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Why labour markets don't clear

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This post originally appeared on Pieria in July 2014. 

Roger Farmer has a blogpost in which he shows that labour markets don’t clear. Specifically, employment varies with the business cycle, whereas the labour force participation rate and hours worked only show long-term secular trends. During cyclical downturns, therefore, we must conclude that there is more labour available than there are jobs.

New Keynesians say that the reason for this is sticky wages. If only nominal wages could fall enough,the market would clear and there would be no cyclical increase in unemployment. Therefore there should be labour market deregulation so that wages can flex with the business cycle. Roger Farmer questions this: he argues that the market simply does not clear at any wage.

I disagree. I think the market does clear – when wages fall to starvation level. Humans need a minimum income to sustain life, but employers have no responsibility for ensuring that the remuneration of employees meets that …