What about increasing unemployment benefits for the young?
Claudio Michelacci, Hernán Ruffo 18 November 2014
Like any insurance mechanism, unemployment benefits involve a trade-off between risk sharing and moral hazard. Whereas previous studies have concluded that unemployment insurance is close to optimal in the US, this column argues that replacement rates should vary over the life cycle. Young people typically have little means to smooth consumption during a spell of unemployment, while the moral hazard problems are minor – regardless of replacement rates, the young want jobs to improve their lifetime career prospects and to build up human capital.
It is well known that workers suffer when they lose their job and experience an unemployment spell – surveys indicate a sharp decrease in happiness, and average consumption falls by around 20% upon job displacement. And much research has studied how to efficiently insure workers against the risk of unemployment. Like any other insurance mechanism, unemployment insurance involves a trade-off between the gains from providing liquidity and insurance to unemployed workers and the cost of the implicit problem of moral hazard.
unemployment, insurance, happiness, Unemployment insurance, unemployment benefits, moral hazard, replacement rates, human capital, life cycle
The career prospects of overeducated Americans
Brian Clark, Clement Joubert, Arnaud Maurel 16 November 2014
There are large rewards of higher education in terms of earnings. However, a sizeable fraction of workers hold occupations that not require as much schooling as they have. This column considers the effects of being overeducated on future employment and wages for a representative cohort of Americans. Around 38% of the college graduates in the sample have higher education than the typical worker in their profession. Rather than transitory, the bulk of overeducation persists in the long run. Even if workers manage to transit to better jobs, they experience wage penalties similar to those after unemployment.
Americans had accumulated more than 1 trillion dollars in student loan debt as of 31 December, 2013. While the press conveyed widespread concern over this number, it might be that efficient credit markets are allowing more individuals to invest in education, with large rewards in terms of future earnings. After all, young college graduates earned 62.5% more on average than high school graduates in 2013 (Taylor et al. 2014). However, researchers have started paying more attention to the fact that the huge average ‘college wage premium’ masks large differences in post-college earnings.
Education Labour markets
overeducation, unemployment, underemployment, US
The halo of victory: What Americans learned from World War I
Hugh Rockoff 04 October 2014
World War I profoundly altered the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. However, this column argues that the US learnt the wrong lessons from the war, partly because a halo of victory surrounded wartime policies and personalities. The methods used for dealing with shortages during the war were simply inappropriate for dealing with the Great Depression, and American isolationism in the 1930s had devastating consequences for world peace.
World War I had important consequences for the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. This was especially true in the world of finance. The US transitioned from being a debtor nation to a creditor nation, and financial leadership moved from London to New York. But equally important were the lessons that Americans drew from the war. Although the war had much to teach, Americans tended, I will argue below, to learn too much from the war, drawing strong conclusions from a war in which the US was actively engaged for only 19 months.
Competition policy Economic history
World War I, WWI, planning, rationing, New Deal, Great Depression, fiscal policy, monetary policy, stimulus, financial crisis, conscription, inflation, unemployment, price controls, Competition policy, antitrust, National Industrial Recovery Act
Walking wounded: The British economy in the aftermath of World War I
Nicholas Crafts 27 August 2014
It is well-known that World War I was expensive for Britain. The indirect economic costs were also huge. This column argues that the adverse implications of the Great War for post-war unemployment and trade – together with the legacy of a greatly increased national debt – significantly reduced the level of real GDP throughout the 1920s. A ballpark calculation suggests the loss of GDP during this period roughly doubled the total costs of the war to Britain.
World War I was not over by Christmas of 1914. It was a prolonged, brutal, and expensive conflict. Britain incurred 715,000 military deaths (with more than twice that number wounded), the destruction of 3.6% of its human capital, 10% of its domestic and 24% of its overseas assets, and spent well over 25% of its GDP on the war effort between 1915 and 1918 (Broadberry and Harrison, 2005). Yet that was far from the sum of the losses that the Great War inflicted on the British economy; economic damage continued to accrue throughout the 1920s and beyond.
World War I, unemployment
Using product- and labour-market tightness to understand unemployment
Pascal Michaillat, Emmanuel Saez 12 August 2014
High US unemployment rates following the crisis are a primary policy concern, but are poorly explained by existing models. This column introduces a new model of frictional labour and product markets. Price rigidities yield testable predictions pointing to the source of unemployment and product market tightness. Evidence suggests that unemployment fluctuations are driven mostly by aggregate demand shocks.
