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2019 Documento de Trabajo #344

Deconstructing Job Search Behavior

Job search is generally described by an intensive effort margin such as the number of applications sent or of hours devoted. Using rich online job board data and a novel network method to determine relevant sets of ads for each applicant, we also investigate the job search selective margin, i.e. why workers apply to or forgo job offers. We provide a comprehensive catalogue of search behavior. Gender and age affect the intensive search margin: males and older workers search more controlling for observable ad and worker traits. For the selective margin, we find that the alignment between applicant wage expectations and wage offers, as well as the applicant fit into ad requirements such as education, experience, job location, and occupation increase the application likelihood. On-the-job searchers and males seem more ambitious as they apply to jobs offering wages above their expectations and to jobs requiring more education than they possess. In contrast, unemployed seekers seem conservative: they comply to wage offers and apply to jobs for which they are overqualified. As workers age, or as their unemployment duration or elapsed tenure (for the employed) increase, they tend to make seeking behavior less ambitious and more flexible in terms of requirements compliance. Seekers’ effort is procyclical, except for the jobless when the unemployment rate is pretty high. Comparatively, the selective margin varies less over the cycle. Our empirical evidence can help discipline current and future search-theoretical frameworks.

JEL Codes: E24, J40, J64.

Stefano Banfi
Sekyu Choi

Keywords: Applications, Networks., On-the-job search, Online job search, Search frictions, unemployment