This paper documents state dependence in labor market fluctuations. Using a Threshold Vector-Autoregression model, we establish that the unemployment rate, the job separation rate and the job finding rate exhibit a larger response to productivity shocks during periods with low aggregate productivity. A Diamond-Mortensen-Pissarides model with endogenous job separation and on-the-job search replicates these empirical regularities well. The transition rates into and out of employment embed state dependence through the interaction of reservation productivity levels and the distribution of match-specific idiosyncratic productivity. State dependence implies that the effect of labor market reforms is different across phases of the business cycle. A permanent removal of layoff taxes is welfare enhancing in the long run, but it involves distinct short-run costs depending on the initial state of the economy. The welfare gain of a tax removal implemented in a low-productivity state is 4.9 percent larger than the same reform enacted in a state with high aggregate productivity.
Keywords: Search and Matching Models; State Dependence in Business Cycles; Threshold Vector Autoregression
Views expressed in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Bank of Japan or Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies.