Recall and Unemployment

July 26, 2016

Shigeru Fujita and Guiseppe Moscarini

Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) covering 1990-2013, we document that a surprisingly large number of workers return to their previous employer after a jobless spell, and experience very different unemployment and employment outcomes than job switchers. Furthermore, the probability of recall is much less cyclical and volatile than the probability of finding a new job. Building on these facts, we introduce a recall option in a canonical search-and-matching business- cycle model of the labor market. The recall option is lost when the unemployed worker accepts a new job. New matches are mediated by a matching function, which brings together costly vacancy postings and costly search effort by unemployed workers. In contrast, recalls are frictionless and free, and triggered both by aggregate and job-specific shocks. A quantitative version of the model captures well our cross-sectional and cyclical facts through selection of recalled matches. Model analysis shows that recall and search effort significantly amplify the cyclical volatility of job finding and separation rates.

I suspect that the United States economy is rather unique in this high proportion of recall unemployment. But the logic of this may also matter elsewhere as recall is potentially an important outside option for any laid off worker. For the US, Fujita and Moscarini show that it matters indeed.


Reviving the limit cycle view of macroeconomic fluctuations

July 20, 2016

By Paul Beaudry, Dana Galizia and Franck Portier

There is a long tradition in macroeconomics suggesting that market imperfections may explain why economies repeatedly go through periods of booms and busts. This idea can be captured mathematically as a limit cycle. In this paper we present both a general structure and a particular model with the aim of giving new life to this mostly dismissed view of fluctuations. We begin by showing why and when models with strategic complementarities can give rise to unique-equilibrium dynamics characterized by a limit cycle. We then develop a fully-specified dynamic general equilibrium model that embeds a demand complementarity that allows for a limit cycle. Booms and busts arise endogenously in our setting because agents want to concentrate their purchases of goods at times when purchases by others are high, since in such situations unemployment is low and therefore taking on debt is perceived as being less risky. A key feature of our approach is that we allow limit-cycle forces to compete with exogenous disturbances in explaining the data. Our estimation results indicate that US business cycle fluctuations in employment and output can be well explained by endogenous demand-driven cycles buffeted by technological disturbances that render those fluctuations irregular.

This is going to be a controversial paper because it revisits theories that have been discredited, sometimes with choice words. Beaudry and Portier have successful in revisiting old theories or bringing distinct strands of literature together. We’ll whether this on does as well.

Two papers on frictions in the business cycle

July 12, 2016

The last NEP-DGE report has two very interesting papers on frictions in the business cycle. I could not bring myself to feature only, so here are both. The first is interesting in that it can account for the movement of both the size and quantity of asset liquidity in the market through a cycle, the second in that it shows that the costless vacancy creation hypothesis in a typical labor search model has important implications, especially if you want to account for long recoveries.

Search-based endogenous asset liquidity and the macroeconomy

By Wei Cui and Sören Radde

We endogenize asset liquidity in a dynamic general equilibrium model with search frictions on asset markets. In the model, asset liquidity is tantamount to the ease of issuance and resaleability of private financial claims, which is driven by investors’ participation on the search market. Limited market liquidity of private claims creates a role for liquid assets, such as government bonds or at money, to ease financing constraints. We show that endogenising liquidity is essential to generate positive comovement between asset (re)saleability and asset prices. When the capacity of the asset market to channel funds to entrepreneurs deteriorates, investment falls while the hedging value of liquid assets increases, driving up liquidity premia. Our model, thus, demonstrates that shocks to the cost of financial intermediation can be an important source of flight-to-liquidity dynamics and macroeconomic fluctuations, matching key business cycle characteristics of the U.S. economy.

