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The Economics of Labor Adjustment: Mind the Gap

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  • Russell W. Cooper
  • Jonathan L. Willis

Abstract

We study the inferences about labor adjustment costs obtained by the 'gap methodology' of Caballero and Engel [1993] and Caballero, Engel and Haltiwanger [1997]. In that approach, the policy function of a manufacturing plant is assumed to depend on the gap between a target and the current level of employment. Using time series observations, these studies reject the quadratic cost of adjustment model and find that aggregate employment dynamics depend on the cross sectional distribution of employment gaps. We argue that these conclusions may not be justified. Instead these findings may reflect difficulties measuring the gap. Thus it appears that the gap methodology, as currently employed, may be unable to: (i) identify the costs of labor adjustment and (ii) assess the aggregate implications of labor adjustment costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Russell W. Cooper & Jonathan L. Willis, 2001. "The Economics of Labor Adjustment: Mind the Gap," NBER Working Papers 8527, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8527
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    1. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M. R. A. Engel, 1993. "Microeconomic Adjustment Hazards and Aggregate Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 359-383.
    2. Steven J. Davis & John C. Haltiwanger & Scott Schuh, 1998. "Job Creation and Destruction," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262540932, January.
    3. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
    4. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1986. "The Dynamic Demand for Capital and Labor," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(3), pages 513-542.
    5. Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1989. "Labor Demand and the Structure of Adjustment Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 674-689, September.
    6. Nickell, S J, 1978. "Fixed Costs, Employment and Labour Demand over the Cycle," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 45(180), pages 329-345, November.
    7. Olley, G Steven & Pakes, Ariel, 1996. "The Dynamics of Productivity in the Telecommunications Equipment Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1263-1297, November.
    8. Russell W. Cooper & John C. Haltiwanger, 2006. "On the Nature of Capital Adjustment Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(3), pages 611-633.
    9. Bils, Mark, 1987. "The Cyclical Behavior of Marginal Cost and Price," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 838-855, December.
    10. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1992. "Gross Job Creation, Gross Job Destruction, and Employment Reallocation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 819-863.
    11. Sargent, Thomas J, 1978. "Estimation of Dynamic Labor Demand Schedules under Rational Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 1009-1044, December.
    12. Caballero, Ricardo J & Engel, Eduardo M R A & Haltiwanger, John, 1997. "Aggregate Employment Dynamics: Building from Microeconomic Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 115-137, March.
    13. Hansen, Gary D., 1997. "Technical progress and aggregate fluctuations," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 1005-1023, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yang, Guanyi, 2017. "General Equilibrium Evaluation of Temporary Employment," MPRA Paper 80047, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Russell Cooper & Jonathan Willis, 2009. "The Cost of Labor Adjustment: Inferences from the Gap," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(4), pages 632-647, October.
    3. Amil Petrin & Jagadeesh Sivadasan, 2006. "Job Security Does Affect Economic Efficiency: Theory, A New Statistic, and Evidence from Chile," NBER Working Papers 12757, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M.R.A. Engel, 2004. "A Comment on the Economics of Labor Adjustment: Mind the Gap: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1238-1244, September.
    5. Christian Bayer, 2001. "Aggregate investment dynamics when firms face fixed investment cost and capital market imperfections," Discussion Papers in Economics 01_13, University of Dortmund, Department of Economics.
    6. von Kalckreuth, Ulf, 2008. "Financing constraints, firm level adjustment of capital and aggregate implications," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2008,11, Deutsche Bundesbank.
    7. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M.R.A. Engel, 2004. "Three Strikes and You're Out: Reply to Cooper and Willis," NBER Working Papers 10368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Christian Bayer, 2004. "A closer look at the gap. A comment on Cooper and Willis' 'mind the gap' paper," Macroeconomics 0408010, EconWPA.
    9. Marcela Eslava & John Haltiwanger & Adriana Kugler & Maurice Kugler, 2010. "Factor Adjustments after Deregulation: Panel Evidence from Colombian Plants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 378-391, May.
    10. Russell Cooper & Jonathan L. Willis, 2004. "A Comment on the Economics of Labor Adjustment: Mind the Gap: Rejoinder," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1245-1247, September.
    11. Carlos Casacuberta & Néstor Gandelman, 2012. "Protection, Openness, and Factor Adjustment: Evidence from the Manufacturing Sector in Uruguay," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(3), pages 597-629.
    12. Ulf Kalckreuth, 2011. "Panel estimation of state-dependent adjustment when the target is unobserved," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 205-235, February.
    13. Norman V. Loayza & Luis Servén, 2010. "Business Regulation and Economic Performance," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2554, April.
    14. Russell W. Cooper & Jonathan L. Willis, 2009. "Mind the (approximation) gap: a robustness analysis," Research Working Paper RWP 09-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
    15. Russell Cooper & Jonathan L. Willis, 2004. "A Comment on the Economics of Labor Adjustment: Mind the Gap," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1223-1237, September.
    16. Fransisco M. Ganzalez & Alok Johri, 2002. "Asymmetric Labor Adjustment, Organizational Capital and Aggregate Job Flows," Department of Economics Working Papers 2002-03, McMaster University.
    17. Bayer, Christian, 2008. "On the interaction of financial frictions and fixed capital adjustment costs: Evidence from a panel of German firms," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(11), pages 3538-3559, November.
    18. Christian Bayer, 2009. "A Comment on the Economics of Labor Adjustment: Mind the Gap: Evidence from a Monte Carlo Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 2258-2266, December.
    19. Nick Bloom, 2006. "The Impact of Uncertainty Shocks: Firm Level Estimation and a 9/11 Simulation," CEP Discussion Papers dp0718, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    20. Gorter, Cees & Hassink, Wolter H. J. & Russo, Giovanni, 2003. "The structure of hiring and labour market tightness," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 99-103, July.

    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
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts

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