Age, Industry, and Unemployment Risk During a Pandemic Lockdown

19 October 2021

This paper models the macroeconomic and distributional consequences of lockdown shocks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The model features heterogeneous life-cycle households, labor market search and matching frictions, and multiple industries of employment. We calibrate the model to data from New Zealand, where the health effects of the pandemic were especially mild. In this context, we model lockdowns as supply shocks, ignoring the demand shocks associated with health concerns about the virus. We then study the impact of a large-scale wage subsidy scheme implemented during the lockdown. The policy prevents job losses equivalent to 6.5% of steady state employment. Moreover, we find significant heterogeneity in its impact. The subsidy saves 17.2% of jobs for workers under the age of 30, but just 2.6% of jobs for those over 50. Nevertheless, our welfare analysis of fiscal alternatives shows that the young prefer increases in unemployment transfers as this enables greater consumption smoothing across employment states.