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
Falling real wages in the UK
David Blanchflower, Stephen Machin 12 May 2014
The pain of the UK’s Great Recession has been spread more evenly than previous downturns, with falling real wages across the distribution. This column asks why this happened, how it compares with the US experience, and what the prospects are for recovering lost wage gains.
There have been unprecedented falls in real wages in the UK since the start of the recession triggered by the financial crisis of 2008. This did not happen in previous economic downturns – median real wage growth slowed down or stalled, but it did not fall. Indeed, in past recessions, almost all workers in both the lowest and highest deciles of the wage distribution experienced growing real wages. It was the unemployed who experienced almost all the pain – they lost their jobs and much of their incomes, and many were unemployed for a long time.
Labour markets Poverty and income inequality
US, unemployment, wages, Inequality, UK, Great Recession, real wages
From sick man of Europe to economic superstar: Germany’s resurgence and the lessons for Europe
Christian Dustmann, Bernd Fitzenberger, Uta Schönberg, Alexandra Spitz-Oener 03 February 2014
In a slow-growth, high-unemployment continent, Germany’s performance stands out. The success is often ascribed to the politically difficult Hartz labour-market reforms. This column discusses evidence to the contrary. The Hartz reforms played no essential role. Rather, the key was the threat of offshoring to central Europe together with the pre-Hartz structure and autonomy of the German labour-market institutions. This structure allowed trade unions to make wage concessions necessary to adapt to the new realities. Other nations should decentralise bargaining to the firm level while keeping workers’ representatives.
In the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, Germany was called ‘the sick man of Europe’ (Bertram 1997). Today, Germany is Europe’s economic superstar.
unemployment, Hartz reforms
Labour markets reforms and unemployment: Estimating the effects of wage moderation in the Spanish economy
Miguel Cardoso, Rafael Doménech, Juan Ramón García, Camilo A. Ulloa 20 December 2013
After witnessing the destruction of almost 18% of its employment during the crisis, the Spanish economy is now recovering. Understanding the effects of the recent labour market reform and wage moderation is crucial in accelerating employment creation. Correctly implemented and accompanied by appropriate policies at the European level, labour and products market structural policies could be the solution to the anomalously high unemployment rate in Spain
With its huge unemployment rate, if there is a country in need of assessment of labour markets reforms and wage moderation, it is Spain. In the third quarter of 2013 the unemployment rate reached 26% of the labour force, more than twice the Eurozone’s 12.1%. As shown in Figure 1, since the beginning of the crisis in the first quarter of 2008, Spain has lost 17.5% of its employment (22.8% in the private sector), while the average real wage increased 7.6% until the second quarter of 2012.
Figure 1 Employment and real wages in Spain, 2007-2013
Europe's nations and regions Global crisis Labour markets
unemployment, reforms, labour-market flexibility