Econometrica: Jan 2008, Volume 76, Issue 1

Two Questions about European Unemployment

DOI: 10.1111/j.0012-9682.2008.00816.x
p. 1-29

Lars Ljungqvist, Thomas J. Sargent

A general equilibrium search model makes layoff costs affect the aggregate unemployment rate in ways that depend on equilibrium proportions of frictional and structural unemployment that in turn depend on the generosity of government unemployment benefits and skill losses among newly displaced workers. The model explains how, before the 1970s, lower flows into unemployment gave Europe lower unemployment rates than the United States and also how, after 1980, higher durations have kept unemployment rates in Europe persistently higher than in the United States. These outcomes arise from the way Europe's higher firing costs and more generous unemployment compensation make its unemployment rate respond to bigger skill losses among newly displaced workers. Those bigger skill losses also explain why U.S. workers have experienced more earnings volatility since 1980 and why, especially among older workers, hazard rates of gaining employment in Europe now fall sharply with increases in the duration of unemployment.

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