has returned to pre-recession levels. It is our contention that a considerable part of the explanation is the rise in underemployment which rose in the Great Recession but has not returned to pre-recession levels even though the unemployment rate has. Involuntary part-time employment rose in every advanced country and remains elevated in many in 2018. In the UK we construct the Bell/Blanchflower underemployment index based on reports of whether workers, including full-timers and those who want to be part-time, who say they want to increase or decrease their hours at the going wage rate. If they want to change their hours they report by how many. Prior to 2008 our underemployment rate was below the unemployment rate. Over the period 2001-2017 we find little change in the number of hours of workers who want fewer hours, but a big rise in the numbers wanting more hours. Underemployment reduces wage pressure. We also provide evidence that the UK Phillips Curve has flattened and conclude that the UK NAIRU has shifted down. The underemployment rate likely would need to fall below 3%, compared to its current rate of 4.9% before wage growth is likely to reach pre-recession levels. The UK is a long way from full-employment.

Suggested Citation

  • David N.F. Bell & David G. Blanchflower, 2018. "The Lack of Wage Growth and the Falling NAIRU," NBER Working Papers 24502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24502
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    Cited by:

    1. Ramskogler, Paul, 2021. "Labour market hierarchies and the macro-economy – Do labour market dualities affect wage growth in Europe?," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 154-165.
    2. Bracha, Anat & Burke, Mary A., 2018. "Wage inflation and informal work," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 159-163.
    3. Bell, David N.F. & Blanchflower, David G., 2019. "The well-being of the overemployed and the underemployed and the rise in depression in the UK," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 180-196.
    4. David N. F. Bell & David G. Blanchflower, 2021. "Underemployment in the United States and Europe," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 74(1), pages 56-94, January.
    5. Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2018. "Reflections on wage-setting," GLO Discussion Paper Series 230, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    6. Rose Cunningham & Vikram Rai & Kristina Hess, 2019. "Exploring Wage Phillips Curves in Advanced Economies," Discussion Papers 2019-8, Bank of Canada.
    7. Guyonne Kalb & Jordy Meekes, 2019. "Wage Growth Distribution and Decline among Individuals: 2001-2017," RBA Annual Conference Papers acp2019-03, Reserve Bank of Australia, revised Jul 2019.
    8. Roberto Roson, 2022. "Underemployment in a Computable General Equilibrium Model," Working Papers 2022:17, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
    9. Jean-Louis Combes & Pierre Lesuisse, 2021. "Inflation and Unemployment, new insights during the EMU accession," Working Papers hal-03216478, HAL.
    10. Kiss, Aron & Van Herck, Kristine, 2019. "Short-Term and Long-Term Determinants of Moderate Wage Growth in the EU," IZA Policy Papers 144, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2020. "Slack and Cyclically Sensitive Inflation," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 52(S2), pages 393-428, December.
    12. Joohun Han & Chanjin Chung, 2021. "Impact of Aging and Underemployment on Income Disparity between Agricultural and Non-Agricultural Households," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(21), pages 1-15, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

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