Publications on Labor markets
Unemployment: The Silent Epidemic
Working Paper No. 895 | August 2017This paper examines two key aspects of unemployment—its propagation mechanism and socioeconomic costs. It identifies a key feature of this macroeconomic phenomenon: it behaves like a disease. A detailed assessment of the transmission mechanism and the existing pecuniary and nonpecuniary costs of unemployment suggests a fundamental shift in the policy responses to tackling joblessness. To stem the contagion effect and its outsized social and economic impact, fiscal policy can be designed around two criteria for successful disease intervention—preparedness and prevention. The paper examines how a job guarantee proposal uniquely meets those two requirements. It is a policy response whose merits include much more than its macroeconomic stabilization features, as discussed in the literature. It is, in a sense, a method of inoculation against the vile effects of unemployment. The paper discusses several preventative features of the program.
Falling Labor Force Participation
One-Pager No. 53 | February 2017
Demographics or Lack of Jobs?
Aging demographics, “social shifts,” and other supply-side and institutional factors have commonly been blamed for the fall in the US labor force participation rate. However, depressed labor force participation for prime-age workers is likely due to a combination of insufficient aggregate demand, weak job creation, and stagnant wages—all of which have been persistent problems over the past three or four decades. Although insufficient aggregate demand is the main problem, general “Keynesian” pump priming is not the answer. Stimulus needs to take the form of targeted job creation to tighten labor markets for less-skilled workers.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Flavia Dantas L. Randall Wray
Full Employment: Are We There Yet?
Public Policy Brief No. 142, 2017 | February 2017
Flavia Dantas and L. Randall Wray argue that the emerging conventional wisdom—that the US economy has reached full employment—is flawed. The unemployment rate is not providing an accurate picture of the health of the labor market, and the common narrative attributing shrinking labor force engagement to aging demographics is overstated. Instead, falling prime-age participation rates are the symptom of a structural inadequacy of aggregate demand—a problem of insufficient job creation and stagnant incomes that conventional public policy remedies have been unable to address. The solution to our long-running secular stagnation requires targeted, direct job creation for those at the bottom of the income scale.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Flavia Dantas L. Randall Wray
Policy Note 2015/7 | November 2015
Demographic Trends in US Labor Force Participation
US labor force participation has continued to fall in the wake of the Great Recession. Improvements in the US unemployment rate reflect the fact that more people are falling out of the labor force, not a stronger labor market. Controlling for changes in the demographic makeup of the workforce (i.e., gender, age, education, and race), Research Scholar Fernando Rios-Avila investigates trends in labor force participation across and within groups between 1989 and 2013. He finds that not all groups have lost ground equally, while participation rates for some groups have actually increased. Understanding these patterns in labor force participation is a necessary first step toward crafting effective policy responses.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Responding to the Unemployment Challenge: A Job Guarantee Proposal for Greece—An Addendum
Research Project Report, May 2015 | May 2015This addendum to our June 2014 report, “Responding to the Unemployment Challenge: A Job Guarantee Proposal for Greece,” updates labor market data through 2014Q3 and identifies emerging employment and unemployment trends. The overarching aim of the report, the outcome of a study undertaken in 2013 by the Levy Institute in collaboration with the Observatory of Economic and Social Developments of the Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour, is to provide policymakers and the general public research-based evidence of the macroeconomic and employment effects of a large-scale direct job creation program in Greece, and to invite critical rethinking of the austerity-driven macro policy instituted in 2010 as a condition of the loans made to Greece by its eurozone partners.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
When a Rising Tide Sinks Most Boats
Policy Note 2015/4 | March 2015
Trends in US Income InequalityIn the postwar period, with every subsequent expansion, a smaller and smaller share of the gains in income growth have gone to the bottom 90 percent of families. Worse, in the latest expansion, while the economy has grown and average real income has recovered from its 2008 lows, all of the growth has gone to the wealthiest 10 percent of families, and the income of the bottom 90 percent has fallen. Most Americans have not felt that they have been part of the expansion. We have reached a situation where a rising tide sinks most boats. This policy note provides a broader overview of the increasingly unequal distribution of income growth during expansions, examines some of the changes that occurred from 2012 to 2013, and identifies a disturbing business cycle trend. It also suggests that policy must go beyond the tax system if we are serious about reversing the drastic worsening of income inequality.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
After Austerity: Measuring the Impact of a Job Guarantee Policy for Greece
