Working Paper No. 237 | May 1998

Speed of Technical Progress and Length of the Average Interjob Period

The mean duration of unemployment approximately doubled in the United States between the early 1950s and the mid-1990s, with most of the increase occurring since the early 1970s. Using a simple model linking the average duration of unemployment with the speed of technical change, and aggregate time-series data, the authors find strong evidence that both the rate of total-factor productivity growth and investment in office, computing, and accounting equipment (OCA) per employee have a significant positive effect on mean unemployment duration. Moreover, literally all of the two-thirds rise in mean unemployment duration between 1971 and 1994 (two similar points in the business cycle) can be attributed to increases in OCA investment.

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