Monday, August 26, 2013

More on Unemployment Duration and Emergency Unemployment Insurance

Average unemployment duration always increases with age. In the previous post, I found that this recession caused an unusual amount of extra unemployment duration among the older age groups.  I thought that I might be able to further estimate the effect of EUI on unemployment by using the ratio of Duration/UNRATE.  Basically, this is a rough measure of how much variance there is among the durations of unemployed workers. If most workers get a new job within a few weeks, this number will be low.  But, if some workers get a job in a few weeks while others take months, then this ratio will be higher.

The results are somewhat inconclusive.  First, as an explanation, this ratio has a somewhat funny behavior, because when unemployment first kicks up, the ratio decreases, since many newly unemployed workers bring down the average duration.  After unemployment peaks, the ratio grows, as the number of newly unemployed workers declines relative to the existing pool of unemployed workers.

This recession does show very high variance of duration behavior in every age group.  But, I don't think this would count as evidence of EUI effects because, (1) it is difficult to compare the ratio over time on an absolute scale because many factors, such as structural impediments to reemployment, the amount of churn in the labor market and the rate of change in the unemployment rate will effect the dynamics of it; and (2) if EUI were a factor in the recent recession, I would have expected the effect to be more pronounced in the older age groups, since they naturally start with a higher average duration, and would be relatively more affected by insurance over 26 weeks.

But, I can imagine other interpretations.

I will point out that for economists who argue that unemployment is mainly an aggregate demand problem, I would think that the EUI would have to be a prime suspect for the high unemployment durations.

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