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CEP discussion paper

U.S. Labor Market Dynamics Revisited


The picture of U.S. labor market dynamics is opaque. Empirical studies have yielded contradictory findings and debates have emerged regarding their implications. This paper aims at clarifying the picture, which is important for the understanding of the operation of the labor market, for the study of business cycles, for the explanation of wage behavior, and for the formulation of policy. The paper determines what facts can be established, what are their implications, and what remains to be further investigated. The main contributions made here are: (i) Listing of data facts that can be agreed upon. These indicate that there is considerable cyclicality and volatility of both accessions to employment and separations from it. Hence, both are important for the understanding of the business cycle. (ii) Presenting the business cycle facts of key series. (iii) Pointing to specific gaps in the data picture: disparities in the measurement of the sizeable flows between employment and the pool of workers out of the labor force, disagreements about the relative volatility of job finding and separation rates across data sets, and the fact that the fit of the gross flows data with net employment growth data differs across studies and is not high. The definite characterization of labor market dynamics depends upon the closing of these data gaps.


Eran Yashiv

November 2007     Paper Number CEPDP0831

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's programme.