The book focuses on the labor wedge that arises when the marginal rate of substitution between consumption and leisure does not equal the marginal product of labor. According to competitive models of the labor market, the labor wedge should be constant and equal to the labor income tax rate. But in U.S. data, the wedge is strongly countercyclical, making it seem as if recessions are periods when workers are dissuaded from working and firms are dissuaded from hiring because of an increase in the labor income tax rate. When job searches are time consuming and wages are flexible, search frictions--the cost of a job search--act like labor adjustment costs, further exacerbating inconsistencies between the competitive model and data. The book shows that wage rigidities can reconcile the search model with the data, providing a quantitatively more accurate depiction of labor markets, consumption, and investment dynamics.
Developing detailed search and matching models, Labor Markets and Business Cycles will be the main reference for those interested in the intersection of labor market dynamics and business cycle research.
Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.
Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.