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The role of worker flows in the dynamics and distribution of UK unemployment

  • Elsby, Michael W.L.

    (University of Edinburgh and NBER)

  • Smith, Jennifer C.

    (University of Warwick)

  • Wadsworth, Jonathan

    (Royal Holloway College, University of London, CEP, CReAM and IZA)

Unemployment varies substantially over time and across subgroups of the labour market. Worker flows among labour market states act as key determinants of this variation. We examine how the structure of unemployment across groups and its cyclical movements across time are shaped by changes in labour market flows. Using novel estimates of flow transition rates for the UK over the last 35 years, we decompose unemployment variation into parts accounted for by changes in rates of job loss, job finding and flows via non-participation. Close to two-thirds of the volatility of unemployment in the UK over this period can be traced to rises in rates of job loss that accompany recessions. The share of this inflow contribution has been broadly the same in each of the past three recessions. Decreased job-finding rates account for around one-quarter of unemployment cyclicality and the remaining variation can be attributed to flows via non-participation. Digging deeper into the structure of unemployment by gender, age and education, the flow-approach is shown to provide a richer understanding of the unemployment experiences across population subgroups. Key words: labour market ; unemployment ; worker flows JEL classification: E24 ; J6

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Paper provided by University of Warwick, Department of Economics in its series The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) with number 962.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:962
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  1. Michael W.L. Elsby & Jennifer C. Smith, 2010. "The Great Recession In The Uk Labour Market: A Transatlantic Perspective," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 214(1), pages R26-R37, October.
  2. Jacobson, Louis S & LaLonde, Robert J & Sullivan, Daniel G, 1993. "Earnings Losses of Displaced Workers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 685-709, September.
  3. Smith, Jennifer, 2010. "The Ins and Outs of UK Unemployment," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 944, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  4. Michael W. Elsby & Ryan Michaels & Gary Solon, 2007. "The Ins and Outs of Cyclical Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 12853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Michael Elsby & Bart Hobijn & Aysegül Sahin, 2009. "Unemployment dynamics in the OECD," Working Paper Series 2009-04, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  6. Gomes, Pedro Maia, 2010. "Labour Market Flows: Facts from the United Kingdom," IZA Discussion Papers 5327, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. George L. Perry, 1972. "Unemployment Flows in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 3(2), pages 245-292.
  8. Simon Burgess & Hélène Turon, 2005. "Unemployment dynamics in Britain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(503), pages 423-448, 04.
  9. Robert Shimer, 2012. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 127-148, April.
  10. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173.
  11. Gregg, Paul & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 1995. "A Short History of Labour Turnover, Job Tenure, and Job Security, 1975-93," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 73-90, Spring.
  12. Peter J. Kuhn (ed.), 2002. "Losing Work, Moving On: International Perspectives on Worker Displacement," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number lwmo.
  13. Shigeru Fujita & Garey Ramey, 2009. "The Cyclicality Of Separation And Job Finding Rates," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(2), pages 415-430, 05.
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