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July/August 2005, 
Vol. 87, No. 4
Posted 2005-07-01

The Cyclicality of Hires, Separations, and Job-to-Job Transitions

by Robert Shimer

This article measures the job-finding, separation, and job-to-job transition rates in the United States from 1948 to 2004. The job-finding and job-to-job transition rates are strongly procyclical and the separation rate is nearly acyclical, especially since 1985. The author develops a simple model in which unemployed workers search for jobs and employed workers search for better jobs. The model predicts that an increase in either the job-finding rate or the separation rate raises the job-to-job transition rate, which is qualitatively and quantitatively consistent with the available evidence. In contrast, if the job-finding rate were acyclical and the separation rate countercyclical, as is the conventional wisdom, the model predicts that the job-to-job transition rate would be counterfactually countercyclical.