Public Policy Brief No. 138, 2014 | October 2014To mobilize Greece’s severely underemployed labor potential and confront the social and economic dangers of persistent unemployment, we propose the immediate implementation of a direct public benefit job creation program—a Greek “New Deal.” The Job Guarantee (JG) program would offer the unemployed jobs, at a minimum wage, on work projects providing public goods and services. This policy would have substantial positive economic impacts in terms of output and employment, and when newly accrued tax revenue is taken into account, which substantially reduces the net cost of the program, it makes for a comparatively modest fiscal stimulus. At a net cost of roughly 1 percent to 1.2 percent of GDP (depending on the wage level offered), a midrange JG program featuring the direct creation of 300,000 jobs has the potential to reduce the unemployed population by a third or more, once indirect employment effects are taken into account. And our research indicates that the policy would do all this while reducing Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio—which leaves little room for excuses.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Responding to the Unemployment Challenge: A Job Guarantee Proposal for Greece
Research Project Report, April 2014 | June 2014
This report presents the findings from a study undertaken by the Levy Institute in 2013 in collaboration with the Observatory of Economic and Social Developments of the Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour. It uses as background the 2011 Levy Institute study “Direct Job Creation for Turbulent Times in Greece,” which focused on the need for direct job creation to address rising unemployment. The focus in this report, however, is different. Here, the aim is to make available to policymakers and the broader public research-based evidence of the macroeconomic and employment effects of a large-scale program of direct job creation program—a cost-effective and proven policy response. The ultimate goal of this undertaking is to draw urgently needed attention to the worsening levels of unemployment in Greece, and to invite critical rethinking of the austerity-driven macro policy instituted in 2010.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
A Decade of Flat Wages?
Policy Note 2014/4 | June 2014In the late 1990s low unemployment rates, increases in the minimum wage, and improvements in labor productivity contributed to a boost in wages, which translated into 12.4 percent cumulative growth in real wages from the late ‘90s until 2002. Real wages then stagnated despite continued growth in labor productivity. This period between 2002 and 2013 has become known as the decade of flat wages. However, over the same period there were significant changes in the composition of the labor market. In particular, the labor force has aged and become more educated. Increases in age, experience, and education could in fact be propping up observed real wages—meaning that wages of workers with a specific age and education profile may have actually declined over the decade. This is exactly what we uncover in this policy note: what appears to have been a decade of flat real wages was actually a decade of declining real wages within age/education worker profiles.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Fernando Rios-Avila Julie L. Hotchkiss
Hierarchy of Ideals in Market Interactions
Working Paper No. 779 | November 2013
An Application to the Labor Market
This paper argues that a hierarchy of ideals exists in market interactions that sets the benchmark on the norm of fairness associated with these interactions, thus affecting pricing decisions associated with market exchange. As norms emerge, an ideal determines the criteria of optimal behavior and serves as a basis for market exchange. Norms homogenize the diversity of commodities in market interactions according to a hierarchy of norms and values. The paper then goes on to illustrate how this hierarchy of ideals works in the labor market, leading to inequality of access to jobs and wages between groups of individuals. Groups socially perceived to be diverging from the context-dependent dominant ideal are likely to suffer most in market interactions.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Aurélie Charles
Current Prospects for the Greek Economy
Research Project Report, October 18, 2012 | October 2012
Interim ReportIn this interim report, we discuss the evolution of major macroeconomic variables for the Greek economy, focusing in particular on the sources of growth before and after the euro era, the causes and consequences of the continuing recession, and the likely results of the policies currently being implemented. Some preliminary suggestions for alternative policies are included. These alternatives will be tested in a more robust econometric framework in a subsequent report.
Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Dimitri B. Papadimitriou Gennaro Zezza Vincent Duwicquet
Direct Job Creation for Turbulent Times in Greece
Research Project Report, November 30, 2011 | November 2011
Countries in crisis round the world face the daunting task of dealing with abrupt increases in unemployment and associated deepening poverty. Greece, in the face of her sovereign debt crisis, has been hit the hardest. Remediating employment policies, including workweek reductions and employment subsidies, abound but have failed to answer the call satisfactorily. Direct public-service job creation, instead, enables communities to mitigate risks and vulnerabilities that rise especially in turbulent times by actively transforming their own economic and social environment.
With underwriting from the Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Workers, the Levy Economics Institute was instrumental in the design and implementation of a social works program of direct job creation throughout Greece. Two-year projects, funded from European Structural Funds, have begun.
