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Unemployment and Economic Welfare

David Andolfatto () and Paul Gomme ()

No 99002, Working Papers from University of Waterloo, Department of Economics

Abstract: Statistics that measure labor market activity, such as employment and unemployment, are often interpreted in the press and by politicians as measures of economic performance and social well-being. Discussions that focus on cross-country comparisons of unemployment, for example, seem to be based without exception on the premise that unemployment represents a social and economic ill, so that less of it is generally to be preferred. The purpose of this note is to demonstrate that some care should be exercised when constructing a map between labor market behavior and economic welfare and that, generally speaking, such interpretations are not justified in the absence of information concerning the economic circumstances that determine individual labor market choices.

Date: 1999-01, Revised 1999-01
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