Wage Adjustment in the Great Recession
Using 1979-2011 Current Population Survey data for the United States and 1975-2011 New Earnings Survey data for Great Britain, we study wage behavior in both countries, with particular attention to the Great Recession. Real wages are procyclical in both countries, but the procyclicality of real wages varies across recessions, and does so differently between the two countries. U.S. distributions of year-to-year nominal wage change show many workers reporting zero change (suggesting wage stickiness) and many reporting nominal reductions (suggesting wage flexibility), but both findings could be distorted by reporting error. The British data, which are based on employers’ payroll records, show much lower prevalence of zero wage change, but still show surprisingly frequent nominal wage cuts. The complex constellation of empirical regularities defies explanation by simple theories.
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