Mismatch Cycles

Abstract

This paper studies the dynamics of skill mismatch over the business cycle. We build a tractable directed search model, in which workers differ in skills along multiple dimensions and sort into jobs with heterogeneous skill requirements along those dimensions. Skill mismatch arises due to information and labor market frictions. Estimated to the U.S., the model replicates salient business cyclic properties of mismatch. We show that job transitions in and out of bottom job rungs, combined with career mobility of workers, are important to account for the empirical behavior of mismatch. The predicted career dynamics provide a novel narrative for the scarring effect of unemployment. The model suggests significant welfare costs associated with mismatch due to learning frictions.