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The Extent of Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity: New Evidence from Payroll Data

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  • Daniel Schaefer

    (Institut für Volkswirtschaftslehre, Johannes-Kepler-Universität Linz)

  • Carl Singleton

    (Department of Economics, University of Reading)

Abstract

Low inflation has forced the topic of downward nominal wage rigidity (DNWR) back to the centre stage of macroeconomics. We use over a decade of representative payroll data from Great Britain to document novel facts about wage adjustments. We find that basic wages drive the cyclicality of marginal labour costs, which makes them the most relevant wage measure for macroeconomic models that incorporate wage rigidity. Basic wages show substantially more evidence of downward rigidity than previously documented. Every fifth hourly-paid and every sixth salaried employee normally sees no basic wage change from year-to-year, and very few experience cuts. Wage freezes were more common in the Great Recession and are far more likely in smaller firms. We also find evidence that employers compress wage growth when inflation is low, indicating that DNWR constrains wage setting. Further, we show that the wages of new hires and incumbent employees respond equally to the business cycle. These results all point to the importance of including DNWR in macroeconomic and monetary policy models, and our simulations demonstrate that the empirical extent of DNWR can cause considerable long-run output losses.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Schaefer & Carl Singleton, 2021. "The Extent of Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity: New Evidence from Payroll Data," Economics Discussion Papers em-dp2021-22, Department of Economics, University of Reading.
  • Handle: RePEc:rdg:emxxdp:em-dp2021-22
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    File URL: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/economics/emdp202122.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Downward nominal wage rigidity; Hiring wages; Unemployment fluctuations; Macroeconomic policy; Marginal labour costs;
    All these keywords.

    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
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods

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