Our website will undergo scheduled maintenance on the morning of Thursday, August 11, 2022. During this time, connection to our website and some of its features may be unavailable. Thank you for your patience and we apologize for any inconvenience.

Working Paper

Labor market polarization over the business cycle

Abstract: One of the most important long-run trends in the U.S. labor market is polarization, defined as the relative growth of employment in high-skill jobs (such as management and technical positions) and low-skill jobs (such as food-service and janitorial work) amid the concurrent decline in middle-skill jobs (such as clerical, construction, manufacturing, and retail occupations). Middle-skill job losses typically result from outsourcing labor to lower-wage countries or from substituting automated technologies for routine tasks. Economists are now beginning to study how long-run polarization might be related to short-run business cycles, but doing so requires the construction of quarterly datasets with consistent occupational data over long periods of time. The authors of this paper construct a new dataset of occupational employment and unemployment that extends from 1947:Q3 to 2013:Q4. Using this dataset, along with more-recent individual-level data from the Current Population Survey, the authors study how recessions typically affect employment in various occupations, what employment alternatives are available to middle-skill workers who become unemployed, and whether the ongoing erosion of middle-skill job opportunities is related to long-term declines in labor force participation among men.

JEL Classification: E24; J22; J23; J24; J62; J63; J64;

Access Documents

File(s): File format is application/pdf http://www.bostonfed.org/economic/wp/wp2014/wp1416.pdf
Description: Full text


Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Part of Series: Working Papers

Publication Date: 2014-12-26

Number: 14-16

Pages: 72 pages