Much has been written on the global decline of the corporate labour share (defined as the share of corporate value added going to wages, salaries and benefits). The IMF and OECD worry about this trend, linking it to decreasing wages and rising inequality. And economists are hard at work looking for an explanation: prominent hypotheses range from automation and ‘superstar’ firms to offshoring. But is there really a global decline in the non-housing/business labour share? Not if you properly exclude housing income and account for self-employment, as described in a recent Staff Working Paper. Adjusting for housing and self-employment, labour shares have remained stable across most advanced economies except in the US, where the labour share still declines by 6% since 1980 (Figure 1).
Cristiano Cantore, Filippo Ferroni and Miguel León-Ledesma.
How do monetary policy shocks affect the distribution of income between workers and owners of capital? Do workers benefit relatively more when policy changes? Tackling this question empirically requires technical econometric methods, but we are able to show that the share of output allocated to wages (the labor share) temporarily increases following a positive shock to the interest rate. This means that the slice of the pie enjoyed by those whose earnings are mostly made up of wages increases at the expense of profits and capital income. Strikingly, this redistribution channel that shows up in the data runs precisely in the opposite direction to the predictions of standard New Keynesian models commonly used to study the effects of monetary policy.