For the five years from December 2008 to November 2013, the US unemployment rate remained above 7%, peaking at 10% in October 2009. This period of high unemployment is not well understood. Macroeconomists have proposed a number of explanations for the extent and persistence of unemployment during the period, including:
Global crisis Labour markets
unemployment, demand shocks, sticky prices
How immigration benefits natives despite labour market imperfections and income redistribution
Michele Battisti, Gabriel Felbermayr, Giovanni Peri, Panu Poutvaara 08 August 2014
Immigration continues to be a hotly debated topic in most OECD countries. Economic models emphasising the benefits of immigration for natives have typically neglected unemployment and redistribution – precisely the things voters are most concerned about. This column analyses the effects of immigration in a world with labour market rigidities and income redistribution. In two-thirds of the 20 countries analysed, both high-skilled and low-skilled natives would benefit from a small increase in immigration from current levels. The average welfare gains from immigration are 1.25% and 1.00% for high- and low-skilled natives, respectively.
A fierce policy debate with little insight from economists
Labour markets Migration
Labour Markets, unemployment, wages, immigration, redistribution, welfare, Skill Complementarities
The Chinese labour market: High unemployment coexisting with a labour shortage
Yang Liu 19 July 2014
In China, both unemployment and a labour shortage have emerged as problems in recent years. This column explains their co-existence by a decrease in the matching efficiency in the labour market. One way to improve the matching efficiency, though difficult to implement in the short-run, is through the creation of more employment agencies. Companies can benefit if they invest more in recruiting activities.
In China, both a labour shortage and unemployment have emerged as problems in recent years. The number of university students scheduled to graduate in June 2014 is 7.27 million, increasing with 280,000 from 2013 (MHRSS 2014). Following 2013 – at the time considered the most difficult year for job seekers in history – 2014 is expected to be even harsher. Problems in the labour market in China, which is a key region for Japanese companies advancing overseas, are also attracting attention in Japan.
China, unemployment, labour shortage
Globalisation, job security, and wages
Kerem Cosar, Nezih Guner, James R Tybout 07 July 2014
Trade liberalisations are often accompanied by labour market reforms, making it difficult to isolate their effects. This column discusses the effects of trade liberalisation, globalisation, and labour-market reforms on the Colombian labour market. Reduced trade frictions increased cross-firm wage inequality and shifted the firm-size distribution rightward, with offsetting effects on overall wage inequality. Average income increased, but the gains were concentrated among employees of large, productive firms with access to export markets. Greater trade openness also increased job turnover.
How does increased openness to international trade affect workers’ wages and job security? This question is central to the public debate concerning the effects of globalisation, but convincing quantitative answers have been difficult to come by. One fundamental reason is that major trade liberalisation episodes have often coincided with labour reforms (Heckman and Pages 2004). Colombia is a case in point. As Figure 1 shows, this country experienced deindustrialisation, higher job turnover rates, and heightened wage inequality in the years following its 1986–1991 trade liberalisation.
International trade Labour markets
productivity, unemployment, globalisation, wages, trade liberalisation, Inequality, labour market reforms, exports, Colombia, job security
The Great Recession’s long-term damage
Laurence Ball 01 July 2014
Whereas textbook macroeconomic theory suggests that output should return to potential after a recession, there is mounting evidence that deep recessions have highly persistent effects on output. This column reports estimates of the long-term damage caused by the Great Recession. In most countries in the sample, the loss of potential output – 8.4% on average – has been almost as large as the loss of actual output. In the countries hit hardest by the recession, the growth rate of potential output is much lower today than it was before 2008.
According to macroeconomics textbooks, a fall in aggregate demand causes a recession in which output drops below potential output – the normal level of production given the economy’s resources and technology. This effect is temporary, however. A recession is followed by a recovery period in which output returns to potential, and potential itself is not affected significantly by the recession.
growth, unemployment, OECD, potential output, Great Recession, hysteresis
The great British jobs and productivity mystery
João Paulo Pessoa, John Van Reenen 28 June 2014
The fall in productivity in the UK following the Great Recession was particularly bad, whereas the hit to jobs was less severe. This column discusses recent research exploring this puzzle. Although the mystery has not been fully solved, an important part of the explanation lies in the flexibility of wages combined with very low investment.
With some economic recovery having finally got underway, the UK is still feeling the repercussions of the so-called ‘Great Recession’. National output, as measured by GDP, fell by over 7% from its peak in January 2008 – the biggest fall since the inter-war years – and only returned to its pre-crisis level in April 2014 (NIESR 2014). This has been the slowest recovery in this century (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. The profile of recession and recovery
Europe's nations and regions
unemployment, productivity growth, UK, Great Recession