The slow job recovery in a macro model of search and recruiting intensity

By Sylvain Leduc and Zheng Liu

Despite steady declines in the unemployment rate and increases in the job openings rate after the Great Recession, the hiring rate in the United States has lagged behind. Significant gaps remain between the actual job filling and finding rates and those predicted from the standard labor search model. To examine the forces behind the slow job recovery, we generalize the standard model to incorporate endogenous variations in search intensity and recruiting intensity. Our model features a vacancy creation cost, which implies that firms rely on variations in both the number of vacancies and recruiting intensity to respond to aggregate shocks, in contrast to the textbook model with costless vacancy creation and thus constant recruiting intensity. Cyclical variations in search and recruiting intensity drive a wedge into the matching function even absent exogenous changes in match efficiency. Our estimated model suggests that fluctuations in search and recruiting intensity help substantially bridge the gap between the actual and model-predicted job filling and finding rates in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

The Welfare Effects of Involuntary Part-Time Work

July 8, 2016

By Daniel Borowczyk-Martins and Étienne Lalé

Employed individuals in the U.S. are increasingly more likely to work part-time involuntarily than to be unemployed. Spells of involuntary part-time work are different from unemployment spells: a full-time worker who takes on a part-time job suffers an earnings loss while remaining employed, and is unlikely to receive income compensation from publicly-provided insurance programs.We analyze these differences through the lens of an incomplete-market, job-search model featuring unemployment risk alongside an additional risk of involuntary part-time employment. A calibration of the model consistent with U.S. institutions and labor-market dynamics shows that involuntary part-time work generates lower welfare losses relative to unemployment. This finding relies critically on the much higher probability to return to full-time employment from part-time work. We interpret it as a premium in access to full-time work faced by involuntary part-time workers, and use our model to tabulate its value in consumption-equivalent units.

This paper is a bigger deal than it seems, and they is actual debate about this topic. It is matters quite a bit. People may not like it ti be working part-time, but the continuation value is so much higher than under unemployment. Of course, this result may not translate to other labor markets with different employment probabilities and different income support schemes.

Labour Supply: the Roles of Human Capital and the Extensive Margin

July 6, 2016

By Michael Keane and Nada Wasi

In this paper we specify and estimate a life-cycle labour supply model that expands on earlier work by simultaneously including human capital accumulation, saving and bequests, an active extensive margin, a realistic specification of the Social Security system, an accounting for private pensions and health expenditures, and a realistic specification of the progressive tax structure. By accounting for all these features, we develop new insights into how taxes affect life-cycle labour supply. For instance, we find that labour supply elasticities vary in important ways with age, education and the tax structure itself. We also show how human capital affects elasticities on the intensive vs. extensive margins.

This is a nice paper with a very rich model. I hope it is used to answer some policy questions, which is where I see its real potential.

Retirement Financing: An Optimal Reform Approach

July 1, 2016

By Roozbeh Hosseini and Ali Shourideh

We study policy reforms aimed at overhauling retirement financing. We develop a novel approach by considering optimal reforms: policy reforms that minimize the cost for the government while respecting the distribution of welfare in the economy. Our model is an OLG model with life-cycle features and bequest motives where individuals are heterogeneous in their earning ability and mortality. Theoretically, we show that due to the negative correlation between earnings ability and mortality, postretirement distortions to saving decisions are a robust feature of any optimal policy. We, then, use this framework to quantitatively analyze optimal reforms. Our quantitative exercise shows that an optimal reform relative to the status-quo must have three key features: First, post-retirement assets must be subsidized while bequests must be taxed. On average, optimal marginal subsidies on assets for individuals above age 65 is 3.2 percent, while optimal marginal tax on their bequest is 60 percent. Second, pre-retirement transfers must increase while social security benefits must become less generous in the aggregate and more progressive towards low income groups. Finally, earnings tax reform does not contribute to optimal reforms, i.e., optimal marginal taxes on earnings remain very close to the status-quo. The optimal policies reduce the present discounted value of net tax and transfers to each generation by 15 percent.

I find it frustrating that despite ample research that shows that pension reforms are possible, not much is happening. This is yet another paper that shows that these reforms are not just a pie in the sky from economists, they are politically feasible: They are a Pareto improvement. Let us see this whether this one sticks somewhere.