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Cost and Price Movements in Business Cycle Theories and Experience: Hypotheses of Sticky Wages and Prices (SEE ALSO WP3132-send out together)

Victor Zarnowitz

NBER Working Paper No. 3131
Issued in October 1989
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth

In the post-World War II period, wage and price levels reacted much less to business contractions than they did in earlier times. Inflation prevailed and its persistence increased. The contractions themselves became relatively short and mild. All these developments have some common roots in the major structural, institutional, and policy changes of the era. This paper takes a look at the assumptions concerning wage and price behavior in types of contemporary macroeconomic theories and their implications for the analysis of the business cycle. The various hypotheses of real and nominal "rigidities" are then related to each other and to alternative theories of how markets clear. Long-term stable wage and price arrangements or contracts have important equilibrium aspects that are consistent with high degrees of competition; or, to put it differently, there are good reasons for market clearing by nonprice mechanisms. Further, imperfections of competition, information, and markets make some stickiness of wages and prices inevitable. Changes in relative prices and costs, productivity, and profitability play an important role in the process of propagation of business cycles.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w3131

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