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Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity in the United States: New Evidence from Worker-Firm Linked Data

Author

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  • Kurmann, André

    () (School of Economics)

  • McEntarfer, Erika

    () (U.S. Bureau of the Census)

Abstract

This paper examines the extent and consequences of Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity (DNWR) using administrative worker-firm linked data from the Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics (LEHD) program for a large representative U.S. state. Prior to the Great Recession, only 7-8% of job stayers are paid the same nominal hourly wage rate as one year earlier - substantially less than previously found in survey-based data - and about 20% of job stayers experience a wage cut. During the Great Recession, the incidence of wage cuts increases to 30%, followed by a large rise in the proportion of wage freezes to 16% as the economy recovers. Total earnings of job stayers exhibit even fewer zero changes and a larger incidence of reductions than hourly wage rates, due to systematic variations in hours worked. The results are consistent with concurrent findings in the literature that reductions in base pay are exceedingly rare but that firms use different forms of non-base pay and variations in hours worked to flexibilize labor cost. We then exploit the worker-firm link of the LEHD and find that during the Great Recession, firms with indicators of DNWR reduced employment by about 1.2% more per year. This negative effect is driven by significantly lower hiring rates and persists into the recovery. Our results suggest that despite the relatively large incidence of wage cuts in the aggregate, DNWR has sizable allocative consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Kurmann, André & McEntarfer, Erika, 2019. "Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity in the United States: New Evidence from Worker-Firm Linked Data," School of Economics Working Paper Series 2019-1, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:drxlwp:2019_001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mary C. Daly & Bart Hobijn, 2014. "Downward Nominal Wage Rigidities Bend the Phillips Curve," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 46(S2), pages 51-93, October.
    2. Aghion, Philippe & Bloom, Nicholas & Lucking, Brian & Sadun, Raffaella & Van Reenen, John, 2017. "Turbulence, Firm Decentralization and Growth in Bad Times," IZA Discussion Papers 10706, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Abbritti, Mirko & Fahr, Stephan, 2013. "Downward wage rigidity and business cycle asymmetries," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(7), pages 871-886.
    4. Joseph G. Altonji & Paul J. Devereux, 1999. "The Extent and Consequences of Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity," NBER Working Papers 7236, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. David Card & Dean Hyslop, 1997. "Does Inflation "Grease the Wheels of the Labor Market"?," NBER Chapters,in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 71-122 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. George A. Akerlof & William R. Dickens & George L. Perry, 1996. "The Macroeconomics of Low Inflation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(1), pages 1-76.
    7. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 2014. "Labor Market Fluidity and Economic Performance," NBER Working Papers 20479, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jardim, Ekaterina & Solon, Gary & Vigdor, Jacob, 2019. "How Prevalent Is Downward Rigidity in Nominal Wages? Evidence from Payroll Records in Washington State," IZA Discussion Papers 12124, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity; Administrative Worker-Firm Linked Data; Labor Cost and Employment; Great Recession;

    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
    • E30 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General

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