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How does wage stickiness maintain persistent cyclical unemployment?

Relevant Topics

This question pertains to topics in Macroeconomics, such as Labour Market and Unemployment 


Wage Stickiness: This refers to the resistance of workers' wages to changes in market conditions, resulting in wages not falling in an economic downturn or not increasing rapidly during an economic upturn.

Cyclical Unemployment:
This type of unemployment is caused by a lack of demand in the economy and typically occurs during a recession.

Detailed Explanation

Wage stickiness is a critical factor that can perpetuate cyclical unemployment. During a recession, demand for goods and services drops. Businesses respond by cutting production, which often requires laying off workers. In an entirely flexible wage market, wages would decrease to match the lower demand for labour. However, due to various factors such as minimum wage laws, labour unions, and long-term contracts, wages can be "sticky" and do not fall readily. This stickiness can lead to higher unemployment rates as businesses cannot afford to keep all employees at the existing wage rate.

Wage stickiness, therefore, contributes to persistent cyclical unemployment as employers are not able to reduce wages to meet the downturn in the economy, leading to more layoffs and fewer new hires. Thus, even as the economy begins to recover, the effects of this high unemployment can linger, slowing the speed of economic recovery.


The Great Depression: In the 1930s, the United States faced significant wage stickiness, contributing to the high unemployment rate, which reached 25% at its peak. Despite the severe economic downturn, wages didn't fall as would be expected, contributing to widespread layoffs and business closures.

2008 Global Financial Crisis
: Similarly, in the 2008 financial crisis, wage stickiness was evident. Despite the sharp downturn in the economy, wages remained relatively stable, contributing to the high and persistent unemployment rates in many countries.


Wage stickiness can maintain persistent cyclical unemployment by preventing wages from falling in response to reduced demand for labour during economic downturns. This leads to higher unemployment as firms lay off workers they can't afford to pay at current wage levels. Even as the economy begins to recover, the lingering effects of this high unemployment can slow down economic recovery. Real-world examples include the Great Depression and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

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