Why Does Trend Growth Affect Equilibrium Employment? A New Explanation of an Old Puzzle

That the employment rate appears to respond to changes in trend growth is an enduring macroeconomic puzzle. This paper shows that, in the presence of a return to experience, a slowdown in productivity growth raises reservation wages, thereby lowering aggregate employment. The paper develops new evidence that shows this mechanism is important for explaining the growth-employment puzzle. The combined effects of changes in aggregate wage growth and returns to experience account for all the increase from 1968 to 2006 in nonemployment among low-skilled men and for approximately half the increase in nonemployment among all men. (JEL E24, J24, J31)