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Jacks of All Trades and Masters of One: Declining Search Frictions and Unequal Growth

Staff Report 613 | Published September 23, 2020

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Jacks of All Trades and Masters of One: Declining Search Frictions and Unequal Growth

Abstract

Declining search frictions generate productivity growth by allowing workers to find jobs for which they are better suited. The return of declining search frictions on productivity varies across different types of workers. For workers who are "jacks of all trades" in the sense that their productivity is nearly independent from the distance between their skills and the requirements of their job—declining search frictions lead to minimal productivity growth. For workers who are "masters of one trade" in the sense that their productivity is very sensitive to the gap between their individual skills and the requirements of their job—declining search frictions lead to fast productivity growth. As predicted by this view, we find that workers in routine occupations have low wage dispersion and growth, while workers in non-routine occupations have high wage dispersion and growth.