Who is harmed by and who benefits from worker reallocation? We investigate the earnings consequences of changing jobs and find a wide dispersion in outcomes. This dispersion is driven not by whether the worker was displaced, but by the duration of joblessness between job spells. Job movers who experience joblessness suffer a persistent reduction in earnings and tend to move to lower-paying firms, suggesting that job ladder models offer a useful lens through which to understand the negative consequences of job separations.
A substantial empirical literature documents large and persistent average earnings losses following job displacement. Our paper extends the literature on displaced workers by providing a comprehensive picture of earnings and employment outcomes for all workers who separate. We show that for workers not recalled to their previous employer, earnings losses follow separations in general, as opposed to displacements in particular. The key predictor of earnings losses is not displacement but the length of the nonemployment spell following job separation. Moreover, displaced workers are no more likely to experience a substantial spell of nonemployment than are other non-recalled separators. Our results suggest that future research on the consequences of job loss should work to disentangle the strong association between nonemployment and earnings losses, as opposed to focusing specifically on displaced workers.