How much unemployment insurance do we need?
Rafael Lalive, Camille Landais, Josef Zweimüller , 9 November 2013
In response to the Great Recession, unemployment insurance has been extended in many countries, but there is controversy over whether such extensions are optimal. Unemployment insurance entails direct fiscal costs, and encourages job seekers to prolong their search. The familiar benefit of unemployment insurance is that it allows the jobless to maintain their consumption. However, by reducing the search effort of other workers, it also improves a given worker’s chance of finding a job. Unemployment insurance extensions appear less costly when these search externalities are considered.
The global crisis that erupted in 2008 has put millions of workers out of a job. The US, for instance, experienced a dramatic increase in unemployment from around 4% to more than 10% during the Great Recession. Unemployment remained stubbornly high even when the economy began to recover.
Topics: Global crisis, Labour markets
Tags: search externalities, unemployment, Unemployment insurance
Unemployment, labour-market flexibility and IMF advice: Moving beyond mantras
Olivier Blanchard, Florence Jaumotte, Prakash Loungani, 18 October 2013
The state of labour markets in advanced economies remains dismal despite recent signs of growth. This column explains the IMF’s logic behind the advice it provided on labour markets during the Great Recession. It argues that flexibility is crucial both at the micro level, i.e. on worker reallocation, and at the macro level, e.g. on collective agreements. It suggests that the IMF approach is close to the consensus among labour-market researchers.
Growth in advanced economies is gaining some speed. The IMF projects these economies will grow 2% next year, up from an expected 1.2% this year. The average unemployment rate in advanced economies is expected to inch down from its peak of 8.3% in 2010 to 8% next year. This is progress, but it is clearly not enough. The state of labour markets remains dismal for a number of reasons.
Topics: Labour markets, Welfare state and social Europe
Tags: collective bargaining, EZ crisis, IMF, institutions, labour-market flexibility, trust, unemployment, Unemployment insurance
Social job-search networks and the transition from school to stable employment
Francis Kramarz, Oskar Nordström Skans, 17 October 2013
Modest recoveries in employment following the crisis mask severe youth unemployment. Because labour market struggles during the early stages of working life can have persistent negative effects, understanding job-finding networks among youth is key to forming pro-employment policies. This column analyses the transition from schooling to working life of Swedish youth. Close familial ties are important in job searches, especially among the less educated. Preliminary evidence suggests that family association can signal worker ability.
The challenges faced by young workers transitioning from school into stable employment are a major concern throughout the OECD. The search for stable employment is a time-consuming process, particularly in countries without highly developed apprenticeship systems. Many young workers – especially the least educated – are caught struggling for years.
Topics: Labour markets
Tags: graduates, jobs, unemployment, youth unemployment
How the great recession affected unemployment of non-Western Immigrants in the Netherlands
Jan van Ours, 6 October 2013
In absolute terms, the Great Recession affected the unemployment rate of non-Western immigrants more than that of native workers in the Netherlands. However, this merely reflects their generally weak labour-market position – job-finding rates are much lower for non-Western immigrants than they are for natives. There is little difference between the cyclical sensitivity of these two groups’ unemployment or job-finding rates. In relative terms, the labour-market position of non-Western immigrants is bad, but the Great Recession did not make it worse.
The labour-market position of immigrants in many European countries is weak – unemployment rates among immigrants are high, and employment rates are low (OECD 2011). There are various explanations for this. Immigrants often have lower educational attainment than natives, and fewer language skills. Furthermore, ethnic identity may be important.
Topics: Labour markets, Migration
Tags: Great Recession, migration, Netherlands, unemployment
German labour reforms: Unpopular success
Tom Krebs, Martin Scheffel, 20 September 2013
Faced with stubbornly high and persistent unemployment in 2003-05 the German government implemented far-reaching labour-market reforms, the so-called Hartz reforms. This column shows that these reforms were highly successful in bringing down the non-cyclical component of unemployment in Germany but also argues that the Hartz reforms created winners and losers. This explains why these reforms have been hugely unpopular among the German public.
Just a few years ago, Germany was known as the sick man of Europe (Burda 2007). Starting from an average unemployment rate below 4% in the 1970s, Germany saw its rate increase to almost 9% in the period 1995-2005. As seen in Figure 1 the unemployment rate has a strong cyclical component but also a trend component that has been rising since the 1970s until the mid-2000s.
