NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Labor Market Slack and Monetary Policy

David G. Blanchflower, Andrew T. Levin

NBER Working Paper No. 21094
Issued in April 2015
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies, Monetary Economics

In the wake of a severe recession and a sluggish recovery, labor market slack cannot be gauged solely in terms of the conventional measure of the unemployment rate (that is, the number of individuals who are not working at all and actively searching for a job). Rather, assessments of the employment gap should reflect the incidence of underemployment (that is, people working part time who want a full-time job) and the extent of hidden unemployment (that is, people who are not actively searching but who would rejoin the workforce if the job market were stronger). In this paper, we examine the evolution of U.S. labor market slack and show that underemployment and hidden unemployment currently account for the bulk of the U.S. employment gap. Next, using state-level data, we find strong statistical evidence that each of these forms of labor market slack exerts significant downward pressure on nominal wages. Finally, we consider the monetary policy implications of the employment gap in light of prescriptions from Taylor-style benchmark rules.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21094

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