Natural rate of unemployment

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Natural rate of unemployment
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Natural unemployment or the natural unemployment rate - this is the size of unemployment in conditions of balance in the labor market. It is a percentage of the workforce that includes those who do not want to work at a real wage that provides balance and are voluntarily unemployed. According to this concept, attempts to reduce the rate of natural unemployment below a certain level by means of appropriate monetary instruments are unsuccessful and usually lead to an increase in inflation. In the growth model, the natural unemployment rate is the limit for the amount of available labor as an effort in the production process. The natural rate of unemployment has been increasing steadily since the mid-sixties. The natural unemployment rate is a typical unemployment rate, around which the actual unemployment rate fluctuates. (Paul R.Krugman, 2012, p.99) Importantly, it changes over time, and government policy can affect its level.

The natural unemployment rate is not possible to be completely reduced. Even when the surplus of workplaces with a labor force is present, it is at a level of around 2 to 3%. The reason for this is that even at times of the greatest economic growth, jobs are created or eliminated. Then frictional Unemployment is created. (Paul R. Krugman, 2012, p. 93) In the simplest terms, it is a situation in which employees look for a job as a result of losing or changing jobs without accepting the first offer they have encountered. Natural unemployment is also shaped by Structural Unemployment. Thus, natural unemployment is shaped by:

  • frictional unemployment and
  • structural unemployment.

The theory of NAIRU

The NAIRU theory is connected with the natural unemployment rate. This theory applies to the unemployment rate that does not accelerate inflation. She says that there is a certain level of unemployment in the economy that does not affect the rate of price increase. This is due to the fact that below a certain level of unemployment there is pressure from employees and trade unions to increase wages. When this pressure persists in a constant relation to changes in the generation capacities of the economy, the level of inflation remains at a stable level.

Measurement of the natural unemployment rate

The simplest measure of the natural unemployment rate is the average unemployment rate for decades. Under normal conditions, i.e. when real GDP equals potential GDP, the natural unemployment rate is described by the formula \(u = \frac{b}{e}\)


  • u- natural unemployment rate
  • b- job loss rate
  • e-the rate of finding a job

When examining the differences in the unemployment rate (e.g. in time), one should look at the differences between the rate of job loss and the rate of finding a job. The high rate of deviation from work on the market (high inflow and low outflow of the unemployed) increases the natural rate of unemployment, which will also be high in an economy with a low rate of finding a job. The high rate of employment, reduces the natural rate of unemployment.

If the rates of job loss and the rate of finding a job are permanent, then the economy automatically reaches the natural rate of unemployment. The outflows and inflows of the labor force also have an impact on the natural unemployment rate.

Factors shaping the natural unemployment rate

The natural unemployment rate for the whole economy is influenced by many factors. Four specific factors affect its growth by lowering the rate of job finding:

  • Effective wages
  • Wage benefits from belonging to trade unions
  • Minimum wages
  • Insurance against unemployment
  • Employment agencies
  • Technological changes

Changes in the natural unemployment rate

Factors determining the natural unemployment rate are variable, respectively, under the influence of their changes, the natural rate of unemployment also undergoes certain transformations. When numerous restructuring processes take place in the economy, when the workforce is characterized by an unusually high number of young workers with high turnover rates or when the minimum wages and benefits would be higher, the natural unemployment rate should be high. The decrease should be caused by the decrease in the share of employees belonging to trade unions. Trade unions negotiate wages above the equilibrium level, which may be the reason for the increase in structural unemployment.

Unemployment rates for people with more experience are usually lower than the unemployment rates of employees with low professional experience. It results from the principle that employees with longer seniority strive to stabilize and stay in a given place for a long period of time, and therefore do not cause a rise in frictional unemployment. Older employees are characterized by greater stability of work due to the fact that in many cases they are the only breadwinners of the family. (Paul R. Krugman, 2012, p. 101)

Government policy also contributes to changing the natural rate of unemployment. For example, high unemployment benefits may result in an increase in frictional and structural unemployment and, as a consequence, increase in natural unemployment. In order to reduce the natural unemployment rate, the government may run training programs or subsidize employment for the unemployed. (Paul R.Krugman, 2012, p. 2013)

Current trends in the economy most likely indicate a decline in the natural unemployment rate.