Topics: Labour markets, Macroeconomic policy
Tags: Germany, reforms, unemployment
The downsizing dilemmas of European employers
Hendrik P van Dalen, Kène Henkens, 28 August 2013
In times of economic crisis, managers often take drastic measures to survive. This column presents new research on the preferences of managers from across Europe when faced with ‘downsizing’. It seems that, when recession bites, the instincts or ‘animal spirits’ of employers that were previously suppressed by prosperity or considered to be outdated resurface. European employers predominantly resort to offering early retirement packages (and to a lesser extent buy-outs) in response to the threat of downsizing, exacerbating, in the long run, the problems associated with Europe’s ageing population. The only notable exception to this rule is the response of Danish employers, who prefer to tackle this problem by reducing the working hours of their employees.
Drastic measures are taken when managers formulate strategies to survive economic crises. Among these are downsizing, outsourcing, firing workers and cutting back on wages. But how do firms balance their interests against those of their workers?
Topics: Labour markets
Tags: downsizing, Eurozone crisis, firing, hiring, unemployment
Accounting for the ethnic unemployment gap in France and the US
Laurent Gobillon, Peter Rupert, Étienne Wasmer, 23 July 2013
The unemployment rate in France is roughly six percentage points higher for African immigrants than for natives. Why? This column argues that the explanation is spatial: recent immigrants tend to have much longer commute times. Research suggests that in the region of 20% of the employment gap between the French minority and the French majority can be put down to commute times, but more research is needed, especially in France where research into the ethnic unemployment gap is scarce.
The unemployment rate in France is roughly six percentage points higher for African immigrants than for natives. In the US, the unemployment rate is approximately nine percentage points higher for black people than for white people.
Topics: Europe's nations and regions, Labour markets
Tags: commuting, ethnicity, France, race, unemployment
High home ownership as a driver of high unemployment
Andrew J Oswald, 18 June 2013
Unemployment is once again the bane of the US and Europe. This column highlights an intriguing association between home ownership and high unemployment using US state-level data. Given the heavy subsidisation of and rise in home ownership, this association merits more attention from economists.
Unemployment matters. It is a major source of unhappiness, mental ill-health, and lost income. Yet after a century of economic research the determinants of unemployment are still imperfectly understood, and jobless levels in the industrialised nations are currently around 10%, with some over 20%.
Topics: Labour markets
Tags: home ownership, unemployment
Job placement and displacement: Evidence from a randomised experiment
Bruno Crépon, Esther Duflo, Marc Gurgand, Roland Rathelot, Philippe Zamora, 24 April 2013
Youth unemployment in Europe seems to be sticking around. This column assesses youth unemployment policy in France using data from a controlled experiment. ‘Job counselling’ – a key French policy that prepares some job seekers for the recruitment process, and connects them with potential employers – seems to only marginally improve graduate’s chances of employment. Moreover, the evidence suggests that what’s good for one graduate may be bad for another: the beneficiaries of intensive job counselling are more likely to find employment simply at the expense of other job seekers.
Youth unemployment is a growing concern in many countries, including France where more than a quarter of recent graduates cannot find stable work. Some of these young graduates do not benefit from resources like unemployment benefits because they lack a sufficient employment history.
Topics: Labour markets
Tags: Eurozone crisis, graduates, unemployment, youth unemployment
Budget balance, structural unemployment and fiscal adjustments: The Spanish case
Javier Andrés, Rafael Doménech, 5 April 2013
Fiscal adjustment and structural reform are key parts of Eurozone bailout packages (or key features of government policy that aims to avoid such bailouts). This column argues that patience is the most prized virtue of policymakers implementing fiscal adjustment and structural reform. Reducing unemployment and fiscal consolidation are mutually reinforcing, but they move at different speeds.
One of the most important questions in the current process of fiscal consolidation in many developed economies concerns the size and the pace of the adjustment. An excessive and/or too-fast fiscal retrenchment can have dramatic effects on unemployment and growth, while if it is too slow, it can prove to be ineffective and lack credibility in the eyes of the financial markets.
Topics: Europe's nations and regions
Tags: Eurozone crisis, fiscal policy, Spain, structural adjustment, unemployment