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On The Cyclicality of Real Wages and Wage Di¤erentials

In this paper we investigate the cyclicality of real wages. The approach we take is to search for the largest possible common cyclical component in a statistical sense. This contrasts with the existing literature which uses observable variables to proxy for a common cycle. We do so by using a Bayesian dynamic latent factor model and longitudinal microdata. We find that the comovement of real wages can be related to a common factor that exhibits a significant but far from perfect correlation with the national unemployment rate. Our findings indicate that (i) the common factor explains, on average, no more than 9% of wage variation, (ii) the common factor accounts for 20% or less of the wage variability for 88% of the workers in the sample and (iii) roughly half of the wages move procyclically while half move countercyclically. These facts are inconsistent with claims of a strong systematic relationship between real wages and the business cycle. We show that these results are inconsistent with models of Walrasian labor markets typically used in DSGE models. We also confirm findings of previous studies in which skilled and unskilled wages exhibit roughly the same degree of cyclical variation.

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File URL: http://economics.missouri.edu/working-papers/2011/WP1116_otrok.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Missouri in its series Working Papers with number 1116.

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Length: 34 pgs.
Date of creation: 27 Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: forthcoming in The Journal of Human Resources
Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:1116
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Web page: http://economics.missouri.edu/

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  2. Michele Boldrin & Michael Horvath, 1994. "Labor Contracts and Business Cycles," Discussion Papers 1068, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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  16. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme, 1985. "Heterogeneity, Aggregation, and Market Wage Functions: An Empirical Model of Self-selection in the Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1077-1125, December.
  17. John C. Ham & Kevin T. Reilly, 2002. "Testing Intertemporal Substitution, Implicit Contracts, and Hours Restriction Models of the Labor Market Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 905-927, September.
  18. Michael P. Keane & Eswar Prasad, 1993. "The Relation Between Skill Levels and the Cyclical Variability of Employment, Hours, and Wages," IMF Working Papers 93/44, International Monetary Fund.
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  22. Pourpourides, Panayiotis M., 2011. "Implicit contracts and the cyclicality of the skill-premium," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(6), pages 963-979, June.
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  24. In Choi & Jorg Breitung, 2011. "Factor models," Working Papers 1121, Research Institute for Market Economy, Sogang University, revised Dec 2011.
  25. Michael Keane & Eswar Prasad, 1993. "Skill Levels and the Cyclical Variability of Employment, Hours, and Wages," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 40(4), pages 711-743, December.
  26. Shin, Donggyun, 1994. "Cyclicality of real wages among young men," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 137-142, October.
  27. Sargent, Thomas J, 1989. "Two Models of Measurements and the Investment Accelerator," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 251-87, April.
  28. Beaudry, Paul & DiNardo, John, 1995. "Is the Behavior of Hours Worked Consistent with Implicit Contract Theory?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 743-68, August.
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  30. Keane, Michael & Moffitt, Robert & Runkle, David, 1988. "Real Wages over the Business Cycle: Estimating the Impact of Heterogeneity with Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(6), pages 1232-66, December.
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