The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
We study the role of uncertainty shocks in explaining unemployment dynamics, separating out the role of aggregate and sectoral channels. Using S&P500 data from the first quarter of 1957 to third quarter of 2014, we construct separate indices to measure aggregate and sectoral uncertainty and compare their effects on the unemployment rate in a standard macroeconomic vector autoregressive (VAR) model. We find that aggregate uncertainty leads to an immediate increase in unemployment, with the impact dissipating within a year. In contrast, sectoral uncertainty has a long-lived impact on unemployment, with the peak impact occurring after two years. The results are consistent with a view that the impact of aggregate uncertainty occurs through a 'wait-and-see' mechanism while increased sectoral uncertainty raises unemployment by requiring greater reallocation across sectors.