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Retraining the Unemployed in a Matching Model with Turbulence

I investigate to what degree differences in retraining opportunities are responsible for the divergence of unemployment rates between the U.S. and Europe since the early 1980s. I provide some evidence for higher retraining rates in the U.S. as compared to Europe and further show that there is tremendous heterogeneity across OECD countries with respect to retraining. In my model, unemployed workers not only search for jobs but also for suitable retraining programs. I find that when it becomes more difficult to find suitable retraining programs, enrollment rates, productivity and the unemployment rate decline. Furthermore, this paper is the first attempt to investigate the role of retraining in economies that are subject to economic turbulences as described by Ljungqvist and Sargent (1998, 2004). Using a similar parametrization as Ljungqvist and Sargent (2004), I find that the generosity of unemployment benefits, the main driving force in their model, is not an important determinant of unemployment, even during tumultuous economic times, if sufficiently good retraining institutions are available. Economies with more flexible retraining institutions adjust better to economic turbulence, and as a result, feature lower unemployment rates and higher productivity and output. My results suggest that differences in retraining opportunities play an important role in explaining cross-country differences in unemployment rates. I thank Robert E. Hall for his generous support and outstanding advice and guidance throughout this project. I further thank Pete Klenow, Narayana Kocherlakota, Masaki Nakabayashi, and Mich`ele Tertilt for helpful discussions.

Felix Reichling
Publication Date
March, 2005