Journal of Labor Research

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 433-454

First online:

Discouraging Workers: Estimating the Impacts of Macroeconomic Shocks on the Search Intensity of the Unemployed

  • Stephen B. DeLoachAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, Elon University Email author 
  • , Mark KurtAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, Elon University

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Discouraged and marginally attached workers have received increasing attention from policy makers over the past several years. Through slackness in the labor market, periods of high unemployment should reduce the likelihood of receiving a job offer and thus create more discouraged workers. However, the existing literature generally fails to find evidence of such pro-cyclicality in search intensity. Surprisingly, search appears to be acyclical. We hypothesize the observed acyclicality may be the result of coarse measurement of search intensity in previous studies and the failure to account for changes in individuals’ wealth across the business cycle. In this paper we use daily time use dairies from the American Time Use Survey 2003–2011 to examine the cyclicality of search intensity to explain this apparent contradiction between theory and data. Results indicate that workers do reduce their search in response to deteriorating labor market conditions, but these effects appear to be offset by the positive effects on search that are correlated with declines in household wealth.


Search intensity Housing prices Discouraged workers Business cycles
JEL codes J2 J6 J1 E24 E32