Economists have long investigated the cyclical behavior of real wages in order to draw inferences regarding the relative stickiness of prices and wages. Recent studies have adopted techniques intended to identify monetary shocks and examined the response of real wages and output or employment to such shocks. A finding that real wages are procyclical in response to a positive monetary policy shock, for example, is taken as evidence that prices are stickier than wages. In this paper, we show that factors other than wage and price stickiness affect the response of real wages to a monetary policy shock. Accordingly, examining the response of real wages is not enough to sort out the relative stickiness of prices and wages. We use two prominent DSGE models to help us address this issue. These models incorporate both sticky wages and prices but in different ways. The first model (Huang, Liu, and Phaneuf, American Economic Review, 2004) is relatively simple and is not intended for policy analysis. Its relative simplicity allows us to approach the issues both analytically and through simulations. The second model (Smets and Wouters, American Economic Review, 2007) is a relatively complex model of the U.S. economy with many frictions and intended to be useful for policy analysis. Because of its complexity, we must rely principally on simulation exercises. Using these models we offer robust evidence that the real wage response to monetary policy is affected in important ways by properties of the economy other than stickiness of wages and prices, such as the importance of intermediate goods in the production process and the size of key elasticities. Consequently, we cannot appropriately infer the relative stickiness of wages and prices from examining only the response of real wages to a monetary policy shock.
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