The Ins and Outs of Cyclical Unemployment

Mike Elsby, Ryan Michaels, Gary Solon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A dominant trend in recent modeling of labor market fluctuations is to treat unemployment inflows as acyclical. This trend has been encouraged by recent influential papers that stress the role of longer unemployment spells, rather than more unemployment spells, in accounting for recessionary unemployment. After reviewing an empirical literature going back several decades, we apply a convenient log change decomposition to Current Population Survey data to characterize rising unemployment in each postwar recession. We conclude that a complete understanding of cyclical unemployment requires an explanation of countercyclical inflow rates, especially for job losers (layoffs), as well as procyclical outflow rates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 84-110
JournalAmerican Economic Journal: Macroeconomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • E24
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