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Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Continued Rigidity of Wages in the United States

Nick Bunker:

The continued rigidity of wages in the United States: “Wage rigidity” is an important feature of many models of the macroeconomy...
Some research on wage rigidity challenges this assumption. Pointing to data on individual wage growth, some economists argue that the wages of new hires is more important. If wages are really rigid, then the inflation-adjusted wages of new hires won’t vary as recessions come and go. Yet these researchers can point to data showing the wages of new hires moving up during economic expansions and down during recessions. So perhaps wages are more flexible than some think.
Now comes a new paper that shows how the cyclical nature of the wages of new hires isn’t really evidence against wage rigidity. The working paper, by economists Mark Gertler of New York University, Christopher Huckfeldt of Cornell University, and Antonella Trigari of Bocconi University, was released earlier this month. The three economists’ major point is to show that looking at the wages of all new hires in the United States is lumping together two groups of workers with different experiences. There are new hires who were previously unemployed and then there are new hires who were previously employed. ...
What they find is that the trends in wages for these two different groups of new hires are clearly different. The wages for new hires from the unemployment line don’t vary much more over time than the wages of already employed workers. But the wages of new hires from the ranks of the already employed do vary. This phenomenon, however, is less about flexible wages and more about workers moving up the job ladder, which mostly only happens during economic expansions, and is the reason why wages for these new hires move with economic cycles.
Outside of the implications for macroeconomic models of the labor market during recessions, the results from Gertler, Huckfeldt, and Trigari are also a reminder of the effects an economic downturn can have on workers’ career earnings. Recessions hinder the hiring of already employed workers, which hurts their chances of climbing the job ladder and future wage gains. Downturns don’t just harm the workers who lose jobs, but also the ones who keep their jobs.

    Posted by on Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 08:24 AM in Economics, Macroeconomics, Unemployment | Permalink  Comments (11)


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