Economists increasingly turn to real-time jobs data for a fresh view of controversial topics, including upskilling, the impact of credit scores on employment, and the “ban the box” movement on criminal records. At the American Economic Association conference in Chicago this past weekend, no fewer than four papers cited Burning Glass data.
Real-time jobs data draws on job postings collected from the Internet. By applying Big Data analysis and natural-language technology, real-time labor data provides a detailed view of what employers are looking for in the job market, a view that’s both faster and more granular than other sources of labor information. All of these papers made use of the Burning Glass database of more than 600 million historical job postings.
Credit scores in hiring: “No More Credit Score Employer Credit Check Banks and Signal Substitution,” by Daniel Shoag and Robert Clifford, looks at the practice of using credit checks as part of the hiring process. Eleven states have banned the practice as discriminatory. The paper found that the bans did increase employment for those with lower credit scores, particularly in higher-paying jobs and the public sector. However, the paper also used Burning Glass data to show that employers in those states raised the bar for other qualifications like education or experience. When that is factored in, the authors found the people the bans were designed to help may have actually fared worse in the job market.
Ban the box: Another paper by Shoag and Stan Veuger, “No Woman No Crime: Ban the Box, Employment, and Upskilling,” looks at the impact of restricting criminal background checks in hiring. The paper found that “banning the box” raised employment in some high-crime neighborhoods by as much as 4%, but that employers often raised experience requirements in job ads as a response.
Upskilling: “Do employers demand greater skill when skilled workers are plentiful?“, issued by the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, used Burning Glass data to conclude that employers raised the bar for hiring when unemployment was high during the Great Recession. The increase was greatest in states and occupations where there were the greatest number of surplus workers—meaning that employers could pick and choose. The paper was authored by Alicia Sasser Modestino, Shoag, and Joshua Ballance.
Skills in Demand: “Firm Heterogeneity in Skill Demands” by David Deming and Lisa Kahn examines the impact of different skill requirements on wages across different labor markets. Since the job posting data allows for a much more detailed look at the skills employers require than other sources, the researchers were able to make a more sophisticated analysis of the relationship between skills and wages. Different skill requirements can account for 20% of the variation in wages between markets and 15% to 20% of the variation between different firms.
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