Òscar Jordà, Chitra Marti, Fernanda Nechio, and Eric Tallman
A hot economy eventually boosts inflation. Such is the simple wisdom of the Phillips curve. Yet inflation across developed countries has been remarkably weak since the 2008 global financial crisis, even though unemployment rates are near historical lows. What is behind this recent disconnect between inflation and unemployment? Contrasting the experiences of developed and developing economies before and after the financial crisis shows that broader factors than monetary policy are at play. Inflation has declined globally, and this trend preceded the financial crisis.
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We study the implications of automation for labor market fluctuations in a Diamond-Mortensen-Pissarides (DMP) framework that is generalized to incorporate automation decisions. If a job opening is not filled with a worker, a firm can choose to automate that position and use a robot instead of a worker to produce output. The threat of automation strengthens the firm's bargaining power against job seekers in wage negotiations, depressing equilibrium real wages in a business cycle boom. The option of automation also increases the value of a vacancy, raising the incentive for job creation, and thereby amplifying fluctuations in vacancies and unemployment relative to the standard DMP framework. Since automation improves labor productivity while muting wage increases, it implies a countercyclical labor income share, as observed in the data.