Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When job search frictions are good

Generally, frictions in markets are viewed as something to avoid, except in rare cases like when they prevent excessive and damaging volatility. For labor markets in particular, frictions lead to unnecessary delays in matchings, misallocations of talent and higher unemployment. It would be difficult to find an advocate for frictions on the labor markets, unlike for some financial markets.

Well, there are in fact some advocates, such as Andriy Zapechelnyuk and Ro'i Zultan. Their point is that frictions on the labor market are costly for those unemployed, thus the employed will exert extra effort to avoid becoming unemployed. The same applies to employers who dread the cost of an unfilled vacancy and avoid firing workers. While this could leads to misallocations not being dissolved, Zapechelnyuk and Zultan claim that it is possible to find some level of search frictions that is optimal for welfare as long as there is a sufficient level of moral hazard in job search. This means also that higher unemployment benefits could lead to lower productivity for those working as they feel less hard-pressed to perform to avoid losing their job. But keep in mind that these unemployment benefits also allow the unemployed to wait for a better match, so it is really difficult to sort all these effects out without some quantitative exercise, which this paper is unfortunately lacking.

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