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U.S. Unemployment Duration: Has Long Become Longer or Short Become Shorter?

  • José Ferreira Machado
  • Pedro Portugal
  • Juliana Guimarães

The U.S. labor market has been experiencing unprecedented high average unemployment duration. The shift in the unemployment duration distribution can be traced back to the early nineties. In this study, censored quantile regression methods are employed to analyze the changes in the US unemployment duration distribution. We explore the decomposition method proposed by Machado and Mata (2005) to disentangle the contribution of the changes generated by the covariate distribution and by the conditional distribution. The data used in this inquiry are taken from the nationally representative Displaced Worker Surveys of 1988 and 1998. We provide evidence that the change in the unemployment duration distribution is mainly produced by the opposing effects of a sharp rise in job-to-job transition rates and an increased sensitivity of unemployment duration to unemployment rates. Compositional changes in the labor force played a limited role. We rationalize our findings by arguing that improved screening technology is likely to be the relevant underlying mechanism at work.

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Paper provided by Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department in its series Working Papers with number w200613.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:ptu:wpaper:w200613
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  1. Mukoyama, Toshihiko & Sahin, Aysegl, 2009. "Why did the average duration of unemployment become so much longer?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 200-209, March.
  2. Peter Kuhn & Mikal Skuterud, 2004. "Internet Job Search and Unemployment Durations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 218-232, March.
  3. Bilias, Yannis & Chen, Songnian & Ying, Zhiliang, 2000. "Simple resampling methods for censored regression quantiles," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 373-386, December.
  4. Powell, James L., 1986. "Censored regression quantiles," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 143-155, June.
  5. José Mata & José A. F. Machado, 2005. "Counterfactual decomposition of changes in wage distributions using quantile regression," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 445-465.
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  7. Mark C. Berger & Dan Black & Jeffrey Smith, 2000. "Evaluating Profiling as a Means of Allocating Government Services," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 200018, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  8. Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1999. "The High-Pressure U.S. Labor Market of the 1990s," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 30(1), pages 1-88.
  9. Oliver Jean Blanchard & Peter Diamond, 1990. "The Cyclical Behovior of the Gross Flows of U.S. Workers," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 21(2), pages 85-156.
  10. John T. Addison & McKinley L. Blackburn, 1994. "The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 181-190, Winter.
  11. Blanchard, Olivier Jean & Diamond, Peter A, 1994. "Ranking, Unemployment Duration, and Wages," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 417-34, July.
  12. Chinhui Juhn & Kevin Murphy & Robert Topel, 2002. "Current Unemployment, Historically Contemplated," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 33(1), pages 79-136.
  13. Koenker, Roger W & Bassett, Gilbert, Jr, 1978. "Regression Quantiles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 33-50, January.
  14. William J. Baumol & Edward N. Wolff, 1998. "Speed of Technical Progress and Length of the Average Interjob Period," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_237, Levy Economics Institute.
  15. Powell, James L., 1984. "Least absolute deviations estimation for the censored regression model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 303-325, July.
  16. Susan N. Houseman, 2001. "Why Employers Use Flexible Staffing Arrangements: Evidence from an Establishment Survey," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(1), pages 149-170, October.
  17. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
  18. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U. S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2095, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  19. Robert Shimer, 2005. "The cyclicality of hires, separations, and job-to-job transitions," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 493-508.
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  21. John T. Addison & Pedro Portugal, 1992. "Advance notice and unemployment: New evidence from the 1988 Displaced Worker Survey," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 45(4), pages 645-664, July.
  22. David H. Autor, 2000. "Why Do Temporary Help Firms Provide Free General Skills Training?," NBER Working Papers 7637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Robert E. Hall, 2005. "Job Loss, Job Finding, and Unemployment in the U.S. Economy Over the Past Fifty Years," NBER Working Papers 11678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Katharine G. Abraham & Robert Shimer, 2001. "Changes in Unemployment Duration and Labor Force Attachment," NBER Working Papers 8513, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Addison, John T & Portugal, Pedro, 1987. "On the Distributional Shape of Unemployment Duration," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(3), pages 521-26, August.
  26. Bassett, Gilbert W. & Koenker, Roger W., 1986. "Strong Consistency of Regression Quantiles and Related Empirical Processes," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 2(02), pages 191-201, August.
  27. David H. Autor & David Scarborough, 2004. "Will Job Testing Harm Minority Workers?," NBER Working Papers 10763, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. Bruce Fallick & Charles A. Fleischman, 2004. "Employer-to-employer flows in the U.S. labor market: the complete picture of gross worker flows," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2004-34, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  29. Robert G. Valletta, 1998. "Changes in the structure and duration of U.S. unemployment, 1967-1998," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, pages 29-40.
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