Imagine you’re an employer during a recession, and you desperately need to cut labor costs to keep your firm afloat. Are you more likely to cut wages across the

Imagine you’re an employer during a recession, and you desperately need to cut labor costs to keep your firm afloat. Are you more likely to cut wages across the board for all employees, or institute layoffs for only some?

While it may seem that wage cuts are the “better” choice, they aren’t as common as you might think. Why is that?

To answer that question, this video explores a phenomenon known as “sticky wages.”

In other words, wages have a tendency to get “stuck” and not adjust downwards. This occurs even during a recession, when falling wages would help end the recession more quickly.

However, that’s not to say that wages cannot adjust downward for an individual during a recession. This can happen, but likely only after an employee has been fired from their initial job, and eventually rehired by a different firm at a lower wage rate.

Back to our original question -- why are employers unlikely to cut wages? A big reason has to do with the effect on morale. Employees may become disgruntled and angry when they experience a nominal wage cut, and become less productive.

An important note here -- notice that we said nominal wage cut, meaning, not adjusted for inflation. If an employee receives a 3% raise in nominal wages, they may remain happy in their current position. But what if inflation is 5%? What does this mean for their real wage? (Hint: For an in depth answer to this question check out our earlier Macroeconomics video on “money illusion.”)

Next week we’ll return to our discussion on the AD/AS model for a look at how factors such as “sticky wages” affect the economy in the short run.

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