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The Digest

A free monthly publication featuring non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest
The Tight US Labor Market: Missing Hours, Missing Workers working paper 30833 figure
A defining feature of the US economy since 2021 has been the unusual tightness of the labor market. The unemployment rate, currently 3.5 percent, not long ago reached historic lows, while currently about 7 percent of available jobs are unfilled, a historically high level. Labor markets can tighten if labor demand increases or labor supply contracts. In Where Are the Workers? From Great Resignation to Quiet Quitting (NBER Working Paper 30833),...

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The Structure of UI Taxes Affects Firms’ Layoff Decisions Working Paper 30651 Figure
Unemployment insurance (UI) is an important factor in the US labor market. In 2019, more than 5 million Americans received UI benefits. Employer UI taxes are experience rated, which means that when workers claim unemployment benefits, the prospective UI tax rates of the firms that laid them off increase. In Experience Rating as an Automatic Stabilizer (NBER Working Paper 30651), Mark Duggan, Audrey Guo, and Andrew Johnston find that this tax...
The figure is a two-panel bar chart titled, "Cash Transfers and Crop Residue Burning among Punjabi Farmers."   Both panels plot bars associated with farmers receiving upfront, unconditional payments, and farmers receiving payment after verified compliance.   The left hand panel plots the contract compliance rate and ranges from zero to 20 percent. The rate for the upfront-payment group is 18.3 percent, and 8.5 percent for the other.  The right hand panel plots the effect on the nonburning rate, relative to
  In 2015, in an attempt to combat its poor air quality, India banned the burning of agricultural residues. But bans have not worked, and pollution from fires used to clear fields after harvest has continued making the air quality worse. In Money (Not) to Burn: Payments for Ecosystem Services to Reduce Crop Residue Burning (NBER Working Paper 30690), B. Kelsey Jack, Seema Jayachandran, Namrata Kala, and Rohini Pande test an alternative:...
The average US firm spends between 1.3 and 3.3 percent of its total wage bill on regulatory compliance, estimate Francesco Trebbi and Miao Ben Zhang in The Cost of Regulatory Compliance in the United States (NBER Working Paper 30691). This wage bill grew at an annual rate of about 1 percent a year from 2002 to 2014, roughly half of the average annual GDP growth rate over the period. In 2014, the total wage bill devoted to regulatory compliance...
Overtime wages are a core component of labor protections for workers. In Too Many Managers: The Strategic Use of Titles to Avoid Overtime Payments (NBER Working Paper 30826), Lauren Cohen, Umit Gurun, and Naim Bugra Ozel find that some firms avoid paying overtime by giving managerial titles to employees whose jobs are equivalent to nonmanagerial positions. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, includes a set of overtime...
In 2012, to address rising concerns about the time required to develop vital medications, Congress passed legislation creating the Breakthrough Therapy Designation (BTD). To qualify for this designation, proposed drugs must treat serious conditions and fill unmet needs, and pharmaceutical companies must provide substantial preliminary evidence that the new drugs represent major advances over existing therapies. Firms submit their BTD request after completing Phase I or II...
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