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Explaining Changes in Earnings and Labour Costs During the Recession

Adele Bergin (), Elish Kelly and Seamus McGuinness ()

No EC9, Papers from Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)

Abstract: This paper utilises data from the National Employment Surveys to analyse movements in both earnings and labour costs during the period 2006 through to 2009. It finds that, despite an unprecedented fall in output and rise in unemployment, both average earnings and average labour costs increased marginally over the period. Although some factors, such as a rise in the incidence of part-time working and falls in construction employment, served to depress wages, these influences were more than outweighed by increases in both the share of and returns to graduate employment and a rising return to large firm employment. This analysis suggests that a good deal of the downward wage rigidity observed within Irish private sector employment since the onset of the recession has largely been driven by factors consistent with continued productivity growth. Nevertheless, particularly within the male labour market, a substantial proportion of the movements in wages cannot be explained by changes in either labour market composition or the returns to individual/job characteristics. The large unexplained component in the data is attributed to a general reluctance of firms to cut wages in order to avoid productivity losses associated with worker dissatisfaction or higher rates of labour turnover. In support of this view, the study demonstrates that firms will adopt strategies such as reducing staff numbers, hours worked and bonus payments, in preference to reducing wages.

Keywords: cost/recession/data/employment/unemployment/wages/Productivity/growth/labour; market (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-bec, nep-hme, nep-lab, nep-lma and nep-mac
Date: 2012-04
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