Discussion paper

DP10814 Unemployment (Fears) and Deflationary Spirals

The interaction of incomplete markets and sticky nominal wages is shown to magnify business cycles even though these two features ? in isolation ? dampen them. During recessions, fears of unemployment stir up precautionary sentiments which induces agents to save more. The additional savings may be used as investments in both a productive asset (equity) and an unproductive asset (money). But even a small rise in money demand has important consequences. The desire to hold money puts deflationary pressure on the economy, which, provided that nominal wages are sticky, increases wage costs and reduces firm profits. Lower profits repress the desire to save in equity, which increases (the fear of) unemployment, and so on. This is a powerful mechanism which causes the model to behave differently from both its complete markets version, and a version with incomplete markets but without aggregate uncertainty. In contrast to previous results in the literature, agents uniformly prefer non-trivial levels of unemployment insurance.


Den Haan, W, P Rendahl and M Riegler (2015), ‘DP10814 Unemployment (Fears) and Deflationary Spirals‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 10814. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp10814