Notes and Contributions: The lack of wage growth and the falling NAIRU

In this note, we argue that a considerable part of the explanation for the benign wage growth in the advanced world is the rise in underemployment. In the years after 2008 the unemployment rate understates labour market slack. Underemployment is more important than unemployment in explaining the weakness of wage growth in the UK. The Phillips curve in the UK has now to be rewritten into wage underemployment space. Underemployment now enters wage equations while the unemployment rate does not. There is every reason to believe that the NAIRU has fallen sharply since the Great Recession.

The Lack of Wage Growth and the Falling NAIRU

There remains a puzzle around the world over why wage growth is so benign given the unemployment rate has returned to pre-recession levels. It is our contention that a considerable part of the explanation is the rise in underemployment which rose in the Great Recession but has not returned to pre-recession levels even though the unemployment rate has. Involuntary part- time employment rose in every advanced country and remains elevated in many in 2018.

Underemployment and the lack of wage pressure in the UK (Notes and Contributions, National Institute Economic Review February 2018)

In this note, we focus on underemployment as a potential cause of lower wage growth, which itself may have deeper causes, but which has, we would argue, demonstrably changed since the 2008 recession. The gap between our measures of the number of additional hours required by those who want more hours and the number who want less has narrowed recently. Neither have returned to their pre-recession levels. In our view, underemployment remains a major factor in explaining the 2 per cent wage norm that continues to exist in the UK.