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The U.S. Labor Market during the Beginning of the Pandemic Recession

Author

Listed:
  • Tomaz Cajner
  • Leland D. Crane
  • Ryan A. Decker
  • John Grigsby
  • Adrian Hamins-Puertolas
  • Erik Hurst
  • Christopher Kurz
  • Ahu Yildirmaz

Abstract

Using weekly administrative payroll data from the largest U.S. payroll processing company, we measure the evolution of the U.S. labor market during the first four months of the global COVID-19 pandemic. After aggregate employment fell by 21 percent through late-April, employment rebounded somewhat through late-June. The re-opening of temporarily shuttered businesses contributed significantly to the employment rebound, particularly for smaller businesses. We show that worker recall has been an important component of recent employment gains for both re-opening and continuing businesses. Employment losses have been concentrated disproportionately among lower wage workers; as of late June employment for workers in the lowest wage quintile was still 20 percent lower relative to mid-February levels. As a result, average base wages increased between February and June, though this increase arose entirely through a composition effect. Finally, we document that businesses have cut nominal wages for almost 7 million workers while forgoing regularly scheduled wage increases for many others.

Suggested Citation

  • Tomaz Cajner & Leland D. Crane & Ryan A. Decker & John Grigsby & Adrian Hamins-Puertolas & Erik Hurst & Christopher Kurz & Ahu Yildirmaz, 2020. "The U.S. Labor Market during the Beginning of the Pandemic Recession," NBER Working Papers 27159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27159
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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
    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance

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