2016-04 | March 2016
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The Intensive and Extensive Margins of Real Wage Adjustment
Using 35 years of data from the Current Population Survey we decompose fluctuations in real median weekly earnings growth into the part driven by movements in the intensive margin-wage growth of individuals continuously full-time employed-and movements in the extensive margin-wage differences of those moving into and out of full-time employment. The relative importance of these two margins varies significantly over the business cycle. When labor markets are tight, continuously full-time employed workers drive wage growth. During labor market downturns, the procyclicality of the intensive margin is largely offset by net exits out of full-time employment among workers with lower earnings. This leads aggregate real wages to be largely acyclical. Most of the extensive margin effect works through the part-time employment margin. Notably, the unemployment margin accounts for little of the variation or cyclicality of median weekly earnings growth.
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