This report traces the economic trends preceding and surrounding the economic crisis in Greece, with particular emphasis on recent labor market trends and emerging gaps in social safety net coverage. While its primary focus is identifying the needs in Greece, broader lessons for direct job creation are highlighted, and could be applied to countries entertaining targeted employment creation as a means to alleviate social strains during crisis periods.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Not Your Father's Recession
One-Pager No. 12 | August 2011President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Research Scholar Greg Hannsgen make the case that the recession has turned into a prolonged and very unusual slump in growth, preventing a labor-market recovery—and the government lags far behind in creating the new jobs needed to deal with this disaster.
Investing in Social Care Delivery
One-Pager No. 11 | August 2011There is little mystery to explaining our current high levels of unemployment. The Bureau of Economic Analysis recently revised its figures on GDP growth, and revealed that not only was the recession worse than we realized, but recent growth rates have been overstated as well. The hole, in other words, was deeper than we thought, and we have been climbing out of it at a slower pace. Simply put, the economy has failed to recover to the point where it can be expected to generate sufficient job growth. In the event that Congress should turn its attention away from the (so far) purely notional dangers of rising debt levels and back toward the immediate and tangible jobs crisis, it might consider a solution that has been overlooked so far: job creation through social care investment.
Will the Recovery Continue?
One-Pager No. 10 | June 2011With quantitative easing winding down and the latest payroll tax-cut measures set to expire at the end of this year, pressing questions loom about the current state of the US economic recovery and its ability to sustain itself in the absence of support from monetary and fiscal policy.
Did Problems with SSDI Cause the Output-Jobs Disconnect?
One-Pager No. 9 | May 2011
The slow recovery of the job market after the recessions of 2001 and 2007–09 has fostered concerns that the link between output growth and job creation has been severed. Between 2000 and 2010, the employment rate for males plunged from 71.9 to 63.7 percent—a decline that can be accounted for almost entirely by a fall in the employment rate for the disabled members of this group.
Research Scholar Greg Hannsgen examines whether the Great Recession disproportionately affected the job prospects of disabled workers, and whether the long-run fall in employment among the disabled can be blamed largely on the design of Social Security disability insurance. His findings? At least since 2008, the ongoing fall in the probability of being employed has strongly affected the job prospects of both the disabled and the nondisabled, and the accelerated declines since 2007 hint at an important, and negative, role for the recent recession. Hence, a government jobs initiative such as an employer-of-last-resort program, and not just long-term improvements in entitlement programs, is still very much apropos.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Will the Recovery Continue?
Public Policy Brief No. 118, 2011 | April 2011
Four Fragile Markets, Four Years Later
In this brief, Research Scholar Greg Hannsgen and President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou focus on the risks and possibilities ahead for the US economy. Using a Keynesian approach and drawing from the commentary of other observers, they analyze publicly available data in order to assess the strength and durability of the expansion that probably began in 2009. They focus on four broad groups of markets that have shown signs of stress for the last several years: financial markets, markets for household goods and services, commodity markets, and labor markets. This kind of analysis does not yield numerical forecasts but it can provide important clues about the short-term outlook for the country’s economic well-being, and cast light on some longer-run threats. In particular, dangers and stresses in the financial and banking systems are presently very serious, and labor market data show every sign of a widespread and severe weakness in aggregate demand. Unless there is new resolve for effective government action on the jobs front, drastic cuts in much-needed federal, state, and local programs will become the order of the day in the United States, as in much of Europe.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Labor-market Performance in the OECD
Working Paper No. 559 | April 2009
An Assessment of Recent Evidence
In this paper we assess the evolution of labor-market performance in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) over the last decade. We provide a survey of the literature dealing with labor-market performance in the OECD, finding that, while this literature tends to conclude that institutions are a key part of the story, the survey’s results appear far less robust and uniform than is commonly believed. We then assess the robustness of the claims made in the most recent (2005) OECD follow-up study within a very similar cross-country setup, and highlight the impact of unobserved heterogeneity and outliers on the policy estimates. We find that in recent OECD cross-country data, changes in labor-market performance are consistently (and inversely) linked to its lagged level. Structural changes are also important: changes in the share of construction employees are very significant, even in the presence of various kinds of policy change indicators. As far as the latter are concerned, some consistent role seems to emerge only for active labor-market policies and (to a lesser extent) unemployment benefit reforms.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Sergio Destefanis Giuseppe Mastromatteo