Renato Faccini and Leonardo Melosi
Since 2014 the U.S. economy has been characterized by (i) a tight labor market with a record-low unemployment rate and very high job finding rates, (ii) disappointing labor productivity growth, and (iii) low inflation. We propose a model with the job ladder that can reconcile these three facts. In the model inflation picks up only when most jobs are concentrated at the high rung of the ladder: as firms compete for efficiently allocated employed workers, outside offers are declined and matched, triggering an increase in production costs that is not backed by an increase in productivity. The model is estimated using unemployment and quit rates, which allow the model to precisely identify the distribution of the quality of jobs. After the Great Recession, the observed structural drop in the job-to-job rate has slowed down the pace at which the U.S. labor market turns bad jobs into good jobs. As a result, inflation has not escalated even though the labor market appears to be very tight. Furthermore, the model predicts that labor productivity persistently fell by up to 70 bps in the post-Great Recession recovery owing to this protracted misallocation in the labor market.
This paper addresses an important question that is puzzling many in an elegant way. However, I am still left hungry: what triggered that change in job-to-job transitions that is taken exogenously here?