December 2011

Aggregate Hours Worked in OECD Countries: New Measurement and Implications for Business Cycles

Lee E. Ohanian and Andrea Raffo


We build a dataset of quarterly hours worked for 14 OECD countries. We document that hours are as volatile as output, that a large fraction of labor adjustment takes place along the intensive margin, and that the volatility of hours relative to output has increased over time. We use these data to reassess the Great Recession and prior recessions. The Great Recession in many countries is a puzzle in that labor wedges are small, while those in the U.S. Great Recession - and those in previous European recessions - are much larger.

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Keywords: Hours worked, great recession, labor wedge

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Last Update: July 10, 2020