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What drives short-run labor market volatility in offshoring industries ? evidence from northern Mexico during 2007-2009

  • Kaplan, David S.
  • Lederman, Daniel
  • Robertson, Raymond

Recent research shows that employment in Mexico's offshoring maquiladora industries is twice as volatile as employment in their U.S. industry counterparts. The analyses in this paper use data from Mexico's social security records and U.S. customs between the first quarter of 2007 and the last quarter of 2009 to identify four channels through which economic shocks emanating from the United States were amplified when transmitted into Mexico's offshoring labor market of Northern Mexico. First, employment and imports within industries are complements, which is consistent with imports being used as inputs for the assembly of exportable goods within industries. That is, when imports fell during the crisis, employment in Mexico was reduced rather than protected by the fall of imports. Second, contrary to other studies, employment is more responsive than wages to trade shocks. Third, fluctuations in Mexico-U.S. trade were associated with changes in the composition of employment, with the skill level of workers rising during downturns and falling during upswings. This implies that the correlation between average wages and trade shocks is partly driven by labor-force compositional effects, which may obscure individual-worker wage flexibility. Fourth, trade shocks affecting related industries (industries linked by employment flows affect employment at least as much as own-industry trade shocks, thus amplifying employment volatility through the propagation of shocks across industries within Northern Mexico. Furthermore, the data suggest that the observed fluctuations in U.S.-Mexico trade at the onset of the Great Recession in the U.S. were not associated with pre-existing employment trends in Northern Mexico.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6268.

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Date of creation: 01 Nov 2012
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6268
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  1. Paul R. Bergin & Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 2009. "Offshoring and Volatility: Evidence from Mexico's Maquiladora Industry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1664-71, September.
  2. van den Berg, G. & Gautier, P.A. & van Ours, J.C. & Ridder, G., 1998. "Worker turnover at the firm level and crowding out of lower educated workers," Discussion Paper 98.104, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  3. Avraham Ebenstein & Ann Harrison & Margaret McMillan & Shannon Phillips, 2009. "Estimating the Impact of Trade and Offshoring on American Workers Using the Current Population Surveys," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0742, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  4. David Hummels & Rasmus Jørgensen & Jakob R. Munch & Chong Xiang, 2011. "The Wage Effects of Offshoring: Evidence from Danish Matched Worker-Firm Data," NBER Working Papers 17496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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