Date of Graduation

5-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Economics (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Economics

Advisor

Fabio Mendez

Committee Member

Jingping Gu

Second Committee Member

Andrea Civelli

Abstract

The behavior of several important macroeconomic variables has changed dramatically over the past several business cycles in the U.S. These changes, which began around the mid-1980s, have been viewed as somewhat puzzling given the stark contrast they exhibit to earlier post-war data. The movement of output and employment has historically been highly correlated throughout the different phases of the business cycle. However, this changed with the economic recovery of 1991. Since then, periods of output recovery have been accompanied by periods of prolonged job loss. These periods have come to be known as "jobless recoveries". Several competing explanations for this phenomenon have come forth, however, all face similar limitations. To date, there has been no method presented to quantify a period of jobless recovery. This makes comparisons across business cycles difficult and also prevents formal statistical testing of the proposed explanations. This study creates a meaningful measure of a jobless recovery which can be used to test these hypotheses. Furthermore, jobless recoveries have only been studied using the national aggregate data. This neglects potentially valuable information which may exist in the cross-section between states. Using the jobless recovery measure, a state-level empirical analysis is conducted to determine which, if any, of the existing explanations of jobless recoveries are supported by the data. It has also been noted that the growth of output has experienced dramatic changes over roughly the same period. The broad decline in the volatility of output since the mid-1980s, named the Great Moderation, has become the subject of a large literature. However, the literature has examined mostly data at the national-level. Using a proxy of quarterly output, this paper provides state-level evidence of the Great Moderation and shows that large, cross-state differences exist in the degree to which each state experiences the Great Moderation. Explanations for why the Great Moderation exists in the national data are examined to see how well they explain the observed cross-state differences in the evolution of output volatility.

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