Creator: Bils, Mark, Klenow, Peter J., and Malin, Benjamin A. Series: Staff report (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Department) Number: 516 Abstract:
Employment and hours appear far more cyclical than dictated by the behavior of productivity and consumption. This puzzle has been called “the labor wedge” — a cyclical intratemporal wedge between the marginal product of labor and the marginal rate of substitution of consumption for leisure. The intratemporal wedge can be broken into a product market wedge (price markup) and a labor market wedge (wage markup). Based on the wages of employees, the literature has attributed the intratemporal wedge almost entirely to labor market distortions. Because employee wages may be smoothed versions of the true cyclical price of labor, we instead examine the self-employed and intermediate inputs, respectively. Looking at the past quarter century in the United States, we find that price markup movements are at least as important as wage markup movements — including during the Great Recession and its aftermath. Thus, sticky prices and other forms of countercyclical markups deserve a central place in business cycle research, alongside sticky wages and matching frictions.
Keyword: Business cycles, Labor wedge, Price markups, and Wage markups Subject (JEL): E32 - Business Fluctuations; Cycles and E24 - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
Creator: Anderson, Eric, Malin, Benjamin A., Nakamura, Emi, Simester, Duncan, and Steinsson, Jón, 1976- Series: Staff report (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Department) Number: 513 Abstract:
We use unique price data to study how retailers react to underlying cost changes. Temporary sales account for 95% of price changes in our data. Simple models would, therefore, suggest that temporary sales play a central role in price responses to cost shocks. We find, however, that, in response to a wholesale cost increase, the entire increase in retail prices comes through regular price increases. Sales actually respond temporarily in the opposite direction from regular prices, as though to conceal the price hike. Additional evidence from responses to commodity cost and local unemployment shocks, as well as broader evidence from BLS data reinforces these findings. We present institutional evidence that sales are complex contingent contracts, determined substantially in advance. We show theoretically that these institutional practices leave little money “on the table”: in a price-discrimination model of sales, dynamically adjusting the size of sales yields only a tiny increase in profits.
Keyword: Retail Sales, Trade Deals , and Regular Retail Prices Subject (JEL): L11 - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms, M30 - Marketing and Advertising: General, and E30 - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles: General (includes Measurement and Data)